Category Archives: Zach Stories

Zach speaks

I’ve used this title before and I’ll probably use it again. It’s a good title for when I quote from his journals, methinks.

So I looked in my little database tonight and I saw that Zach had a journal entry for today’s date, January 13, in 2013. Going to my folder with all the journal files, the first thing I saw was a filename with today’s date on it. Something called The Wayland Living Room.

Perhaps I should explain something first. What I’ve done with Zach’s journals is to save each file as a PDF with a name that indicates the date range of that file. In this case, Zach had a .doc file on his computer named The Wayland Living Room. I looked inside it for a date and then put the date at the front end of the new PDF file I created from it. In theory, nothing is changed except PDF files are harder to edit if someday I choose to release them. For the date format, I use yyyymmdd. Again, in this case, the file was dated January 13, 2013 so the new file name is 20130113 The Wayland Living Room. This way, they all sort out in the order they were created and it’s easy to find something by a particular date.

OK. So The Wayland Living Room is a document detailing rules for a fantasy sports league. There is nothing in it specific to any particular sport. It defines a Fantasy Leadership Council (FLC) responsible for ‘Maintaining the continuity and integrity of all Wayland Living Room (WLR) fantasy leagues.’

It goes on for five pages and is not my subject of choice. The FLC is comprised of four individuals: Zach and three others. If any of the other three individuals – who I am not going to name here – wish to have a copy of this, please contact me privately. I will be happy to share it with you. It is not of interest to me tonight.

Now, looking further in my list of file names – remember, I know the entry I want is from January 2013 – I see 20130108 – 20130519 Corleone Spring 2013. Uh oh. Corleone is Zach code for work related musings. These are often heavy with bullet pointed plans for situations at work and criticism of colleagues. (He’s plenty critical of himself too.) As I look through this document, I realize that my wonderful database which took me months to complete is not complete. I never went through the Corleone documents. Aieee!

The Corleone file has entries for January 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 15th (and more), but no 13th. We’ll set those aside for now, although I did get them into the database.

Is there another 201301xx file? Yes, there is! And it has an entry for this date in 2013! It starts out with:

It feels like eternity since I last wrote in here, mainly because I was only in Atlanta a week ago (crazy) and because this past week of work was relatively busy and my mind was pretty engaged with it all week, and there was a lot of mental energy expanded.  That’s a long way of saying it was a relatively satisfying week of work.

His previous entry was January 6th, a week earlier.

After some talk about exercise, basketball, finances, Rosalie, and movies, he has this to say:

I’m not sure where I found this article but it was talking about STEAM curriculum, which is a play on the Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math, but adds Arts.  I did a little research and it seems like the STEAM concept is being promoted by a faction from UCSD and the surrounding area that is mainly some ph.d’s and a few other education individuals.  Their website talks about how STEM curriculum is myopically focused on one side of the brain and the workforce needs to have more balanced individuals.  It’s a simple concept really and basically the antithesis of the STEM movement but it’s the first time I’ve ever come across any organized usage of the concept or things related to its practical implementation.  Will be interesting to monitor its growth…

An article that I read over the break from Forbes that compiled the “top 10 brain science and psychology stories from 2012” which discussed several interesting concepts: receiving a compliment is like receiving a cash gift, with regards to how our brains respond and two people working on an issue may not be better than one because with two, it breeds overconfidence.

Happy New Year

New Years’ Day. A cause for celebrating amongst certain people in Pacifica. I was on the highway heading home last night when the dark hillside in front of me suddenly flashed like a huge strobe light. I was confused for a moment but then I remembered where I was. Pacifica likes nothing more than to blow things up and it had just turned midnight into the new year.

Five minutes later as I pulled up to my apartment, there were skyrockets all over the place, some kind of super bright sparkly thing right on Linda Mar Blvd, and several just plain old explosions. Unlike 4th of July, it was all over in only ten or fifteen minutes. I had a glass of orange juice and a piece of chocolate and went to bed.

Zach had one journal entry on a January 1st, in 2012. It’s long, over 2,000 words. Almost half of that is a bulleted list headed ‘Now, a reflection on personal goals: July 1-December 31.’ It’s structured like a template that he constructed previously with current comments but I can’t find the original.

Here are some excerpts:

    • Maintain reflection/journal, make notes on a daily basis and weekly put 30-60 minutes aside for a “things I learned this week.”  Stay focused and don’t let yourself get caught on little tangents
      • Obviously a strength here.  I’m not sure why I didn’t want to let myself get caught on little tangents, since I think a lot of the value of reflection happens there.  I want to continue what I’m doing in this respect.

. . .

    • Eye on the prize: University President.  The time has come for me to become who I say I am.
      • With both the above two…definitely done a lot of the prep work and now is a matter of actually moving forward and doing it, which is a running theme in my life.

and finally:

    • Keep updating or maintaining a bucket list and Socratic appendices.  A little materialism can sometimes make a big impact.
      • Yup.

revisiting Zach’s journals

I got back into Zach’s journals today. I had catalogued them from 2012 through 2014 a few months ago but quailed at the thought of doing it for his last years’ of writing.

