This past Friday, it was a year. A whole year without Jack.
I felt a little guilty I didn’t post something on social media, but I decided instead to do what Jack would want me to do on that particular day…writing and rainmaking in Hollywood.
Also, there was a part of me that wasn’t ready to post anything. I was still processing a dream I had a couple days earlier. Actually, I don’t believe it was a dream. It was wrapped in the cloak of a dream, but it was too real. Too palpable.
I’m in a living room. The architecture is old Hollywood, and the joint drips with money. It’s night outside. The place sits at a high elevation because the lights of the city barely poke above the vegetation outside the French doors I’m already walking toward.
I step onto a patio and see the lights more clearly now. Los Angeles, sprawled out below me.
The guy’s face is obscured, but the voice is familiar. I’m a little intoxicated from view up here, so I can’t quite place it. There’s no time to ponder. The guy jogs down narrow, winding cobblestone steps. If I don’t hurry, I’ll lose him.
The steps terminate at another patio. This one’s smaller, a peninsula jutting from the hill, with a waist-high stone wall around it. The view is sweeping. The lights look so close, it’s like you could lean over the wall and touch them. I gasp. It’s so—I don’t know the word. I’ll go with “spectacular” because my next thought is, This is what they mean when they say the word spectacular.
The guy takes a seat at a small bistro table at the end of the patio. Candles in glass holders throw off a smidgen of illumination. Enough to make out the face now. I know why I recognized the voice. It’s Frank Sinatra. But the “Guys and Dolls” Sinatra. Youthful, vibrant. And that smile, those eyes.
Frank nods to one side, toward someone seated next to him. It’s why I’m here. I take a step forward, and the person comes into view. All the air rushes from my lungs.
He looks great, by the way. It’s the Jack I met nearly twenty years ago, but lighter—not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Jack without the weight of disappointment or heartbreak. Jack that’s truly all good. He’s grins that way he always grinned after we hadn’t seen each other for too long. My God, it’s him. It all makes sense. Of-freaking-course, he’d be hanging with Sinatra.
Jack takes…a drag off a cigarette?!?
What?!? “You’re smoking?” That’s the first thing out of my mouth.
He takes another drag and cracks that wide, impish Jack smile.
“Dude. I can do anything I want here.”
I take another step, but Jack stops me with his free hand. His eyes bug a little. It’s the look he pulls out when he really wants the point to stick. He speaks emphatically.
“Bubber. You HAFTA do this.”
And then it’s all gone. My eyes pop open. I’m back in bed. It’s dark. Lori and the dogs are sound asleep. It takes a moment to catch my breath.
I check my phone. 4:10 AM. I lie there for a few minutes, collecting myself. And committing every moment of being in my friend’s presence again to memory. I don’t want to lose it.
– – – – –
True confession time: last year was rough for me. There was losing Jack at the beginning, and then losing my mom at the end. But there was a lot in between—personal, professional, political, cultural—that left me wondering if my time had come and gone. Wondering if I was…just…irrelevant. Shit. If that was true, what the hell was I going to do with the rest of my time on this planet?
At some point in the fall, I realized I wasn’t ready to give up that easily. Chalk it up to the song “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.” I told myself that, regardless of what was buzzing around in my head, I had to stay in the game and keep moving forward.
But that voice—the one that doubted I had anything left to contribute—was still there, whispering in my ear. I mostly ignored it, but it still snagged me sometimes. I found it easier to retreat into myself than to engage. Easier to stay still. It took everything I had to keep clear of the gravitational well of inertia.
After New Years, I decided to take a couple big professional swings to help lift me out of the funk. The opportunities had been dangling for awhile, waiting for me to reach out. I took a deep breath. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I had to be courageous. Even if I didn’t feel courageous. I needed to try.
Last Tuesday night, as I settled into bed, that voice snuck in again. Big time. That’s when my brother Jack visited me and, once again, accomplished the thing he was singularly adept at: making me pull my head out of my ass.
I spent the next few days honoring Jack’s memory exactly they way he would want me to. I reached out to a few industry folks and took some meetings.
“Bubber. You HAFTA do this.”
As if to punctuate his point, on the anniversary of Jack’s passing, I heard from both companies I’d been waiting to hear from. We’re setting meetings now to discuss moving forward. Oh yeah, and I signed with a new, awesome manager this past week, too. That was one of the meetings.
I’m ready to give up that nagging voice. I’m ready to stand up and get healthier and start really engaging again. To keep contributing to the conversation and trust I have something worth contributing. I mean, I HAFTA do this.
One more time, Jack was there to remind me. This is who I am. And I’m not done yet. Not even close.