In my dream, I was trapped under the back right wheel of a car, one of those large 1950s cars, a Buick or a Pontiac like you see in Cuba. My father Leo walked beside the car next to me. As the car rolled inexorably backward, I hung onto its rear bumper for dear life, afraid my legs would get caught under the wheels. Somehow they did not. “Stop, stop the car!” I kept yelling, but Leo paid no attention. Nauseated and trembling, I woke up hard at 7 a.m.
Had he lived, David would have been 76 today. Stew died 9 years ago today, January 30, 2006. When David and I first got together we invented a ceremony to mark this bizarre conjunction of events. Since Jewish holidays even for agnostics begin the night before, David and I would light Stew’s yartzeit candle the evening of Jan 29 then go out to celebrate David’s birthday the next day.
When I came downstairs this morning, l said happy birthday to David’s picture then lit two yartzeit candles and recited kaddish in fractured Hebrew for my two dead husbands. The dead you love deserve to be remembered. Still, the depth of my grief for David is prompting me to grieve Stew’s loss in a way I had not done before. When Stew died I was overwhelmed by panic; then jumped straight into fight or flight mode and got the hell out of Portland. This second time around I am going through grief in a calmer, more deliberate way. I know enough to pay attention to my emotional self.
Tonight I’ll go to Chez Panisse (upstairs) with four dear friends. In 1968, Stew introduced me to Nancy in a run down tenement with red brick walls on the top floor of 5 St. Mark’s Place New York City, home of Yippies. Joining us tonite will be Mike and Betsy who met Stew once but became close friends of both David and myself, and Elizabeth, David’s friend of 30 years. We’ll raise a glass of pinot gris to our memories of two remarkable – and remarkably different – men, each of whom did what he could to change the world. Along with sadness I can also celebrate: I have been privileged to be loved so fully and so deeply by two such men. But I have to ask : why, in my dream, did my father not hear my cries for help and stop the car?
UPDATE: Here is a poem written and read for this occasion by Betsy and Mike.
January 30, 2015
Vas machts du Stew?
And David, nu?
We gather to remember you.
Veterans of Woodstock Nation
Survivors despite our alienation
Come now and join our celebration.
A day of passing, a day of birth
There’ll be some tears
We’ll share some mirth
Of stories, there will be no dirth.