After we ate at Gabriel’s I said to XXX that you’d be disappointed if we came to your funeral and didn’t eat well. Then later in the weekend, on the way to the airport, after we’d eaten at Gabriel’s, Tia Sofia’s, Ore House, Tomasita’s and The Frontier I said…you know, Eli would be God damned impressed at the number of good restaurants we hit and the amount of calories we took in. Funny. I even got a green chile cheeseburger and a sausage breakfast burrito at The Frontier because I couldn’t make up my mind. (Yes, we got the cinnamon rolls and orange juice).
This is strange, this whole thing. I’ve had a terrible time writing. You’re the closest person I’ve lost that wasn’t a blood relative. I won’t say ‘wasn’t family’ because, well, you know…that’s not how we think about it. But I’ve been reading some of the things in the paper, some of the things people have posted online, like Sisto. People really wanted to talk about your political chops. Man…everyone. There was some irony there, given what I do for work, what Dan does, etc. All weekend neither of us talked about you in a work context. I was telling Dan, someone asked about the percentage of time you and I talked about politics and the percentage of time we talked about personal things. I just kind of shrugged and said the truth – that we never talk about politics, because we don’t. Funny. Oh my God did you see Harry Montoya speak at your reception? “Eli told me as a political candidate I should never pass up an open mic.” Priceless! You know everyone always had more confidence in you than you had in yourself.
Dan knocked it out of the park with your eulogy though. I needed to hear what he had to say because I knew you so much more personally than a lot of people, as did he. There were things in the paper about what a political animal you are and how much you cared about social change, etc. I know all those things are true, but I needed to hear more about the person I knew…the friend I had. Dan captured all those things for me. I’m happy about that because I haven’t been able to capture how I am feeling. My writing has suffered paralysis this week.
Speaking of. You’d be happy to know that Dan and I had dinner together at Toma’s on Saturday night. Danny and XXX too, as well as Rhonda and Dan’s new girlfriend. I don’t know if you knew that or not. I’d like to believe that you know everything that went on…but you know how I am with the afterlife business. I just don’t know. Hey, maybe you can take part of that on for me now that you’re gone…help me figure things out. But it was a good dinner Eli. It was good for me and for Dan and we even emailed about it afterwards. Things are good between us and I know that would make you happy.
I was really happy to hear from both Dan and your father that they knew your creative side. Your dad was telling me how he used to secretly watch you write. He said you’d write something, read it and then throw it away. Then he’d sneak it out of the trash and read it. He was so impressed Eli. He thought it was good. I told him you are perhaps the most creative person I know. He learned a lot about you at the rosary and at the reception that followed the funeral. Even though I know he is tortured right now, he is a proud man. He said “Scott, I keep learning more and more things about how wonderful my boy is. I had no idea how many people knew about how smart he is and how good he is at everything.” So here’s the deal. I’m going to write the Tin Man. I’m going to write it for you, for us. It will be in your name. I will get it done and we will share the credit for that story forever.
The hardest part of the weekend was watching the slideshow that Margot and Melissa put together. It was so difficult for me because it showed the whole spectrum – birth to death. I couldn’t help but think about my little girls and then flash forward and wonder what kinds of fractures and fissures they’ll have after living in this world for ten years, for twenty years, etc. They’re so pure now. You were so pure then too…we all were. What happened Eli? Do you know? I know you lost your confidence somewhere along the way, but why? How? You looked tired in the more recent pictures. So tired…
Oh, I have to tell you about Brianna. God I am glad I didn’t forget this. You remember that you and I met right when she was born. And she was always an amazing little baby…charismatic, animated and smart. She reminds me of Ava if you want to know the truth…or vice versa. Anyway…she spoke at the rosary and then again at the reception and we were blown away. She was so perfect, so grown up. And that isn’t to say she kept it together – she actually fell apart and that was what was so perfect. She wasn’t afraid to get up there and talk about how devastated she was. She wasn’t embarrassed to choke through tears to let everyone know how important you were to her. She wrecked us all down to ground level. Afterwards, at the reception, I pulled her outside and told her a few things. I said “You are the first. You are the first niece or nephew and you are the first grandchild. So am I. I’ve been around since you were born and I need you to know that as the first, you occupied a special place in your uncle’s heart and I never want you to forget that.” She knows Eli. She knows how special she was to you and how special you were to her. Later she brought a little guy named Sergio up to me and said “This is Sergio. He is my cousin and having a really hard time with all of this.” I shook little Sergio’s hand and told him “Me too,” and that it was ok to have a hard time with it. Such a big girl she is.
God Eli…we have been thinking about and telling hilarious stories the entire weekend. Everybody remembers something different and each person’s memories ignites a flurry of others for someone else.
