Thursday, June 19, 2008

random rambling reflections

If you know me very well, you've probably heard me talk about Natalie and Alec Jacobson, the kids I babysat for at Northwestern:


Their dad got sick with Hodgkin's Lymphoma when I was a freshman at NU, and died the year after I graduated, of complications from his second stem-cell transplant, on Nat's 10th birthday. I happened to be in Evanston at the time, helping Kevin shoot a movie, and it was one of the saddest days I've ever experienced. They've all been doing really well since then, all things considered, and I keep up with them by visiting when I'm in Chicago and reading their mom's blog. She doesn't update it often, but I really look forward to the times that she does.

Anyway, recently Jill, their mom, wrote a post about Father's Day, and how hard it's been over the last couple years since Ken, their dad, died. This is unsurprising, since I can't even imagine how difficult it must be to guide two little kids through the grief that comes with losing a parent so young in life, not to mention a day meant solely to celebrate that parent. What really killed me about her post, though, was what Alec had said to her that day: "I can't imagine what it would be like to have two parents." That, to me, really encompasses the tragedy of the whole situation: that Alec, a little boy surrounded by girls (every single kid in the neighborhood, at the time, was a girl), and a kid who often gets overwhelmed with life, should lose his dad when he was only 7, his dad, who was one of the most gentle, caring, patient people I've ever met. Alec was always full of energy- he used to be unable to sit still and preferred to bounce up and down while we played board games or colored- and extremely stubborn, and while Jill and Natalie are amazingly understanding and fun people, Ken really seemed to be the one that Alec responded to. It breaks my heart that he was young enough when all this happened that his memories of his dad are starting to slip away. It makes me want to sit him down and tell him everything I remember about his dad, about all the little things he used to do that his dad loved to come home to at the end of the day. I don't know that he'd listen... he's only 9, after all. But still...

Jill and Ken are/were truly some of the most amazing parents I've ever met, and I have known the parents of many children in my day. Those kids are being raised right- they are interested in everything, creative and curious and smart and sweet, and have always been courageous in the face of their dad's illness. When I went up to their house a few days after Ken had died, the kids and I went on a mid-winter nature walk around the neighborhood. We brought back an array of stuff to show Jill, and I remember being amazed at her ability to sit down with Alec and talk to him about which were her favorite rocks and why, and really be engaged in the conversation. I don't know what it is to love a child- I've never had one, after all- but that day I really saw it in their family.

I don't really know why I'm talking about all this. Jill's post got me thinking about families, and Jennifer's blog has me thinking about babies all the time now. Most of all, I guess today I really miss Chicago, and the family I found there in the Jacobsons. They are one of the things I miss most about the place- I'd say they're in the top two.

So, maybe I should do something about this. Maybe I'll email Nat and Jill... and Alec, if he has an email address. Oh my goodness, it's insane to think that he might be old enough to have an email address. I miss them. I miss all you other Chicago people too. Are you out there? Do you hear me?

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