There wasn’t enough time.
Zeke was fifty three years old when his heart gave out and the rest of his life stopped happening. The news came to me in a phone call from my Aunt. She sped through the details in Spanish, going on for several minutes before she stopped to ask me what language she was speaking in. I told her it was alright, that I understood.
It’s just that, the most important part of this story is the part I will never understand. Because we never can, we’re not allowed to. Life is a horribly wretched circumstance, and it’s one to which we hold to dearly. And it always happens this way, always.
We hadn’t been close for too many years, disconnected by the miles and different lives and familial misunderstandings. None of it was personal, and yet I can’t help thinking that it becomes all too personal after it’s too damned late to do anything about the silence that existed between us.
I never called him after the separation from my cousin. Not even a simple text to let him know that I was there if he ever needed to talk. Then again, I became quite good at not being there for that side of my family, so really . . why would he have been immune?
It doesn’t matter a wit, not compared to the two beautiful children he left behind. Grown now, they possess the depth and passion of their father. And if nothing else can be retrieved for me, their lives become something I might understand with more familiarity now. Before something else becomes too late.
Me and the kids spent Saturday with this side of the family. We attended a celebration of his life. So many people shared their stories. He was loved for his quirks, his humor and his passions. He was an artist in the truest sense of the word. He loved music and math, friends and family and Kurt Vonnegut too.
I remember things about him that have no blessed Shakespeare to them. They are simple things that have loosed themselves inside my mind over the last couple weeks, since I first received the news of his death. Things like his love of the Talking Heads and Devo. And the ad he did for Absolut vodka. And how he was an avowed liberal who loved debating; not yelling or screaming, but actual discussion. And how he just didn’t get sports, at all. And how he got books, and loved them. And how he had theories . . on everything. And how he folded his arms and gave you his undivided attention when he spoke to you. And his hugs. God, I can close my eyes right now and I can feel his hugs.
And if I could be granted five minutes with the man, I might ask that it be one long hug.
The memory that keeps prevailing over the last couple weeks, it’s twenty eight years removed. It was the day Zeke married my cousin Yvette. They wed in a nondenominational church near the Trade Center. Eleven years later, Zeke was in those Towers when the first plane hit. He made it downstairs and watched as the second plane crashed into the South Tower. And then he ran like hell, as fast and as far as his legs could take him.
But he never made it out of there, I don’t believe. He lost his job when the company he worked for folded after the attacks. He busted his ass to get back, but he never really could get back what was lost. Mentally and spiritually, I think he struggled even more.
Maybe that’s why I think back to his wedding day. The bride, so beautiful in white, and Zeke with his trademark black suit and tie. Two beautiful kids who were going to live forever, in a city that was always going to be the magical iteration of Runyon and Warhol and pride dressed in the cursive of stardust.
And so it goes . . .