Tag Archives: Zach

Zach speaks

I woke up this morning with an idea of publishing Zach’s journals. Not publishing like a book, just posting here on this blog. Piecemeal, like I’ve done before. I haven’t looked up how I treated it before but today I think I will not comment.

Here is his entry from this date in 2015:

4/18, Saturday morning

The week back to the normalcy was not excellent. I always say no bad days but this week really put that mantra to a test. It started with Sunday, where I was only marginally productive and didn’t really do a whole lot, but planned to go bed early and get a good nights sleep, then get up on Monday morning and kick ass. As always, this didn’t work…I couldn’t fall asleep for shit that night and ended up staying up until I don’t know how late and reading a 500 page Michael Crichton book. Which was entertaining but ultimately a bit redundant. So I slept like shit, got up Monday and was immediately annoyed by the cats, the rain, and the dirtiness of the house. All petty little things that are somewhat within my control and I just let it mentally derail me. So Monday was a day spent trying to not get too wet from the rain, making adjustments to golf class, and get too annoyed by how dirty the house became from Jake being gone and the cats being in our house for ten days. Then stats was useless that evening (shockingly) and I had to go make copies and print stuff out that evening, which basically crushed any chances of exercise for the day.

Tuesday was where the car really ran off the road. It rained a shit ton more Monday night add as I was getting ready to get dressed for the high school and everything, I realized that I had a serious issue of mold in my room, including on a lot of my nice clothes. So I was pretty annoyed, but at that point I didn’t realize the extent of it. But I did when I got home…it was everywhere, and had started growing on my dressers and on about 50% of the clothes and other items in my closets. So needless to say, I was pretty wonked…I spent a couple hours in the afternoon working on it before Kwame’s class, went to class, then came back home and stayed up until about 1am cleaning stuff and figuring out how bad it all was. Jake had finally gotten home and he came and calmed me down, which helped. And I think everything is taken care of, although some of it has already come back in the days since…and I’m also getting rid of a shit ton of stuff…clothes I don’t wear anymore, that big suitcase that I never use, some of my old NU bags, and other shit. So that was kind of liberating.

But it also meant I didn’t really get anything done Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, and Thursday was also a clunker of a day, so it was not a banner week. I think I’ve got it out of my system but it was rough on my working out (which I had attacked with so much zeal but closed the week with a whimper), as well as me getting good work done (which isn’t a huge huge deal, although I have one assignment I’ve officially procrastinated far too long).

I started trying to write longhand each morning for a few minutes and sort of like it, but sort of dislike it. It’s mostly just me bitching and then trying to get my head wrapped around what I want to accomplish for the day. So it’s not very pure. But I think there’s some value to it, although I’m not quite certain what it is yet.

The other thing hanging over this week was the mysterious absence of Garn, which isn’t a huge deal except I also had some research questions hanging over my head and some confusing WAP directions that he gave me. So each day I was dwelling on all that stuff and uncertain when he would be back for me to talk with him. I eventually got the research stuff under control, at least partially, and the WAP is also settled down. The upshot of this week is that it, 100% hammered home the realization that I really can’t put too much trust in Garn for anything outside of research (and even that I need to trust my own instincts). If he’s going to go MIA, which he did for four days this week, then I really can’t expect to get much from him. The teaching and the work responsibilities are what really bug me; I got an email from Dee this week stating that I wasn’t teaching this summer (per Dr. Solmon) and I brought it up to Garn and he assumed that I was applying for a research award. And I told him I wasn’t because I wanted to take classes, and although we hashed out the conversation, it all makes me very uneasy. I can see a scenario where I’ll get left out to dry for the summer as far as income, just because the only affirmation I have about it is an ambiguous email from Dee and Garn’s word, which is proven to not be trustworthy in matters like this.

In his defense, he’s continued to give me feedback (sort of) on my manuscript and he continues to be exceedingly complimentary. He also nominated me for a national writing award through the AKA, which I received, and I appreciate. I don’t quite know the context of it (like is it really a big deal or no?) and he was really pumped up about it. So he isn’t useless, but I just need to condition myself to be a little more self-reliant in preparing myself for the future.

