i’m not embarrassed to say that the power of love by huey lewis (and, of course, the news) used to be one of my favorites. i even thought i could pull it off as at karaoke – it was the first time i’d gone out on the town after my first surgery back in 2008, and it turns out i wasn’t quite ready to be on stage. i traded my crutches for a mic stand, and, as it turns out, the mic stand provided far less support than i needed. about a third of the way through the song, i tried to pull off a little rock star lean move and ended up collapsing on the monitors at my feet. it wasn’t very fun.
i don’t like that song anymore.
still: that doesn’t make love any less powerful.
these past two weeks on the road have reminded me so dramatically of the true and real power of love. i have about a thousand pictures and a dozen clips of video to sort through once i’m home, but even that mess of media won’t effectively convey the wondrous love that i’ve been lucky enough to witness on this trip. so i thought i would put together a nice long post to attempt to explain how lucky i’ve been to be a part of so much incredible, deep, and meaningful love.
it’s been painful and frustrating to participate in such magical times without my special lady – she’s been in brooklyn while i’ve been touring the west coast – but we’ve maxed out our credit and someone has to be the breadwinner. i miss her terribly. my friend ameet and i are on the same redeye flight back to JFK tonight – we land at 6 am, blech – so i’ll at least be able to give her a kiss before she heads off to work. then i’ll be home for five days before i leave. again. this time i’ll be close, just up in the catskills – i’m taking over shuttle duties to get my neighbor’s kids to summer camp. once they’re on the bus, i’ll have eight hours of uninterrupted stillness in the woods, so i’m loading up their car with as many canvases as i can fit and/or afford. *ps – if you’ve been thinking about commissioning a painting, this week would be a great time to start that conversation! i’ll be painting all through next week.
it’s been nice to take a break from posting, but now i have a lot of catching up to do. for those of you in the mood to read, here’s a recap of my travels as they wind down and i prepare to hit the ground running back in new york.
first it was back home to the bay. and yes, it still feels like home, or a home at least, though more than two years have passed since i last felt those soft breezes and marveled at the lush tropical gardens i took for granted all those years. my first morning in san francisco i woke to the best alarm there is: a smiling baby. the lovely and talented annie bacon is a new(ish) mother, and this was my first time getting to cradle her deliciously adorable child. his smile contains multitudes. i changed his diaper. it was great.
i saw my godparents and my godsiblings. i spent a night sleeping next door to the preschool where i used to work, and i basked in the steady flow of memories of snack time and fingerpainting and reading stories and playing in the sandbox. i made cocktails (not for the preschoolers). i made milkshakes (ditto). there was much rejoicing. my godparents laila and dan live with their families in a wonderful sort of semi-communal compound filled with people who watched me grow up, and it was lovely to spend an evening with their community. evenings like that one make me yearn for the bay.
of course, the traffic going back and forth to visit my grandmother made me remember that it’s not all glowing poppies and patio parties. the bay has long outgrown its infrastructure, and though obviously new york is not a quiet and calm city, i still remember the oakland and berkeley of my childhood. it’s not the same.
my grandmother, though, has barely changed at all, and has managed the transition into assisted living with grace and courage. of course there was lots of initial resistance, but she’s happy in her new living situation, and i can see why. the kensington is a vibrant community of seniors with a staff that appears to genuinely care for their residents. i happened to glance at a schedule on my way out the door and noticed that i was going to miss wii bowling and a communal viewing of jeopardy. that sounds awfully good to me, and when you throw in the bridge games and the unlimited ice cream, man, i might want to retire there myself. four scoops of strawberry with lunch? yes please.
my grandmother moved away from her family after she married my grandfather. when he passed away in 2010, it was the first time she’d ever lived alone. you can imagine the incredible challenge that would present at any age, much less for someone in her eighties. but now she’s thriving, even as her body and mind slowly fail her. she has multiple boyfriends. she dances the boogie every day. and she does everything she can to support me. i showed her my paintings and we talked about art and the wonders of finding new ways to see the world, no matter your age. she’s a special lady, and i hate being so far away from her. i know not all of her grandchildren have an easy relationship with her – she can get a bit judgy – but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful to be the recipient of her total and complete love.
and then, more love: a wedding in monte rio, an adorable little town that sits on a bend in the russian river. my friends brett and cindi were married surrounded by their friends and family just a few steps from the quiet babble of the passing river. of course, we couldn’t hear the gurgle over the crazed man playing drums (badly) and blasting his stereo out his open windows to deliberately attempt to ruin the wedding – something about weddings behind his house needing permits or something, and our repeated pleadings to stop fell on deaf and seemingly meth-riddled ears. but his insane rage wasn’t enough to spoil a perfect weekend of dips in the river, hot tubs at night, and conversations with many people whom i love deeply. selfishly, their wedding was a wonderful way to deepen my friendships with tons of folks i rarely get to see but care for immensely. we had a campfire and played beautiful music. we talked so late into the night that i lost my voice. one hotel was filled entirely by my friends with children, and i think the continental breakfast we shared surrounded by smiling babies was my favorite continental breakfast ever. i did my best to ruin our final hours in monte rio by backing a friend’s car into a telephone pole, but they were incredibly understanding, and once i’ve helped to pay their deductible, everything will be fine. still: boo.
