Emotions and memories from Colorado were intense. I’m happy that Zafer fell in love with those beautiful, majestic mountains.
It seems your heart will only let in what you can process.
This was a mixture of acceptance and another dose of denial.
Zafer had the flat irons tattooed on his back unbeknownst to his parents.
I pulled into Niwot, Colorado. (adorable little town next to Boulder and means “left hand”) to stay with my hilarious cousin Charlie, Allie, their kids, Julian and Hudson. I always looked up to Charlie when I was a kid. He would take us out in his car in the cold night, drive fast and roll all the windows down while Bruce Springsteen was cranked. I continued the tradition of “freezeouts” with my kids.
When Zafer and I first went to Boulder to check out the school, we got caught in a huge rainstorm before the days of Lyft and showed up at my cousins soaking wet. Not knowing Allie all that well at the time, she warmly welcomed the two wet rats into her house and dried us off and fed us. I never imagined that she and Charlie would have to pack up Zafer’s belongings and pick out his clothing to be buried in. Allie is one of the most nurturing people I know. Zafer became very close with the whole family. One time Allie gave him the job of looking after Hudson who was about 5 while she put on a stressful school event…the annual Sock Hop. Zafer thought Hudson was fine with her friends and so he left to take Julian to get pizza with his friends. Allie lost her shit on Zafer. Zafer called me to tell me about the “situation”. I laughed. He laughed because I’ve done the same to him around PepperFest time. Z adored that family and I’m grateful they had their short time together.
Charlie and Allie go out of their way to make you feel at home and before I knew it, they had arranged for massage, a facial and of course a hair cut to get the knots out of my hair.
Lunch with Kristi, Kathie Russell’s beautiful sister was a highlight. She too had a sweet relationship with Zafer. She once took he and Greyson and another relative hiking in the Grand Canyon. It was one of the super hard hikes that lasts about 8 days. Not for the inexperienced. Zafer called me to tell me he was skipping class for a week to go on this hike. It seemed like he knew what he was doing, so I encouraged him. He packed bags of rice, beans and a special plastic carton to keep a dozen eggs. This was not particularly helpful for a week in the canyon. Kristi told me stories of how Zafer would go ahead on hard climbs and help the others up. When Z got out of the canyon and had cell coverage, he called me screaming in the phone “Mom, I LOVE YOU!”. He said he almost died a few times, but he made it out and was so happy to be alive.
Big snowflakes fell while Kristi and I cried a bit in a lovely Boulder bar.
Niki, Zafer’s roommate and dear friend has become part of our family. We have a bond that will never be broken. She unfortunately found Zafer the morning of his death. Niki was like the housemother. Andrew, Max, Zafer, Ally and Niki were a family. They cooked together, hiked together and had a full band in the basement of their college house. Zafer picked up guitar from Andrew.
Niki came up to Boulder. She also hooked me up with a local Shaman/Reiki practitioner. The woman worked on me for awhile and moved some energy. She told me I needed to forgive myself. My biggest block. As I left, I was dizzy as hell.
Niki was in class one day when her roommate Max texted her that they had found a new roommate and he thought she would like him.
Strange name: Zafer Estill. But cool dude.
Niki, obviously bored in class, started checking social media for Zafer. Nothing. She googled him and up comes tamisgreatadventure.com (my sabbatical 6 years ago) and she gets pulled into the blog. Again, class must not have been that intriguing. She finds Zafer’s photos…his baby photos and then his current photo. She realizes to her horror that he is sitting behind her and getting up to leave. His photo is big on her computer screen and she doesn’t want him to know she is stalking him. But that is how she met Zafer. Through this blog kind of.
Almost seems mystical.
My little cousin, Anabel is graduating from Colorado College and her senior art project just happened to be about the same time I was there. So, luckily, all my cousins were in Colorado for this event. Pamela, Pat and also Arlo flew in for the long weekend. We drove down to Colorado Springs in the snow. Niki found an Alice in Wonderland restaurant in a cave and formerly a mortuary with the perfect drink menu.
We casually walked over to see Anabel’s set up. I was not expecting much being out of the loop. I thought it might be a few paintings or a couple of sculptures. We walked into a gallery at the school where the entire room was woven together. I cannot explain how beautiful and unexpected the art was, as the humble soft spoken Anabel explained her process. She had gathered tons of recycled fabric, people all around school donated to her, she hand-dyed all of it. She then wove it on a loom in sections and then spent Six 13-hour days hanging the show.
There was an abstract video accompanying the show. As you walked through, it was like floating in a huge woven cloud. We were part of the installation. We helped put on the reception and a crowd gathered. She was graded and critiqued. The show had to be taken down right after the event. We all volunteered to help this massive project.
Zafer’s roommates all drove down with a truckload of musical instruments including a full drum set and electric guitar. They pulled in and quickly set up as we pulled fabric off the walls.
Arlo jumped on vocals and guitar. Niki naturally played harmonica and drums, no problem. Hudson and Julian and Pamela sang. It was a little hectic at times, but filled my soul up. We all agreed there was a metaphor here….Between Anabel’s show and how Zafer brought us all together.
The day after Zafer died, Lyle reminded me of the Fates from Greek mythology. One fate would cut a thread here so that something up ahead happened. It was all choreographed. It made me feel a tiny bit better.
From Colorado, I went to La Jolla/San Diego, California. There was a plane involved. This country is HUGE. My old body needed time out of the car. I was whisked from the airport straight to a birthday celebration for Charlie, one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met. Phifer had put on a tennis round robin for him and I now know a lot of Phife’s friends and they are awesome. It was non stop in California. Going from snow to sunny and 70 did not suck.
We hit the massage and pedicures, then the beach. We had several dinner parties and went for a hike in a nearby town. One day we spent at Balboa Park, sort of the Central Park of San Diego. Tons of small museums including the Museum of Man; Cannibals, Myth & Reality. I don’t know why I was so interested in this exhibit, but it was fascinating. Basically there are reports of most cultures eating their people for either religious reasons or to gain the power of their enemies or just to survive. Also, calling people savage cannibals made it easier to enslave them.
Lyle called to talk about a situation at home and I explained to him that all our ancestors have been cannibals, had an uncontrollable laughing attack and he had to hang up on me.
There may have been edibles involved.
Phifer has a way of making everything fun. We wore ourselves out a bit, but it was well worth spending a week with that rowdy crew. Including the rowdy pets and her son Edward who is growing up like a weed. Fabulous pianist and has a depth about him that most teens do not.
Back to Colorado, a night with the cousins and on to Canyon, Texas with Zafer’s skis and boots shoved in my beetle.
Bringing them home. Surreal.
I’m learning a lot, gaining clarity and extremely grateful for the hospitality and kindness of all of these beautiful souls.