It’s difficult to believe it’s been three years since I’ve been to Southern California–specifically for Christmas. Even more difficult to believe: that it was a trip made without Ken and that it’s my second Christmas without him. In so many ways it felt so normal and so “usual” for me. And for that I’m incredibly grateful. But when I reflect on that very topic of things being “okay” for me, I credit Ken’s bravery and generous spirit, as well as a lot of hard work on my end, learning to manage without his physical presence and figuring out how to rearrange my life to compensate.
This occasion was a “first” I hoped wouldn’t be difficult, but in that regard, wasn’t one I was looking forward to. It’s impossible to go to Los Angeles and see people and visit places I saw and visited with Ken without being flooded with memories of our life together. There were many, tiny moments where I was overcome with them. And feelings. And longing for him. But thanks to his stay-in-the-moment encouragement, I was able to enjoy them for the most part.
Christmas Eve breakfast on the beach has been a long-standing tradition in the family. When Ken and I lived in LA, our job was to brew and bring the thermos of coffee or percolator. No matter what the weather has been over the years–rainy, foggy, windy, cold–it’s always transcended by the natural beauty and affection lingering in the air at that beach in Malibu. This Christmas Eve was no exception. The sun teased us for a while before making its presence known shortly before we packed up and headed home. We left, exhausted, wind-and sun-kissed, and jolly.
While there I took a walk to the edge of the frothy tide and thought of Ken. How much I miss and love him–how much everyone does. How proud of me I’d hope he’d be. I also pondered on how it felt to be with his family without him. Yes, they’ve been mine for over a decade, but there is an oddity in being present in a family he grew up with and I didn’t. Not in a bad way. Just an odd one–sometimes. And a circumstance that was never the plan and at times difficult to reconcile.
Above the beach where we breakfast and frolic is a bluff called Point Dume (pronounced “doom”). Ken and I had been there many times. It offers an uncompromised view of the coast and mighty Pacific. It’s also the locale where Ken told me he wanted his ashes scattered–something I have given enough thought to in order to know I’m not ready to think about it yet. It will happen per his wishes. I want that. But when the time is right.
It just so happened that my sister-in-law’s father decided this Christmas Eve was that time for him–to scatter his wife Connie’s ashes in that very place. I was honored to be there for the occasion. I never met her, but feel like I have in many ways because of all the stories I’ve heard from everyone over the years. The ceremony was simple, special, and full of love. (It was also briefly interrupted by a chain gang of orange-jump-suited-celebutante-looking offenders–each of them looking surprisingly happy and offering holiday wishes as they passed.)
The hike up to and down from the bluff was as beautiful as it was exerting. It was one of those metaphors Ken would have loved to point out. That the journey was as important as the destination on top. Maybe that’s why I snapped so many photos and was constantly noticing every rock or puddle or plant. I guess I wanted to feel him with me.
And perhaps I did.
During the short service for the ash scattering, I felt a sort of a poke on my left arm. I was standing next to my father-in-law but he wasn’t close enough to have touched me. Maybe it was the wind. Maybe it wasn’t. I know which I choose to believe.
Blogger’s Note: Aside from my gratitude and love to my LA family and friends for hosting me while I visited, my trip wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible generosity of my parents who kindly agreed to take care my puppy while I was gone–which included giving Kallie her first bath after concluding treatment for an intestinal parasite. I’m one lucky son of a…oh, wait. Nevermind. Thanks, Mom & Dad!! You rock!!