Tuesday, September 19, 2023

A Year Later . . .


Last year, on this day, the Lord took my beautiful son Nicholas Jordan Ettinger-Ravel home. Nick had been diagnosed early in 2022 with epilepsy. He worked from home & kept a camera on himself to determine if he had a seizure.

He had just assured me that he had not experienced a seizure in the day time for weeks. 

But on the 19th, a seizure & a subsequent fall took Nick from us. He was 38 years old.

When Nick was still a toddler, I put him in front of a computer, inaugurating what would become a life-long passion & career. Nick was an intelligent, compassionate & caring man with a wicked sense of humor & quick wit. He enjoyed watching films & his favorite series, listening to music, building better & faster computers & creating both useful & whimsical items with his 3-D printer.

He loved his wife & life partner of over 20 years, Jane, his family & extended family, & his two fur babies, Lexie & Franny.

Yesterday, as I at tried to prepare myself for this most unhappy of anniversaries, I drew on moments with Nick that                                                             brought me joy. 

I think it was New Year’s Eve – the first New Year’s Eve without some place to go.  Nick was not quite three & obsessed with a lunch box given to him by my boss, Mike McCann.  The lunch box was also a radio & came with earplugs.  Nick carried it everywhere.

We decided to go to Luigi’s – our family’s favorite Italian restaurant, and a short drive from our house.  Luigi’s was crowded & we did not have reservations, but they knew us & found a table for two & a place to put it.

While I don’t remember what Nick finally settled upon for his meal, I remember that we had Eggplant Rollatini for our appetizer.  At my insistence, Nick finally removed his ear plugs & told me about his day at Esperanza, the Outdoor School. 

Nick asked me about people he knew from my office, and then changed the subject:


How are you finding the Eggplant Rollatini, Mom?


I replied that I was finding it quite fine.  Then he picked up his wine glass filled with Sprite & held it toward me:

 To you, Mom, to you.

It was one of those moments a mother never forgets – when your son is certain that you are the most important & beautiful woman in the world.  Or at least in His world.

Boys are the salt of the earth. Eventually, they grow into men, but the little boy who loved you unconditionally, who believed you to be beautiful, who trusted you with his secrets & found a safe place to land with you, remains within the grown man.

Over the years, during many conversations with Nick, I recalled that evening at Luigi’s & how that little boy who grew into a man always managed to charm me.

Nick always kept me in his heart. As I will keep him in mine. 

If there ever comes a day when we are not able to be together, keep me in your heart. I’ll stay there forever.

– A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Thursday, July 13, 2023

For Clyde . . .


Dearest Clyde & Jailene,

(Note to Jailene, your beautiful husband was, of course, not named Clyde.  His parents, who agreed on loving their children, did not agree on what to call him.  His mother, who will remain my sister-in-law forever because she never served me with divorce papers, insisted on calling him by an abbreviation of his middle name Alexander – the third Alexander in the Ettinger family.  His father, my sweet brother, insisted on calling him Johnny.  They both drove me crazy, so, at first, I called him Scooby Doo – because he liked the cartoon.  Then I eventually switched to Clyde.  I love that he goes by John.  His dad’s name, his grandfather Jacky’s name – Jacky & Jack are both diminutives of John, his great grandfather’s name – John Simpson Alexander Ettinger.)

So Clyde, I viewed a video of Ezrah sitting up & for a brief moment, I saw baby Clyde in your son’s face.  And I wished that my brother John, your daddy, could be with us to see his son in his grandson’s face.  That John could watch his namesake John play football, that he was here to see James & John & Ezrah grow up.

I do believe your sweet daddy is watching over us.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was with your Grandma Jean when she passed.

Amazing moments happen in the most normal of circumstances. 

This afternoon, I sat down at my computer & picked up a stack of pictures I wanted to send to Walgreen’s to blow up.  One was of your cousin Nick as a little boy in diapers sitting at a computer.  Another was of Nick hanging from our neighbor’s tree, his baby brother Sam crawling across the sidewalk toward his big brother.

In the stack of pictures that I want to blow up & frame, were two cards.  I had pulled them out of a case of some of the things your grandmother Jean saved.  Our certificates from Mrs. Knippe’s Swimming School, birthday cards, a bulletin from Coronado Baptist Church with your very young Aunt Janet listed as a soloist, a playbill from one of the programs Janet, John & I performed each year at Christmas.  (Always written & directed by me . . .)

One of the two cards I discovered was a birthday card for your father, John.  It had a quote from an ancient Sanskrit poem.  I have always been quite fond of translations of Sanskrit poems.  Inside, I wrote a poem in honor of your father’s birthday, dated 1977.

Apparently, it was written during a time in my writing life that I still longed to be a poet.  Poetry is a difficult discipline.  Every word is essential.  There are spatial restrictions.  I no longer write poetry.  It is too disciplined & too confining for me. 

But on that day, I wrote a poem for your father.  And now I give it to you, John, & to Jailene & to the beautiful son you share.

It is dated 04/30/1977, the day before your daddy’s May 1st birthday.

(Note:  I was not big on capitalization in those days.)

to John, in honor of your birthday, 1977


for yourself

where and when to travel.

but please

don’t just be a passenger

along for the ride,

holding on for safety.

fly the wind

and soar,

choosing your moments

to let go,

resting until it is right

to move on.

--but grab your life—

take the wind

and reach out


because there are too many


and other crossings

along the way.


Clyde, I want all of those things I wrote to your daddy for you, for your beautiful, loving wife & for the precious life God has given to you both in trust, for Ezrah.

Teach him to soar.

With love,

Aunt Jaki

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Nick's Birthday 2023


I close my eyes
And I'm seeing you everywhere
I step outside
It's like I'm breathing you in the air
I can feel you're there

Fall on me
With open arms
Fall on me
From where you are
Fall on me
With all your light
With all your light
With all your light  

--- Andrea Bocelli

I miss you, son.  With every breath I take.  

Happy Birthday.