I nutted up and sent Kwame an email inquiring about TAing for him this summer for Sport in Society and he quickly and positively affirmed that. I think with him I just need to keep pushing slowly, since I don’t think he’s the type to volunteer assistance per se; but if I go to home with specific questions or asking his opinion, he seems willing to help. I need to cultivate that relationship, even if he might be leaving LSU soon. But that’s one area where I just need to go and do it on my own, to help my future.

I also spent a few minutes perusing the job boards looking at what’s out there and it was a sobering reminder that my job search will not be easy…especially because my area is kind of gray, in terms of specialty. I don’t really fit into sport management but I also don’t fit into “Kinesiology”, for the most part. So I need to do more now of trying find or create more specific niches and roles for myself. The problem is, again, that I’m doing this on my own, and I can’t really depend on Garn to help. I’m wondering more and more if I’m going to have to do a post-doc or some sort of shorter job out of school just because I won’t have quite the depth of experience…

At the end of the day, I just want to get out of LSU. Garn, for all his positives, is really being weighed down by his negatives, and I’ve kind of come full circle. I stayed at LSU because I thought it would be a consistent, more comfortable, family type environment with people who supported me and would nurture me and that I could trust. And from what I can tell…that’s not exactly the case. I misread the situation, and hopefully the next two years don’t make me regret it. I don’t regret it now, but I don’t want to hate being here either, and I’m having more and more days where I do…

But here’s the good: since I last wrote, Emily and I have made plans for three visits. I’m going up for two weeks in May, and we’ll spend part of that in AA plus Jimmy and Andrew are coming up from Cincy. That all coming together is a huge relief, because I wanted to spend a lot of time there but didn’t want to just be sitting around her parents house the whole time. She’s also made plans to come down here again in June/July and we’ll spend most of that trip going to Atlanta, which will be awesome. And then I made flights and plans to go to AA for the wedding in August too. So that’s a lot of great things to look forward to, and that makes everything easier. And she and I are as chipper as ever. It’s a good status quo and I hope we keep progressing.

The bad: the Giants are terrible. Not a fun start to the season. But I’ve started re-reading Ball Four, and it’s utterly incredible. I’m a better reader now than I have in the past, and it’s such a wonderful joy to experience it.

Birthdays of dead people

Dad would have been 92 yesterday. I marked the day but didn’t think of making a post about it until too late in the day. His loss has receded into the general noise of the past.

I suppose it happens to everyone. It happened with Zach, too. The date of Zach’s death passed me by completely this year. I literally didn’t think about it at all until a day or two later. That’s a first. I did have an idea for a post on Zach’s birthday but the day slipped away from me. He would’ve been 33.

With Dad, I’ve been better able to recall the earlier times when he was his real, dynamic self. The last two years of his decline are what we have (mostly) forgotten.

The other day, Mom had me get out a walker that had been purchased for him. She wants to have it nearby for herself now. It led to some talk about Dad’s last days but in a fairly dispassionate tone. Maybe elegiac or wistful might describe it better. We talked about her and Mary getting him to Christmas Mass in the rain. It turned out to be his last time out.

Mom had told me she got emotional on Zach’s death date this year but the thought of Dad’s passing doesn’t have the raw emotion attached to it. His death date is coming up in about three weeks, tho’ . . .

I’m glad I’ve been able to change my focus to birthdays rather than death days. It’s part of looking forward, I believe.

So, Happy Birthday Dad and Zach! I miss you but I am working on bringing my memories of you to bear in a positive way.

The dream

The dream came again tonight. That’s the fourth time in about two weeks. It’s usually in the morning but tonight it is late. I decided to wrote about it instead of chewing it over while trying to find untroubled sleep.

It’s pretty much the same every time: the viewpoint is right along the truck as Zach’s head hits the windshield and his body – for i hope it’s his body already and he’s not conscious any more because the next thing is his body flies through the air and hits the ground in front of the truck as it’s slowing but it hasn’t slowed enough so the right front wheel rolls over Zach, completing the job.