from the bay, i made my way to oregon. i know, i’m exhausted just recounting all that i’ve managed to fit into these past two weeks! the first few days i spent with my sister and her husband at their newly purchased home. how exciting is that?!? it’s a beautiful space, with blossoming flowers of all varieties on every side and light streaming through every window. i’m super proud of them for managing to make a home for themselves. i’m also a bit jealous – my four years of cancer have put on hold my own lifelong relationship goals of house and family, and though kathryn and i adore our home in brooklyn, we yearn for a space to truly call our own. jess and andy are totally dedicated to making their home a place of warmth and joy and beauty, and though they’ve only lived there a few short months, it feels so natural for them to be there. i was excited to be the first family member to visit since their move, and i wish my energy hadn’t been so low as to prevent me from being able to help around the house. not that they need it, but i’ve had to just shut down a couple times on the trip, which is always frustrating – i’m right at the outer edge of what i can handle with all this travel, and as wonderful as it’s been, i am utterly exhausted. before a redeye. ugh.
jessie and i had a wonderful day trip to the oregon coast, and the drive to the beach gave us some time to really catch up and work on our adult relationship, which can be rocky sometimes. it’s hard to be present with each other when we’re so far away, and we can drift apart without meaning to – it happens. every time we have a chance to sit down and be present and honest with each other, i’m glad for the opportunity. both my sisters are totally unique individuals and are constantly a gift to me by their simply being a part of my life.
the weather cooperated – as it has nearly this entire trip – and jess and i meandered through small beach towns and walked on the sand and watched kites float through the blue sky and petted dogs and listened to the joyous shrieks of children playing in the waves. there’s something remarkable about looking out at the ocean; the endless horizon represents to me endless possibility, and at a time in my life that is filled with such tremendous potential, it was powerful to just sit quietly, staring at the sea.
and finally, i arrived at my last destination. my college roommate skippy and his new(ish) wife jess (not my sister) were married this weekend, and they invited me to officiate their ceremony. it was a great honor to be asked, and it gave me a chance to meditate deeply on the nature of love in our lives – thus this long, long post. next weekend will be the fifteen year anniversary of all of us meeting at vassar, and nearly all of us (we missed you, josh and sarah!!!) were here to celebrate together. skip and jess bought a house within weeks of jessie and andy, but this is so much more than a house. they moved 45 minutes north of portland and bought a farm! it’s hard to believe that all my friends and even family members are buying houses and raising, making or readying to make babies. the farm is a lovely handful of acres tucked away from the main road, with a true barn filled with miniature lambs and ducks and chickens. they worked tirelessly to prepare the property for the wedding, and the weekend couldn’t have been more perfect. they were married in the field behind their house, in front of a tree with a heart carved into the trunk. both families have lost important loved ones over the years, so there were many tears wept, both in joy and in remembrance. there were more songs around the campfire, another delicious wedding dinner, and tearful stories and toasts shared as we sat together at one very, very long table. i couldn’t be happier for the couple, and they couldn’t be more perfect for each other. they are deeply, truly in love. and that is a powerful thing.
and so, dear readers, to the few of you who’ve stayed with me through these past 2000-plus words (good lord!), thank you for sticking it out. i have to be honest; i don’t want to end this post in the way i must, but i think it’s important that i share this with you. last week i found a suspicious nodule near my bellybutton, just above the scar from my bowel resection. i hoped it was simply an extension of the scar tissue, but it feels just like all the other tumors have felt, and it’s grown rapidly since i found it. skippy’s mom is an ER nurse and i had her take a look – she agreed that it was most likely a recurrence. i’m seeing my oncologist on thursday and will hopefully know more then. regardless of what it may be and what surgeries or treatments i may face, i’m incredibly grateful to have these last few months free of treatment and (mostly) free from worry. given the extent and aggressive nature of my disease, these long breaks are such a gift, especially when they allow me to travel west and see so many and so much, to witness love on such a grand scale and to be a part of that love. even as i end this trip exhausted to the core, there’s something so spectacularly awesome – awesome in its most dramatically full sense, not just some awe, but lots and lots of awe – about being privileged to bear witness to public expressions of love and dedication. it’s a great reminder of how much i care for my own partner, and it makes me all the more grateful that she’s waiting for me at home with open arms and her loving heart.
i used this quote from jonathan safran foer in the service – it seems like an appropriate way to finish up this post. i love you.
I love you also means, I love you more than anyone loves you, or has loved you, or will live you, and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you, or has loved you, or will love you,and also, I love you in a way that I love no one else, and never have loved anyone else, and never will love anyone else.