If I Were a Physicist

It’s an astonishing thing to lose a loved one. It shatters our emotional life in an unfixable way and we have no choice but to move forward with this new perspective. It’s like a kaleidoscope of grief has been applied to our view of the world. A beautifully complex and ever changing symmetry has been introduced and all of the previously familiar inputs must pass through it. As the cylinder spins, and time passes, we learn to find comfort in the transformations. Our old views become recognizable in the new patterns and we relearn how to navigate the world. Sometimes, though, the cylinder stops spinning and we have to examine a frame very closely in order to get past it. When we do this work, we add color and shape to our kaleidoscope and make it less likely to stall in that same place again.

I guess what I mean is, everything looks and feels different when we lose someone that we love. All of our shared tasks, possessions, relationships, and efforts are transformed. As we encounter each of these elements, however small, we have to process them. Some of these shared elements will pop up again and again, making them less painful with each pass, while others will lay dormant and surprise us unexpectedly. I tried to express this above, but I often get lost in metaphors. I can see it in my head and I can feel the intention, but translating onto the page without making word salad is a challenge.

When Dad passed I struggled to find the right words to use for his memorial and was fortunate to come upon an NPR article by commentator Aaron Freeman that spoke to me. I adapted and personalized Mr. Freeman’s article to create a eulogy to deliver at Don’s Celebration of Life. In working through that exercise and reading it aloud to family and friends, I gave my grief a bit of context and added some critical color and shape to my kaleidoscope.

If I Were A Physicist
Adapted from the NPR article “Planning Ahead Can Make a Big Difference in the End” by commentator Aaron Freeman

If I were a physicist, I would talk to you all about the conservation of energy, so we can all understand that Don’s energy has not left us.

If I were a physicist, I would remind you all about the first law of thermodynamics; that the total energy of the universe is constant – energy can be transformed from one form to another but can neither be created nor destroyed. I would want you to know that all of Don’s energy, every vibration, every BTU of heat, every wave of every particle that was our beloved remains with us all in this world. If I were a physicist I would tell you that amid all of the energies of the cosmos, Don gave as good as he got.

If I were a physicist, I would be able to tell my Mom that every photon that ever bounced off of Dad’s face, all of the particles whose paths were interrupted by his smile, the hundreds of trillions of particles that raced off of him like children when you touched his hair, their direction forever changed – I would let you know that all of those photons that bounced off Dad were gathered in the particle detectors that are your eyes, and they created within you constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

If I were a physicist, I would remind you all how much of all of our energy is given off as heat and I would tell you that the warmth that flowed through Don in life is still here, it’s still a part of all that we are, even as we mourn in the heat of our own lives.

I’m not a physicist, I’m a son and a father-to-be and I know my Dad’s energy is still around, I don’t need faith or religion to know that it’s here. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a single bit of him is gone.

Getting to First Bass

When Frank Peabody invited me to join, scratch that, convinced me to beg for a bass for my next birthday so I could join his band, Tyrant, I wholeheartedly accepted my fate and did just that. It was the first time an opportunity to be in a real band had ever presented itself. Up until then I was banging No. 2 pencils on my make shift drum set, artfully crafted out of books, pads of paper, plastic trays and the translucent red dust cover of my turntable. Granted, I was in a pretty serious air-band with Paul and Chris, we had gigs nearly every day, but this was different, this was real.

The Peabody’s had a garage with amps, an actual drum kit and serious aspirations. They had spare instruments around, so until my fateful 13th birthday hit I was able to get started with Stevie’s guitar strung like a bass… it was weird, it had four strings spread across the bridge to simulate bass spacing, and it was definitely not in tune. I couldn’t care less. I plugged it in, turned it up and had my first taste of the electric. Game over.

There was a bunch of stumbling around on Doors, Kiss and AC/DC with that first “bass” and ultimately, it was more of a spiritual lever than an instrument. It gave me access to Frank and Stevie Peabody. That weird, shitty guitar gave me proximity to the dream they were laying down. Music was vital and important to them, they were serious, determined and specific. The goal was a sick rock show right there in the garage, at the end of their dead end street, with lights and fog and costumes. It was going to be epic.

I loved hanging out with Frank, he was into KISS and Al DiMeola. Frank introduced me to Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth) . He knew that if I was going to be a bass player, I needed to listen to important shit like Cliff Burton and Jaco Pastorius. Frank implored me to think of myself as a real musician, he insisted we needed to believe in ourselves and that we could not take music for granted. It wasn’t just a fun thing to do on Saturdays, it was a lifestyle, it was a calling. He was deep and earnest in the way only a precocious fourteen year old can be. Eventually, thanks to Frank’s inspiration and some savvy birthday politicking, Dad found me a Montoya and a partially working amp in the WantAds, it was my first bass.

Looking Back and Keeping Track

I’ve tried to start and maintain a blog a couple times. It’s quite difficult for me. I have a similar relationship with exercise. I get excited, I start, I cruise along for a while and then… poof, it’s gone. A year later I find the carefully folded UnderArmour next to some fully fleshed out, unpublished blog post and I think “Oh yeah, I liked doing that… why did I stop?”

I know I’m not alone. Life is full of twists and turns and what drives us keeps changing. For me, blogging and jogging are usually pretty easy to demote. There is just so much sleeping in to do, music to be learned, code to be written, so many dogs to be walked, friends to be hugged, family to love.

I keep coming back to this idea of a blog because I like to write. I don’t consider myself a writer, by any stretch, but I do enjoy it. I remember a recommendation from The Artist’s Way about writing every day for twenty minutes before doing anything else and that always seemed like something I would enjoy. I never did it and I’m not resolving to pick up that torch now. That would be too much pressure, so I am lighting a small candle of hope that maybe this time the muse won’t leave. I’m ok if it does, it always seems to come back.

For now, right now in fact, Erin and I have a baby on the way. We are booked for induction the day after tomorrow. What better time for looking back and keeping track?

Erin and I met in Harvard Square eight years ago, tomorrow. At the same time, the same day, we suspect, our dear Pepper was born. She was far away and we didn’t know it, but she had a year and a half of trials and tribulations to overcome before making the epic journey north into our loving arms.

Pepper has brought endless joy to our home and we are forever in her debt. Thankfully, she is fully prepared for her new chapter, raising our daughter. We have groomed her for this duty from day one. The pooping outdoors, the drop it, the come when called, all of it – it’s on her to pass these values on to the new family member and we have full confidence in her abilities. She’s the boss.

But seriously, it’s been an amazing eight years and we are both tremendously excited for the baby girl. We can.not.wait. to share her with our friends and family. Stay tuned!