I don’t see Zach’s face; even the body is sort of a blur. I don’t see the bike or the other truck or the people in the trucks. It’s probably over in about the time it actually happened: 15 or 20 seconds from the first thud to silence. I know there was Micah’s running steps and the driver saying, ‘You can’t pin this on me!’ But that’s not part of the dream.

it’s not the anniversary, nothing obvious has happened to me on the road lately. They’re just coming.

We took a walk today with a friend of ours who recently lost her husband of over 40 years very suddenly. Like Zach, he went from seemingly perfectly healthy to dead within seconds. She’s completely bereft and I tried to comfort her today by talking about losing Zach. I don’t think it helped as much as just getting out and getting some exercise.

James Gleick again

I’ve been trying to read James Gleick’s latest book Time Travel: A History. I say trying because I’ve had great difficulty in recent months focusing on books. (I’ve had great difficulty focusing on almost everything since the lockdown, but that’s another story. Pandemic brain.)

I take a book from the library and then don’t read it. Sometimes I read a few pages and put it down and never come back to it. I’ve done better with Gleick for some reason but I still haven’t finished it and I am afraid the library is going to repossess it soon.

One problem is that Gleick, like Stephenson, is such a deep thinker that he requires good concentration to extract value from the book.

Stephenson’s novels it’s a lot easier because there is a plot. Gleick is a science writer. One reason I liked his book Chaos so much was that it had a narrative. Time Travel, perhaps deliberately, does not.

Gleick shows that time is a concept that humans both understand and do not understand. Even the measurement of time, which we in Western civilization like to think is straightforward, is dependent on consciousness, which leads to memory, which for me today leads to Zach. Nowadays, I think of Zach as being in the past but his memory is with me in the present. In a way he is as alive in my memory as he ever was before when I was not in his presence.

The future we tend to take on faith. After Zach was killed I remember telling people in grief sessions that I had to rewrite my future without him. There was a hole where I had expected him to be. So the future we expect is not assured. This is hardly profound but Gleick presents it engagingly.

I haven’t finished the book yet but I think there is some humor in reviewing a book about time before finishing it. Gleick even comments on how books are time machines themselves in that the reader can go back and forth through the pages if s/he desires.

Of course, the memory of Zach is not the same as having Zach alive in our now world. I can experience Zach by reading his journals and getting wisdom from them, but experiencing his living presence would generate different wisdom. So, I am sad to not be able to experience Zach’s different wisdom in my now. I take comfort in doing my little part in transmitting his now static wisdom into the future.

Rec league basketball

We watched a movie last night.

This is not about the movie.

I watched the credits, as I always do, and saw a name from Zach’s past. The character was a minor one – really just a cameo – so I really didn’t remember what he looked like. The movie was from 2014 and I hadn’t seen James since about 20 years ago when he and Zach were in rec league basketball together. They were pals at 12 years old but it didn’t last into high school.

Still, it was a good memory. The basketball team had their moments but they weren’t overpowering. They went into the championship tournament hoping to win one game but things started working for them and they got to the championship game against the hot shots.

It seemed like there was always one team in rec league that was put together by an ambitious dad who thought his kid was NBA material. Typically they steamrolled everyone else. It always pissed me off when they ran the score up against gawky kids who didn’t spend every free moment practicing basketball.

These were the guys Zach and James’ team were playing for the championship. I don’t remember it well enough to narrate the details but I remember that they played smart and tough against the hot shots. James’ dad was not the official coach but he was a savvy basketball guy who participated in the huddles and helped the kids believe in themselves. Jeremy was there too, providing support.

Well, they won, and were joyous.

In the big picture it would seem meaningless but our personalities are built from many small things. It was a fun moment. Rec league basketball was usually so frustrating. Zach was tall but not the tallest on the team. Soon after this, he really started growing and went on to play on high school and college basketball teams.

The actor turned out to have been born in 1965. Not even close!

Here are James and Zach in their championship shirts:

two deaths

Whenever there are two deaths, I always seem to hear people say these things happen in threes, who will be next. I don’t buy that. Things happen. Period. Humans being the supreme rationalizers that they (we) are, look for patterns in everything. Most of the time we find them. Are they really there? No comment.