Well, today I did it. I now have a spreadsheet with a year entered on whatever date he wrote. I mean, I can look in the spreadsheet for a particular date and see in what year he wrote on that date. For example, there were no entries for this date but there was one on December 23rd in 2013. Once again I make no promises about how often or how much I will republish but I have been able to think about it more recently.

I was just wrapping up when I took one last look through the folder that has all the files. Wait a minute – there are a bunch from 2010 and 2011! So that was another hour. There’s a lot of stuff there. I’m pretty amazed that I’ve been able to look through it today without totally breaking down. I have a headache, but I’m pretty calm.

OK, here’s a paragraph from Zach’s December 23, 2013 entry:

I got up Saturday morning and got new tires on my car ($492); I had only been putting that off for 18 months.  It took quite awhile, despite me having a 730a appointment, but I ended up just sitting there and reading in the waiting room, which was pretty nice.  Time well spent.  I then went to Barnes and Noble, with two objectives–one, because Matt gave me a gift card and I had it in my mind that I would buy the new Gladwell book with it, and then have Matt borrow/read it after the new year.  I also wanted to read the third Divergent book, which came out earlier this fall.  Once I got there, I browsed around a bit, just to see what was there, which was always fun.  Then, I started reading the Divergent book and struggled with it, partially because I was uncomfortable reading it there in the story and partially because I couldn’t recall all the characters and the events of the second book, probably because I binge read it late at night over a weekend.  And then thirdly, the third book just wasn’t really grabbing me and was kind of frustrating, so I stopped after about 70 pages or so.  I’m sure I’ll eventually finish it but I couldn’t really get engrossed.  Then, I started over-thinking the purchase of a book–I felt weird buying a book, even with a gift card, and actually left the store and walked out to my car before going back in and buying the book.  I think I just felt weird about buying a book, and all I could think about was moving it when the time comes!  Crazy.

In-N-Out Burger

I can’t believe that In-N-Out isn’t a subject I’ve written about before. I don’t see it on my tag list, so I guess I haven’t.

In-N-Out Burger was one of Zach’s favorite places to eat in California. Every time he came to town it was the first place we went to, often even before going home. There is an In-N-Out in Millbrae not five minutes from the airport that became our regular first stop after I moved to Pacifica.

Rose likes In-N-Out too so we go there two or three times a year. Zach is always near to our minds at In-N-Out.

I got off work at five today and was headed home on BART when I started thinking about dinner. I wasn’t thinking specifically of Zach, but the idea of going to In-N-Out came to me and doing it on Zach’s birthday seemed appropriate. I texted Rose and she agreed.

Rose has a story about Zach at In-N-Out that I love but I never seem to get the details right. I don’t want to ruin it by telling it wrong here. I’ll get it from her again one of these days and write it down and tell it properly. Happy Birthday Zach!

Zach’s birthday

Zach would have been 29 today. We probably would have talked on the phone. His doctorate would have been finished. He would either have a job somewhere or he’d be working on a post-doc somewhere else. He would have most likely not been in California or anywhere on the West Coast. I think I say that because the programs he looked at for the doctorate were in the east or mid-west. Also, Emily was in Illinois so that would have been a pull.

I stalled out on my project of posting excerpts from his journals on a given day. I was getting close to the end of them and I lost heart. There is one I found from 2014 on his birthday, though. It shows Zach at his unsentimental best starting out an entry. (It goes on, BTW, but this is all I’m posting today.)

I was in a good mood and then decided to drink coffee, which was probably unnecessary but since it’s my bday, I get to do things like that.  LOL, I hate that attitude.

But with there not a ton of actually pressing things on my plate (minus a stats final on Tuesday that I should really study for but can’t take seriously anymore), I felt like spending time in here.  I always feel like I’m going to sit down and bust out some incredible stuff in here but then it turns into something more rigid and much less poetic than I imagine in my head.  So it goes.

Happy Birthday, Zach. I love you, son.

Just him

Tidying up files today I found this quote from Rosalie, written up by Ashley in January of this year:

A friend stopped by this afternoon to give Rosalie a memory box to keep special things that remind her of Zach. After she left, I asked R some questions thinking I would write down her answers for the box.
“What do you remember about Uncle Zach?”
“Bad news bananas!!!” (Smiles and giggles )
“What was your favorite memory, or something that you remember, about Uncle Zach?”
“Just him.”
“Your favorite part was just all of him?”
“Yeah. Just him.”

tea

I had to look it up. It was Christmas 2011. Zach had moved from Oregon to Louisiana the summer before. Sarah had started her doctorate program in Colorado. Jeremy and Ashley had moved into their own home. I was starting to get back on my feet after the economic disaster of 2008 and 2009.

