The fire that never stops burning

I always scan Twitter trending topics every morning as a ritual.  It makes me feel connected to whatever is happening as it happens.  I don’t know why I do it.  What am I going to do about some major news story?  What impact do I have?  What am I gonna do, phone the governor and offer assistance?

ahh hell, not that ginger kid again

I guess it’s a leftover from being a kid and waking up to my mom telling me about a plane hitting the World Trade Center and adjusting to that reality, thinking of how it was probably just an accident, and then hearing about a second plane hitting the towers and realizing it wasn’t.  You don’t expect to wake up one day to an entirely new world.  It just happens, when you least expect it, and you can never prepare for it.

I found that out one morning when I got a missed call from my dad’s best friend, worried that he couldn’t get ahold of my dad.  Unlike most mornings, I didn’t scan the news, I just got in the car and drove.  I drove because I knew what happened, that my dad was gone, that he wasn’t just taking a nap with his phone off, because he never did that.  His phone was always on, whether we were on vacation or it was midnight.  No, he was gone, and an hour or so later I received a call confirming that reality.

It’s not something I’ve talked much about because there isn’t much there.  He’s gone and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.  He was a part of my life and now he is not and it’s a new reality to adjust to, it changes everything, and everything I do from here on out is defined by a single, horrifying event.

It’s not the first time that’s happened, finding out your mom’s in a coma when you’re in middle school steels you to these types of announcements.  I didn’t let myself cry then and for most of the drive to Fresno, I didn’t let myself cry either.  Both times I felt like something was wrong with me, but I guess I was just in shock – your body has a way of stripping things down to bare, mechanical function.  Each action becomes robotic, binary, on or off, yes or no, forward or reverse.  One thing your body doesn’t allow you to do is to be still, to do nothing.  I haven’t stopped moving since July 7th and I don’t think I ever will.

I remember a decade or so earlier laying on the floor and watching TV footage of people stumbling out of London buses, bleeding.  I couldn’t stop watching it.  It was horrifying, it was real, it was one of those events that changed everything.  Is this what life is?  A lull between tragedy?

I did read the news this morning as fires consumed Napa in the middle of the night, a place I loved to go on vacation to with my family as a child and then as an adult.  They were across the street from Silverado, the place we always stayed.  Vineyards all through Stag’s Leap were combusting, one by one in sequence, leaving more destruction in their wake than a tour group full of suburban moms.

And in the end there are photos of charred remains.


The flames engulfed my favorite vineyard, Signorello.  We’ve visited there since I was 9, there’s pictures in an album somewhere, the same albums my mom had to put down because they were just too difficult to look at this summer.  They had a gorgeous pool looking out towards the entire Napa Valley, paradise, a place from which you could see the end of the earth.


It also helped that they had a very friendly yellow lab and damn good wine.  On the last trip to Napa I took with my family, I convinced my dad to take us there.  I didn’t know it’d be the last for him or for the place.  Those routine trips and out of town drives are all I have left.  At the time you got swept up in the inconvenience – the packing, the bathroom stops, the dinner reservations.  Now you look at those things fondly, tinged with regret that the scope of your problems then seem so small in hindsight.


My dad isn’t coming back.  The winery hopefully will, but it won’t be the same.  Nothing’s the same, and that might be life’s most challenging lesson – nothing will ever be the same again.  People will die, buildings will fall, cancer will kill, fires will burn, and you must keep moving, unceasingly.

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