I hate this. My nose is so plugged up I can’t breathe, my eyes are so teary I can’t see. My heart is so sore, that I can’t feel. (Or I feel too much.)
Oh, Dave. Dave, Dave, Dave! (For the “Dead Like Me” fans out there, the intonation is the same as when George says, “Mason, Mason, Mason”.)
Where to start?
You are a storyteller.
A rescuer of stuffed animals.
A kind man. And I DO mean that – there aren’t many people that I describe as “kind”.
Nice? Yes. Caring? Yes. Sweet? Yes.
But kind? To me, that word sums up all that is good, and right. Not many people can embody both of those words. Some live one word, some the other. But both? Only you.
You work with developmentally disabled and abused kids. You act as an advocate; a counselor; a teacher; a safe port.
Throughout my life I have been blessed (not just blessed, but lucky, lucky) to know many people who work with the downtrodden, the so-called less desirable, the broken, the “unfixable”. Granted, they all work and embody caring, embody love, and embody aplomb. But you?
YOU are KIND. Down to your marrow, you are kind.
Before I officially met you, we played. Without ever knowing the other persons name, we saw each other on an early Saturday morning – you seeing me, me seeing you, and we both made eye contact.
Blue to green-hazel.
Green-hazel, to deep blue.
Our eyes met.
Of course, I was confused. But I went with it. You? You were going out on a limb.
(At the time I was 16, and you were close to 30. But then, as now, I couldn’t, I can not, resist a game. I think you sensed that in me. Then, as now, you always saw to the core of a person.)
Blue to green-hazel.
Green-hazel to blue – our eyes told the story before any word was ever spoken.
You ducked behind a tree. After a second of confusion, I see your eye, then the rest of your face, and that sly, joking smile, emerge from behind that tree; seeing me standing there, very confused. Just as quickly as you popped out, you popped back in again. And then? Then I knew what you were about. I joined in, my lip curled in understanding. My head ducked in a quick nod. A nod that said, “yes, I see what you are about. I see your ante, and raise it”.
The game was afoot.
I, too, found a nearby tree, and for a few moments, we played a game of peek-a-boo, much to the amusement of the various passersby. Once our trees tired of us, and shook us off like tired leaves, we moved on.
A slow, yet fast moving, game of statues followed. A visual Marco Polo, a game of “red-light, green-light” if you will, wherein each of us pretended to not see the other. Again, the passersby were confused, yet they still walked away with a smile. I?
I walked away with a song in my heart.
I think it was at the end of that weekend when we actually, and officially, met. (As soon as you hid behind that tree, and I followed suit, we “truly” met. Everything else was just semantics.)
“Hi, I’m Dave. Thank you for playing with me yesterday.”
“Hey Dave. I’m Anni. Thank you for allowing me to play with you.”
“Thank you for joining in. It’s not really about you and me, is it? It’s about the world.”
“True ‘dat. See you next Saturday?”
“I’ll be behind the tree. See you then.”
After a few years of talking, we became friends. We each saw through the others wall, but neither said so. It worked for us.
Goddamnit! You were supposed to marry my cousin, and show her that not all men are self-centered jerks. You and I knew that, though it was never spoken aloud. It was always danced around, and winked over, on your part and hers.
“Hey, how’s Dave? Have you talked to him recently?”
“Yes. I have. He says hello.”
“Hey there redhead. How’s your gorgeous cousin?”
“She’s fine. She says hello.”
All the unspoken subtext between the two of you was never verbalized, but it was felt. Always was it felt.
If there was ever a match made in heaven and all of the afterlife’s, you two embodied it. Sadly, you were both circling the same tree, but never met on the same side. It was a game of tag, with no one being “it”.
Circles. Both of you searching for the same end, but both …
Running in circles.
Circles … around each other.
Thinking back to that first of many games of hide and pseudo-seek, and peek-a-boo, what I see most, what I remember most, are your eyes. God. Your eyes!
They are so, so, SO incredibly blue. Paul Newman had nothing (nothing) on your peepers.
You know that blue of the Caribbean ocean? Where the really light part meets the really dark part? That small sliver of colour in between the dark, and the light? With a touch, just a touch, of the setting sun indigo? THAT is the colour I remember.
That is the colour, and the smile, that looked out at me that very first time.