The brother of a friend was found dead a couple of days ago. My friend asked that I not tell anyone just yet so I am camouflaging his identity. I’m also pretty sure that no one who might know them reads this blog. Anyway, the death was not related to Covid-19, as far as I know. I think alcohol was the main culprit but I may be rationalizing.

Both deaths were men in their 70s. I could argue that they both had lived decent lives and thus neither death is a tragedy. When my friend called me with the news he was pretty upset. I told him that even when we can see something coming, it can still be a shock when it actually happens.

Bud Oakley had had some serious health problems over the past few years. I hadn’t been as close to him as I had been in the ’90s and early 2000s. That’s when Sarah and Zach were most active in Villa Sinfonia, the violin studio he ran with his wife, Lynn. Over the years, there were rehearsals and concerts and trips to Europe. For a while I created the concert programs for them. I never went on any of the tours but I did go to the summer workshop at Zephyr Point, Lake Tahoe several times.

View from conference center

Other times Bud and Lynn let us stay in their house in South Lake Tahoe for weekend getaways. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones they were so generous to.

It is a cliché that an organization is like a family. I heard a lot of this rhetoric from Symphony leadership this past three months. I was not convinced. Bud and Lynn’s organization was like a family. They did a lot of smart things from a business perspective but it was all grounded in a love for music and teaching. I always felt that the growth of the studio was due not to some hard nosed business plan but from the organic needs of the people they served.

Bud was a demanding leader but he gave of himself without reserve.

This picture is from a Christmas concert at Ghirardelli Square in 1995. It was a regular thing for a few years. Bud was surely thinking about the music that they were about to play but there were probably kids not yet there he was thinking about. A good man. He will be missed.

Zach recipe

One more thing from the box. Zach had given me a recipe for a ‘breakfast casserole’ once. I had written it on a scrap of paper.

Here’s what I wrote:

  • baking dish 3″ x 14 x 8
  • frozen hashbrowns
  • turkey sausage/chorizo
  • yellow onions
  • 12-8 eggs – scramble
  • garlic & spices
  • cheese (cheddar) bag + 1/2
  • layer
  • 325° 1 hr 10′
  • remove foil cover
  • return to oven 10-15 mins to brown

I ate it once at his house but, sad to say, I never made it myself.

Tschotskes

‘A small bauble or miscellaneous item‘ says Wikipedia. Websters has ‘knickknack, trinket’. The word always had a connotation to me of ‘worthless except to one person’.

I did some cleaning in the garage the other day and unearthed a box filled with stuff that I had had on display on my apartment. There really isn’t a place for it here but I brought the box up to look through carefully. It’s mostly pictures in frames, which I am loath to get rid of. Sepi has lots of paintings, many of which are still in the garage, but paintings and guitars, not family pictures, are our principal wall adornments.

The other things in the box I would definitely call tschotsckes. A little clay wind chime that wouldn’t survive being put out of doors here. Little souvenirs from Germany, Zanesville, Paraguay and other places: plates, ashtrays, trivets.

And some things that remind me of Zach: a button with the picture from his first year in Little League. A ceramic hand print labelled December 1991 when he would have just turned 3. A ‘Panik 12′ button, referring to the Giants’ second baseman Joe Panik, that was on his backpack. A ceramic ‘Z’ that Rosalie made a couple of years ago.

And something I picked up on the side of the street across from his house less than 36 hours after his death:

It’s the lens from his sunglasses that he was wearing that day.

It caught me by surprise. I hadn’t thought about it for a long time. I suppose I would see it occasionally on the table as I went in and out of my apartment. Realistically, I should just toss it. I’ve got all the pictures. I even went back and watched the video I made that day walking along the street with the cars zipping by only about ten feet from me at 40 or 50 miles an hour. In the video, I see the lens in the grass alongside the road and bend down to pick it up. I was not sure it was his, but it all hangs together and I choose to think that it was his.

