Escape to California, loss and the culture of getting away.

We know a few people who are from California. They live here still, they are among those I refer to as the ‘whole some’ (as opposed to the ‘hurting many’). This is not to say that Calfornians don’t feel pain. It is just my perception that the rest of us have arrived here, okay, fled here, from some other darker, colder, lonelier and well, less fabulous place. We’ve fled here to escape those dark 5:30 kitchens when dinner is not on the stove, those cold 7:30 a.m’s when we walked alone to Junior High School and those lonely hot summers when the sound of cicadas was our only friend or the gush of fire hydrants our only ocean. Gloomy, yes, but I like it too.

And now we are here in the golden sun among the ‘whole some’. Those I perceive as handsome and well adjusted. They might be from Michigan, but more likely they are from Marin County. Their parents came here or grandparents and after shaking off their grudging pasts they were peaceful, smiling and reinvented. Their children rose up on Mount Tam, eating Chinese at Yank-Sing, summers at Camp-Win-A-Rainbow, surfing, vacations in Hawaii, sloppy cultural educations, poor writing skills. But I generalize.

Its just that the loss was left behind. And now, first or third generation, they are not interested in loss. Loss is not comfortable and it will penetrate and mar the aura of fun.  So for these folks it does not exist. They do not recognize it in us, the hurting many. And I was in their numbers, I fled here too and I didn’t like to go back or to talk about grief, loss or the dark days of my past.  And the sunshine fought against me, I couldn’t be whole and wished for rainy days and that damn song kept playing ” i’m only happy when it rains . . .”

And so we suffer alone, or on the phone with folks in the ‘old country’ (rest of America). Or with those rare Californians who defy this stereotype and reach out to share the pain.  The men in particular do not raise the subject of loss.  Perhaps too frightened by their own mortality or wishing not to elicit dread tears in public, they never raise the issue.  Some, the rare ones, meet with a meaningful, heartfelt gaze.  Eyes open and moist, expression blank, this says:  ‘if you want to talk about it, I know about your pain, and you may not know this, but I have been there’.   But most avoid gaze altogether, “how are you?” they ask with no particular implication or agenda, as in “whassup?”, “howsit?” or “what’ve you been up to?”

Oh, I cremated my brother and sprinkled his ashes at Seal Cove, but that was very short and brief.


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