That shade embodied everything in and of you. It was deep. It was light. It was fun. It was sad. It was a fan-fucking-tastic mix. A mix of this, that, the other, and everything in between.
Your eyes? They are open. And loving. And, yes, mischievous. There is that gleam. Always that chuckling gleam. God, how I miss that look. The concept of the eyes being the window to the soul? In your case, there was never any doubt.
Your panes were never smeary, or smudged. Clear. Open. Clean.
I envy that, yanno?
One of the first honest, and no holds-barred conversations we had revolved around the developmentally disabled, and abused, kids. Somehow the conversation was hijacked from the light and fluffy into something more real, and tangible. And felt. How we got there, I don’t remember. Somehow …
… I spoke of creating theatre on a semester time-frame with these kids; you spoke of creating a connection with them, on a day-to-day basis.
We both taught each other during that conversation.
You admitted that many of their stories, their life trials, their experiences, made you want to quit, you knew you had to stick with it. “Who else is willing to just sit and LISTEN to them? And then get up and play with them?”
And then you did. You sat. You listened. And then? Then you played.
Then … then I spoke of volunteering at a certain facility in San Francisco … you responded with the fact that you worked, day in and day out, with those same kids at that same location. The heartache and love you expressed, not just through your words, but through your body language, spoke volumes.
Although I loved you the moment you started to teach me to play years before, behind that tree, THAT moment solidified that feeling. And then some.
You make me want to volunteer again.
Your smile and humour – it is open. It is wide. At times, it is guarded. Subtle. VERY subtle.
Only those who knew you could see that subtlety. And the walls you hid behind, calling them “subtlety”.
Not a mean, vicious, or even snarky, bone resides in your body.
Biting? Wellllll, at times.
But overall? So damn joyful; life affirming.
Joie de vivre? You should have been the spokesman for that concept.
You know, I have never realized until THIS moment … this exact, very moment … that you, YOU, were an underlying component in my new-found optimism.
It’s all so clear now.
The difference between child-like, and childish? You taught me that.
For the longest time, I gave up the fun, because I thought it was “childish”. Until you, I never realized that childlike does not equal childish.
There is a difference. Truly.
And you taught me that. You did.
Thank you. Thank you for teaching me to love the swings again, without feeling self conscious.
Thank you. Thank you for showing me that to play inane games with a toddler doesn’t equate to me being “an idiot”.
Thank you. Thank you for showing me the joy of living, and experiencing, through another’s eyes, and lens.
Thank you. Thank you for teaching me that stopping to smell the roses doesn’t slow you down from your walk through life.
Thank you. Thank you for teaching me to embrace. Embrace life. Embrace friends. Embrace children. And? Embrace the moment. Embrace “the now”.
The now only happens once.
When the hell is the now? Well … it is … NOW. The now turns into “the then” and also “the future”.
“The then” can only be appreciated if you experience the now.
“The future” is only, truly, lived if you embrace the now … now.
Future and past … the cannot be measured without “the now”.
As much as I loathe to say this … thank you. Thank YOU for showing me what an uptight ass I was; thank you for opening the door, again, to child-like (but not childish) wonder.
On Saturday, when I am able to visit my friends’ kids, I will play with them until they fall down from exhaustion. Until they fall asleep on their feet. Until they pee from laughter.
I can’t call or text the cousin to tell her – it’s too late, and she needs her rest. After Dad died, she became the caretaker, and warden, of Nana. If I tell her right now, this will kill her.
It’s better to wait until daylight.
It amazes me that after 9 years, each of you still asks about the other. That is telling, no?
You, Mr. Dave, have touched people. Some of them you KNEW you touched. For others, others like me who prefer to keep their emotions and feelings locked up, you touched, without you knowing.
You never knew that touched people, though I suspect that you had an inkling.Your fingerprint lies on them (and me, and us), all the same.
Another storyteller I met at 16 was Mykie Dave. Larger than life, he was; literally and figuratively. (He was also a redhead, so he got untold bonus points for that fuck-up in genetics. What can I say? Like attracts like. And you and he were friends, not just with me, but with each other, so … )
He was the first person that I thought of to officiate my wedding. (Though you were a close, a very close, second.)
Your storytelling, and his, were very similar: both of you told tales of love thought lost, but then found … and realized.