I don’t remember if I helped to finance, or if I suggested it, but with all five of us in one place at the same time, I wanted to get a nice picture of all of us. Ashley’s brother Ryan had a nice camera and generously agreed to take some pictures. there are a bunch of good ones, but this is the one I picked today:

But back to tea. For a Christmas present, my children got together and gave me a teapot and some tea. I don’t know why exactly. I had not been a tea drinker. I didn’t (still don’t) drink coffee. I had become a fan of caffeine over the years when I discovered it helped with my headaches but I had never thought about getting it via liquids.

OK, I have a teapot now. When I got home, I started trying out the teas that had come with the teapot. Eventually, I developed some knowledge of what I liked. The next year for Christmas, Zach sent me a huge assortment of teas. Here’s my kitchen cabinet after they arrived:

I’ve got some nice glass containers now but otherwise the cabinet looks much the same. I keep lots of different teas and drink whatever feels right at the moment. I have some loose leaf teas but use tea bags most of the time.

I thought of all of this last night when I was at the grocery store getting milk. I always go down the tea aisle, even when I have plenty of tea. I guess I look for stuff on sale. At this point I know what stores have what teas so there aren’t many surprises.

What struck me last night was that the Stash tea was about the cheapest tea there. Stash was the brand of the assortment that Zach had sent me and I thought it was pretty good. It’s an Oregon company so I thought there was some angle for him there. They have lots of teas so I was able to try lots of different flavors.

Today was Oolong. Thinking of you, Zach.

that awful night

‘That awful night’ has been my code phrase for the night two years ago when Zach was killed. I’ve been thinking about it a lot in the last couple of months. Actually, not about the night itself, but the anniversary of it. I’ve been thinking that while I certainly won’t forget what happened on this date, I want to focus on celebrating Zach on his birthday rather than his death day.

The group I was going to in Santa Clara, Compassionate Friends, begins each monthly meeting with a reading of the names of those who died in that month. They also read the names of those who were born. I was never comfortable with that, though. I really wanted – and I still want – to focus on moving forward rather than looking back.

This blog, which began as a tribute to Zach, has become a chronicle of my activities and thoughts. Sometimes they are looking backwards, but more often they are in the moment and with a positive outlook. This, I believe, is how Zach would prefer that he be remembered. In the words of his grandfather Clark Ewing, ‘Pick up the slack for Zach.’ Do something positive, push yourself a little.

I’ve been staying since Monday in Spokane with my friends Peter and Nanci. Peter had a stroke three years ago and has limited speech ability and his right side is paralyzed. The three of us have had discussions about trauma, about change in our lives, and even some good talk about people we knew in high school. In some ways, Peter’s condition reminds me of my father’s. In both cases, their intellect is intact but the mechanism for connecting that intellect to the rest of the world doesn’t work properly. For Peter, there have been some positive signs: he can walk a little with a cane; he has been able to speak a few new words. For my father, I fear there will be no return.

For both men, those who love them have to treasure what we have and not get wrapped up in what we don’t have,

Yesterday was a good day. I helped Nanci hang some cabinets and fixed a broken door. The wind blew the hot water heater pilot out in the afternoon and I helped relight it. But we didn’t go anywhere, we just stayed near each other and talked and treasured the moments.

voice mail

My nephew Danny is planning a family get together this weekend at his house in Lincoln. Us Bay Area folks are planning on going but there are questions about who is staying overnight, how we can car pool, etc. Mom sent me an email yesterday with a bunch of things on it so rather than responding in kind, I called her. They didn’t answer, so I left a message.

I got no response until I checked my email this morning. She said she tried to call but my email was full. Full? What have I got stored . . .? Oh.

So, here’s my story. I save certain voice mails from my kids. The ones that seem indicative of milestones. I usually transfer them to my hard drive and take them off my phone to avoid just the problem that I now have but the last one I got from Zach and the anguished calls from Jeremy and Mom that awful night are still there. I just checked and I did transfer them but I didn’t erase them from my phone. There are a few other, more recent ones, saved.

It’s funny, I only had to hear the first couple of seconds of each one of those to bring it all back this morning. I didn’t get much work done for a while after that. Luckily, the theatre was dark and hardly anyone was around.

For months I was sure I had a early November voice mail message from Zach talking about his upcoming trip to California with Emily. When I finally went through them carefully, it wasn’t there. I guess I erased it by mistake somewhere along the line. Here’s the last one I have, from the summer before.

Zach’s journals follow up

I think it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted about reading Zach’s journals and teased that I would possibly post excerpts. Honestly, some of the things he put in them made me uncomfortable and I had to stop. Also, I was going through in chronological order and the closer I got to the end, the harder it was to read.

And I wasn’t even really reading them! I was just going through and writing down the dates of each entry. Things would catch my eye and of course I would read further but I wasn’t reading top to bottom.

My next couple of weeks are pretty open so I may get back to it. Stay tuned!