There was the time we worked so hard to get comped at the MGM. Remember that? We were playing two hands each of Blackjack and betting $175 a hand. That’s $700 a hand between the two of us. What were we thinking?? Hey but at least we got our free buffet…lol
Speaking of Vegas…I still can’t believe you were able to eat the entire prime rib at Jerry’s Nugget. Strike that. You were able to eat a cheeseburger as an appetizer, then your prime rib, then what was left of mine, then an apple pie. WTF? Dude, I was so sure I would get you on that one. I couldn’t even eat a third of that slab of meat! Legendary.
Henry remembers when he went on a date with that girl he lost his virginity to. Do you remember her? She was a waitress at Taco Surf and we introduced them. Then, you and I went on our own ‘date’ and followed them up and down Second Street. I remember sitting on a bench across the street from them, eating ice cream and waving…she had no clue but he kept waving us off.
Then there was the time we stayed at the Rio in some suite and you passed out on one bed, me on another. In the morning you asked me how I slept and said your bed was a little lumpy. That was right before you pulled an iron out from under your back and realized you’d been sleeping on it all night. Oh my God…that is still one of my favorite stories.
XXX and I were dying remembering how fun it was to get you to sing the Spice Girls song (“Sooooooooo tell me what you want, what you really, really, want! I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really, want!”)
That reminds me of when we’d sit in the kitchen and you’d make your famous Dagwood sandwiches! Your mom and I were sitting in your kitchen after the funeral and started laughing about your sandwiches. “Nobody makes sandwiches like my hito,” she said. Then she started crying. Then I did too.
One time in Albuquerque I was feeling like a pizza. I’d probably OD’d on New Mexican food and needed a break. When I mentioned that to you, you got real serious. “Where are you going to get it from?” You asked me. I didn’t know. Then you took over, picking up the phone and dialing a number by heart.
“Hey, it’s Eli.”
“I need a wheel. The usual.”
We took your Expedition to pick up the biggest pizza I have ever seen in my life – a green chile and pepperoni “Wagon Wheel” from Mario’s. Holy. Cow. It must have been three feet in diameter. I’ve never seen a pizza that big Eli. Ever.
Good times. I miss you so much. There is a weird feeling I can’t reconcile where I think about you and get sad and then I want to call you and talk about our loss. No matter how many times I restart the thought process, sooner or later I get to the same point where I take a few steps in that direction and then get disappointed because I can’t talk to you about you.
Eli, Brianna told me about a conversation the two of you had the night before you died. She said you told her to give Sergio a special message because you thought you might not make it. Is that true? I didn’t know until I was in Santa Fe that you knew you were dying. I knew you were feeling down and I knew you weren’t feeling well, but I’ve seen those things before. I didn’t realize you had turned the corner and, perhaps by decision, were falling away. I believe that today. Is it true? When we spoke on Saturday I knew something wasn’t right. But I thought we talked about your health in such detail that you would have told me if there was more to tell, right? But then I heard from others that you had made several comments predicting that you wouldn’t make it. I wish I could ask you these things now. I wish we could sit around and talk about life and death and I could hear what you were thinking and feeling and how you’re thinking and feeling now.
I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone – ever. When Ava was in the hospital last January I was the worst I’ve ever been emotionally and I was questioning everything. I walked past the hospital chapel time and time again. No one was ever in there. I was mad. I was sad. I was ready to do anything that would help my little girl float back from the abyss. But I never went in to that chapel, not then. Two months later we were in the same hospital, in the same place. This time we were there with our other little girl – our unborn daughter. But things would be different on that trip. We weren’t going to leave with her, with our baby. She was going to die. She did die.
That trip I finally went into that chapel and I sat down and waited…and waited… and waited. No one ever came in. I never heard anything. Nothing changed. After awhile I noticed a book on a table where people could sign their names and, so it appeared, request a prayer be made in the name of their loved ones. I read that book for awhile…all the different stories, different requests. The levels of ability in writing and communicating were all over the place…the different battles being fought…or those that had just been lost. I tried to picture everyone who wrote in that book and I tried to picture everyone they were writing about. Then I picked up a pen and I started to write.
I would normally keep a copy of a significant letter (like this one), but I didn’t. I wrote a letter to God and I didn’t keep it because I was communicating. Do you see the difference? I wasn’t trying to capture a memory or cleanse my emotional palette…it was a pragmatic attempt at communicating, no different than a phone call or an email. I wanted to hear from him Eli. This year has been devastating. I wrote to God and said I was wondering lately if he was looking for me. I need to know if he’s there and what he wants from me. And nothing changed. I went home and cried and have been crying for most of the year…just like I am right now.
Goodbye my friend.