The only difference between your stories was this: Mykie Dave always said that, “funny doesn’t have to be nice” – he sometimes beat you over the head. Whereas you … you were always nice. (Mykie Dave used a 2x4, and you used a ruler – both were tools to beat people over the head. The difference was in the bruises left the next day.)
I should have called. I FELT it. I FELT that I should have called.
But I didn’t.
For me, time doesn’t hold a lot of sway. (I think you knew that.)
Sadly, for the last two years, I think you not only heard, but felt, each moment count down.
Tonight … that clock ticked its final second.
Tick, tick, tick, tick, BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
(GodDAMN those egg timers!)
That friend or that family member that you have, for no known reason, been thinking about lately?
Send them an e-mail.
Give them a hug.
If only "just because".
Before I completely lost my shit tonight, my old roommate Ken randomly IMed me. He offered me a much needed break from my own head, and emotions. When I was on the verge of a breakdown, on the verge of an “ugly cry”, he brought me some laughter.
So did some of the goofy and off the wall blog posts tonight.
If you can’t laugh through your tears, what else can you do?
Shit. Say it ain’t so. Please.
Say it isn’t so.
This news is still just a few hours old. I wish I could plug my ears with my fingers, close my eyes, rock back and forth and repeat, “la la la la la, waterfalls, waterfalls” over and over, and over again, and when I opened my eyes, the world would still have you in it.
Although you were not my safe harbor, you were still part of the shoal, and you played that role (of safe harbor) for many kids.
What the fuck are they (and I? and us?) going to do without you?
I have lived through this before – I have lost someone, some people, I love too soon. However, *I* had a support system in place.
Many of the kids you touched don’t have that. They never experienced the haven of acceptance and peace until you came along.
I hope I can do you justice.
Each day, I try to find my own tree with which I can hide behind and invite others to come play hide-and-seek. Although I do live the mischievous, I am still trying to find those who will get, and play with, me.
It’s a long road, but such a fulfilling one. (Thank you for showing me the alternate route.)
And although I am pretty much over the concept of praying … I PRAY that this weekend, when I am playing with the bazillion kids of my friends, that I can channel you.
That I can offer them some hope. Some laughter. Some mystical twinkle. Some safe bubble.
Death is what gives this thing we call life a frame. To quote Rumi,
Dance when you're broken open.
Dance if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance when you're perfectly free.
Goddamnit Dave! We weren’t done telling stories. (YOU weren’t done telling stories. I was just learning how.)
Why did you have to up and die tonight?
You may be gone, from this physical plane, but I will dance. I will dance in my blood.
I will dance for me, for you, and for YOU, YOU who are reading this incoherent babble.
I will dance to embrace life: mine, yours, yours, and YOURS, and ours.
I have heard, and experienced, better storytelling. However, here is a link to a story that Dave recorded just 8 short months ago.
Dave? You know that you can do better than this, I have seen, heard, and experienced you do better than this … you KNOW this. However, I will embrace what is below, and remember all of our conversations to the best of my ability.
I will miss you. It's only been a few hours, but already I miss you. (You hated to make me cry, but damn … you are doing it now. But you are doing it in such a happy, yet sad way … you can’t yell at me for this. DON'T YELL AT ME! Stop smiling at me, and laughing with me, whilst I cry. It defeats the entire purpose.)
The beauty that was, that IS you, I will try to pass along. I will try to live.
No. Scratch that. I WILL live. And love.
My friend? I love you. And I wish you nothing but peace, love, happiness, and a pain-free, cancer-free, existence.
David is a graduate of the Dominican University Storytelling Credential Program and holds a Bachelor's Degree in theater. He is a member of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum Storytelling Corps, and has served as a member of the Board of directors for the Storytelling Association of Alta California for six years. David is the recipient of three Marin Arts Council grants. His Storytelling CD, Anything Can Happen, is the winner of a Parents' Choice award.______
David Ponkey serves as a storytelling therapist for Sunny Hills/Children's Garden group homes, and is a member of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum Storytelling Corps. David served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Storytelling Association of Alta California for six years, and is the recipient of three Marin Arts Council grants for storytelling with special needs students. His storytelling tape, Anything Can Happen is the winner of a Parents Choice award.