The ‘Z’ is now up on my dresser where I will see it every day along with Hobbes. I will offer the hand print to other members of the family. The buttons . . .  I’ll guess I’ll ask if anyone else wants them. I don’t expect anyone will. Jeremy might want the Panik button.

the last time I saw Zach

I don’t know why, but I woke up this morning thinking about the last time I saw Zach. It wasn’t really Zach at that point. It was just his body.

We were at the funeral home on the Tuesday afternoon of that week in Baton Rouge. For some reason, I don’t remember Sarah but I remember Jeremy being there. Zach was lying up at the front of the little chapel and there was a railing with a kneeler in front of it. I didn’t kneel, but I touched Zach’s lower leg and I remember thinking that it felt like him: solid and muscular. I don’t know anything about rigor mortis and I certainly wasn’t thinking about it then. Maybe it was just rigor mortis.

Of course, I looked at his face and I thought it was odd that they had put a bunch of pancake makeup on him. It was much later that I saw the police photos of the accident scene and I realized how horrific the injury to his head had been.

I didn’t feel any need to pray over his body or ‘say goodbye’ or anything like that. I wanted to touch him to convince myself it was all real. Emily was towards the back of the chapel with her mother and sisters. We would have been meeting in California in about a month’s time but I went back there and introduced myself and we all talked quietly.

At one point, I remember looking up to the front and saw Jeremy kneeling there and I thought maybe I should go and do that too. But I didn’t want to interrupt him and later people starting moving to leave. I don’t remember where we were going. We certainly weren’t rushed by the funeral home but a consensus seemed to develop that we were done.

The next day we went back and got the ashes.

I had them at my apartment for a long time. I believe I wrote about that. It wasn’t Zach – neither was the body – but it was the closest I had. Now ‘he’ is here:

In the end it’s all memories, which is why I write here. Our oral tradition is pretty much gone unless you count videos. There’s a chance these memories will survive for Rosalie and Noah and maybe their children to read and know a little bit about their ancestors. I know I would have eagerly read stories from my grandparents and great-grandparents. Eventually, their world recedes but their personalities would have shone through, I believe.

 

memories

Day 54 yesterday. Sepi and I went to Santa Clara yesterday. We saw Mom for the first time since early March. No touching, but we sat in the patio and chatted for a while. I brought some salt for the water softener.

After we got home I was spinning through FaceBook and saw that it was Noah’s birthday . . .

11 years old and he’s still the spitting image of Zach, at least to my eyes.

And once again, I am so pleased that he has a stable home environment to grow up in. Ally and Dave are terrific parents.

Well, the whole thing prompted some pillow talk with Sepi. She didn’t remember the story of how we found out about Noah and how Ally and Dave brought him up to Michigan to meet the family. What a tremendous thing that was! I believe I’ve documented here how difficult it was for me to accept him for what he was.

I still love Dave’s simple comment: ‘I’m the Dad.’

So this morning the power went out and I couldn’t work on the big computer as I had been planning so I picked up the iPad. This is the one that had belonged to Zach and still has some foibles related to his ownership. It still has access to his Google Drive even though I do not have the password.

It isn’t his regular Google Drive account. I got all the stuff off of that early on. This one – I think – was for his research into gender roles in intramural sports. It has videos of some IM flag football games. When I looked at them this morning I thought, these have no value to anyone any more. I deleted a couple, then noticed the date: November 10. Aiee!

Now I’m not sure – still, after all this time! – that I should be deleting anything. Then, when I went to crop the photo, I noticed that the dates were 2014. You probably can’t tell on this tiny photo but they’re all October and November 2014. Oh well. I haven’t heard from his thesis advisor since about six months after Zach’s death. He was going through some pretty serious changes then. I’m going to go ahead and delete them.

It’s even possible that I already sent this stuff to Alex and I don’t even remember doing it.

The only other thing of interest is Zach’s account name. He actually made two of them, both named Tom Brady with emails of woodrowreasearch and woodrowreasearch1@gmail.com. I haven’t tried to get into those accounts. I spent a lot of time in the first year going through Zach’s real emails and cleaning up things there. Whatever is in that inbox is way out of date. If someone else knows how to get into it and finds something of value, please let me know.

Or not.

Day 55.