I went to Santa Rosa this weekend for the memorial service for Hal Mickens, a man who was like my second father for a large part of my life. He was a profoundly good man, happy, wise, and a seemingly endless font of stories. He had a remarkable ability to meet you where you were. I knew him from age two until this year when he passed away, and yet I never remember Hal being patronizing, insincere, or treating me less equally for being a kid.
Hal is in my first clear memories from about age two-and-a-half, when I called him "Hally." I remember following him around the Mickens' house in Santa Rosa until my eyes and nose were running with allergies. He taught me how to do some woodworking to make cut-out puzzles with a skill saw, and to create a peg-jumping game. He and Nancy flew me down to Tijuana, Mexico with our church group when I was about 9. In return, he only asked for hard work. He didn't specify what that meant, and never made my efforts feel childish or foolish. As I got older, our conversations evolved to feel like I was talking to someone who considered me a peer, despite having known me as a small child. Hal always made me feel valuable and valid. Hal was a good mentor, a good leader, a wise man, and endlessly funny. I will miss him a lot. There is a tangibility to his passing that I haven't experienced before.
It was interesting, too, being back in Santa Rosa. I grew up there for 10 years, and in a lot of ways, it is one of the places I most associate with home. I spent many summers in Santa Rosa after moving to Washington State. It wasn't until Hal's memorial service, however, that I was faced with so many people from that period of time growing up there. There were a number of people from our church at the time who I hadn't seen since I was 12 years old. They all remarked on how I had grown up. However, they seemed old to me at 12, so seeing them with the eyes of an adult, they didn't appear to have changed much to me. It is as though my concurrent aging allowed my perspective to reset. They stepped right out of my memory, names and all, and I made small talk with names from the past.
It was a great trip overall, though too brief. It is a good reminder to not let go of the various pieces of my life. Even though parts of my life move forward at differing speeds, it is important to me to maintain the disparate pieces. Those myriad pieces are what have made me who I am. I am grateful to have spent a weekend with my parents and my brother, even under sad circumstances. I am so glad I saw Nancy and Deborah, and was able to meet more of their family. I am happy we were able to laugh on Saturday night, even in the wake of the service. There was a lot of love in that house on Saturday evening after the funeral, and it is probably that which sticks with me the most from the weekend. I feel honored to be connected to such good people.
Que sigan viajando...