We were already more than halfway across the country for my cousin’s wedding, so we figured we may us well just keep on going. We spent nearly a week in New York to catch up with Alexis’ brother Tony, Olivia and our Godson Gnarly. We stayed in an Airbnb they manage, in the same building they live in, in Green Point. It was a homerun and really let us get the most out of our time together.
In all my visits to New York, this trip was the closest I’ve ever come to grasping what it might actually be like to live there. From getting around, to spending time where I’d probably be hanging out, and of course speculating how far your money can go. Or more accurately how far it doesn’t. There was a lot of walking, lot of exploring. More so than any of my past long weekend or whirlwind work New York trips. I think my clearest takeaway was just how hard living there must be. Financially, physically, mentally. At least relative to my own day to day. Some abstract promise of New York City has always sat firmly in the back of my mind though. Always the thought that maybe someday I’d live there and truly experience it. I still feel it even now, but the door to that life has just about closed I think. I did it backwards. Los Angeles should’ve been the reward for putting in years of surviving in New York City. Luckily, we’ve got airplanes and some New Yorkers that’ll always be glad to see us.
It wasn’t a quick trip, but it felt that way. In other words, we had fun. Exploring the Whitney, strolling Central Park, treking through Green Point, conquering bridges and obviously eating and drinking to excess some of the best a neighborhood had to offer. I also quickly learned my new favorite mode of transportation in New York City is the Ferry. Most important of all though, we saw the ones we’d been missing, which is exactly what we set out to do. Thanks for having us.
Alexis’ mom passed away a few weeks ago. Much sooner than any of us should have to leave. Her name was Elizabeth, but family called her Lisa. It’s been hard to witness the emotional and physically toll Lisa’s passing took and continues to take on Alexis. Mostly it’s had me feeling helpless. Especially leading up to it. Understandably, there are certain weights that just can’t be lifted from the shoulders of the ones we love, no matter what we do or say.
Alexis had a complicated relationship with her mom, but even still, one that was rooted in love, and had countless moments that shone bright all the same. Unfortunately, I can’t say I knew her as well as I would have liked to myself. Over the years though, I did get to know her secondhand through stories Alexis would tell me about her childhood. Her Mom’s obsession with the movie Titanic. Her abundant and quirky sense of humor. How every time she used a strangers driveway to make a 3-point turn and headlights briefly flooded a house she’d say, “Don’t put the coffee pot on, we’re not staying!”
The days we spent sorting through and organizing her belongings after she was gone, grew my sense of knowing her even more. I learned she was a beautiful writer. She wrote a lot of poetry. She was a singer in a few bands as a teenager. She had many struggles. She held on to the smallest things from her children, which spoke volumes for how much she loved them. I also learned she was crazy about lighthouses! Just when we thought we’d collected and packed up all the lighthouses, of all shapes and sizes, without fail a few more would pop up somewhere. Over the course of a few days, we’d always laugh discovering a new lighthouse. A welcomed lighter moment in heavy days.
One of my favorite memories with Lisa was when we all went miniature golfing together. It was Alexis, myself, Her sister Elizabeth, our niece Scarlett, Grandma Nancy, and of course Lisa. Somehow I wound up with the tiny pencil and score card. After each hole, without fail, Lisa would check in to make sure I marked her score at least a stroke or two better than Grandma’s, regardless of what anyone shot. All the while, Grandma Nancy was asking me to do the same for her. Back and forth, and back and forth. Adjusting scores from four holes ago if need be! It was only my second time ever meeting them, so I was eager to please and in turn sweating bullets cooking the books. In the end, I think to keep all parties happy I declared Scarlett the winner, who couldn’t have been more than 5 years old at the time. It was a fun memory, and I think a testament to her fun loving spirit and humor.
It’s been a hard few months and weeks, and I’m left saddened this happened but thankful to have been able to stand tall by my wife’s side when she needed me most. In the end, I’m incredibly inspired by Alexis’ strength under such crushing weight of grief and responsibility. She’s navigating uncharted waters in her life, and doing so with as much grace as anyone one of us could ever hope for when it comes our own time to do so ourselves. Goodbye Lisa, we love you and will miss you.
We traveled to Florida in late October to spend some long overdue time with family. Our first stop was Anna Maria Island to see Alexis’ siblings and nieces. We spent our time exploring the island, chartering a boat, swimming, grilling, building a sand metropolis, carving pumpkins, and getting our Halloween costumes good and sandy. It’s not everyday we get this group together in the same room, so I designed (under Alexis’ supervision) some commemorative shirts for some added fun. By our last day I even got called “Uncle Kyle” a few times, which is always as equally terrifying as it is heartwarming.
After a few days we were off to Estero Island to see my parents at our family timeshare, where one Smith or another has been making memories at for over 35 years. Here we got a few good sunsets in, tore across the Gulf of Mexico on some jet skis, and drank an amount of alcohol that would be cause for concern if we weren’t on vacation. We were also lucky enough to catch up with some aunts, uncles and cousins who we rarely get to see, but who were also vacationing on the island.
Before we headed back to California we had just enough time to clink glasses and crack some jokes with my brother, as well as drop in on some friends in Fort Lauderdale. It was a long trip, that went by all too fast, which is really just a roundabout way of saying, we had a great time.
We’d already come halfway across the country for a family trip, and figured we may as well just keep on going. We knew we’d be heading to New York City to see Alexis’ brother Tony and Olivia, and of course our unofficial godson Gnarly. We wanted to see somewhere new first though. Alexis had never been to Philadelphia. It’d been a long time for me, and our friends Drew and Kelsie said they were in, so that settled it. It was a trip of exploration, late nights, loud music and drained glasses. I was run ragged by the end of it, but it’s always worth it. Tough to beat the company.
Family Portrait. Alexis, her brother Tony, his Fiancé Olivia, and me (Not pictured: Gnarly). Taken in Downtown LA at Clifton’s.
Tony and Olivia moved here to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, just over a year ago. A few weeks ago though, the circumstances of life ended up pulling them back out to New York.
Sad to see them go, but glad for the time we had. I got to know them while they were here as family, not in-laws. Wouldn’t have been possible any other way.
I didn’t really grow up around my cousins, and my brother is five years older than me, which really doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a difference when you’re kids. And now, I’m a good few thousand miles from any blood relatives. What I’m really getting at here, is it was nice to have some family that you just wanna, you know… hang out with.
Not even going to get into how much we miss
our godson Gnarly.
I asked the girl I’ve been crazy about (and driven crazy by) since the day I met her, to marry me. How we got from there to here is a long story. One that I’ll save for another time. But today, I want to tell you about the best day of my life.
Rain and Snow. Hikes and Sunsets. Friends and brothers. Sons and Dads. The Bulls in Chicago and The Boss in St. Paul. Stiff drinks and long division. This was Winter.
“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen