511 is a nation-wide code for traffic reports. On this date in 1961, David Garcia consummated his journey to life on a mild blue day at 9:10 AM, arriving at Vassar Hospital in Poughkeepsie, NY. 911 is a nation-wide code to summon emergency services. On this date in 2001, David Garcia abruptly exited this life on a mild blue day in a NYC skyscraper at 8:46 AM, in the nation’s greatest emergency call. Today marks the fifty-sixth year since David’s birth. The sixteenth year I will light a wishless candle beside a yellow rose, a tall Sapporo and a small offering of the sushi I dined on in private reverie.
There is something about the number eleven in our fated sphere. On the eleventh of May, 1961, David was born into this life. Two decades later, on the eleventh of September under a bright cerulean sky, in my third week of college, our paths intersected by chance on a campus sidewalk in 1981. On his twenty-third birthday he was randomly assigned the registration number 111 by the American Motocross Association (AMA). Two decades, on the eleventh of September our path was dissected, as I stood on a sidewalk waving our four year old onto a bus for his first day of school, on a mild blue day.
I recall the last birthday we celebrated in his honor as a young family. He had just returned from a rare solo journey to Minnesota for a professional IT training seminar. It had proven to be a challenging journey for him because the seminar was set in a professional building in a rural area, several miles from the motel he stayed in. There were no restaurants or groceries nearby and the best he could do was rent a bike and ride several miles to and from the seminar, one day in the rain. He called feeling down about his inability to drive and access basic necessities as easily as his classmates and missing the warmth and convenience of our company. On his final day in the Land of 10,000 Lakes he had decided it was imperative that he get some fun before boarding a 6PM flight to LaGuardia. So he pedaled near twenty miles one way, with the ferocity of a cowboy chasing a train on a horse, to ride a birthday jet ski in one lake for one hour. At around 8PM our little boys squealed with delight to greet their Daddy ascending the arrivals corridor, carrying a black leather attache and an old khaki-green boy scout duffel on each shoulder. Mommy made ice cream sundaes when we returned home. The following day we would celebrate his (final) birthday with a sushi supper and a tall Sapporo.
Traditions are the magic carpets that carry us through happy and difficult times. They are the shared rituals we inherit and pass on that instruct our engagement in celebrations, observances and mourning. With each generation, many traditions are adapted in ways that suit the times and needs. Some are abandoned in the wake of changes in family migration and modern ways and others are created in their place. Rituals connect us to our ancestors and shape our sense of belonging to each other in the present. When we are welcoming a new life into the family, overwhelmed by the trappings of a wedding or we are too weary to plan a wake, traditions are the understory that inscribe meaning in the rings and draw us up to the canopy, where the sun illuminates our senses.
True to his heritage, David had a discerning palate for Japanese cuisine. While his mother and I prepared many traditional dishes for his pleasure, whenever we celebrated a family occasion, we dined out on shared sushi boats, Sapporo and hot Saki. So for the past sixteen years, the boys and I have continued this tradition, placing a few pieces of sushi from our plates on a dipping dish beside a burning candle. When they were still young, we also launched personalized balloons at the beach. However, had this been our tradition today, we would have had to replace the balloon launching tradition with something more environmentally friendly.
The week leading up to this date is always difficult for me. I experience a subconscious visceral anticipation of the coming which manifests in spontaneous tearful fits triggered by banal stressors. Combine a busted wiper blade with a twisted ankle and spilled coffee and I am off balance. Add a beautiful forget-me-not sky and a nostalgic seventies rock ballad and I am coiled into a sad baby position. This reaction must be inscribed in my limbic script along with the other “traditional” life-markers that are captured in selfie-bombing orbs. In the raw years since our parting, I felt guilt for feeling the comfort of hot water washing my body, the salty pleasure of soy cleansing my palate and the joy of our children’s shrieks as the surf rushes over their toes. Time does not heal what cannot be fixed nor revivify what cannot be replaced but the force of years smooth the sharp incisions and quell the acrid woe. Happiness is not fully realized without sadness. Bliss is unknown without sorrow. Today I celebrate the life that was and the life that continues because of him by setting a sunbeam yellow rose, a dish of nigiri and a beer on the table beside his image and I will light a candle in eternal flame. I will nurture my spirit by cleaning my gardens, filling my flower vase and sharing in a Japanese meal with our son. For this occasion as in the past and for those that follow, I chose to bide these moments resting on the understory.
To my Dear, Kanpai!
Other 9/11 facts: (www.killtown.911review.org)
- 9/11/41 – Construction plans (Groundbreaking) for the Pentagon begin.
- 9/11/90 – President George H.W. Bush proclaimed the “New World Order” where a rule of Law would govern the conduct of diverse nations to achieve universal aspirations of mankind, peace, security, and freedom.
- 10/25/1944 – (My birth-day) The first use of planes in suicide attacks performed by Japanese Kamikaze.