Thursday, February 22, 2007

Returning at last to the day of the funeral! Please pardon my tendency to explore the byways--sometimes those are the best part of life.

We had asked family and friends back to our house. As is usual for Richard and me at parties, we were the last people out of the luncheon, pretty much (though many remained to clean up, thank you so much guys!). We headed home, where I took off my purple suit, originally purchased that fall for a wedding, and put on jeans. The last of the ceremonies was over, and now it was time to wrap up and say goodby to the family and friends who had turned out to support us through that week. We sat and ate and drank a little wine: Richard and and our friend Harry sat in the backyard and drank Scotch and smoked cigars, something they do on special occasions. We caught up with people we hadn't seen in years, and watched as members of the various circles of our life overlapped for the first time. I kept thinking, if only this had been a wedding instead.

On Saturday, we got up and went to a local big box hardware store to find out why we still had not gotten the storm door we had ordered several weeks before any of this happened. It sounds kind of stupid and irrelevant, but we knew it was time to try to take up normal life again, at least a little bit. My sister and her husband were still with us and, since they remodel their own home perpetually, we knew they would be up for this expedition. We ran into a fellow parishioner there, also in pursuit of a delayed order, and she told us how beautiful she had found Thomas's funeral. Our door order was located and we finished up. I don't remember much of the rest of the day, though that night we had dinner with many of Anna's high school friends who had come, many of them, a long way to be with us. The restaurant was Thai and there was a large American flag on the wall. I kept wanting to toast Thomas's memory but decided that it could not come from me and might be hard on everyone else. So it didn't happen.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

(Nan, Lee Ann and Ron on the left, Laurie and Lee Ann on the right)
The rest of my visit with Laurie was a bit more conventional in some ways. We stayed overnight at my cousins' home: they all discovered the people they knew in common, we ate dinner and watched television before collapsing. The next morning we got up, ate a great breakfast, took pictures of each other in Nan and Ron's beautiful house, and then went to visit my aunt Dodo (her real name is Laurel but this is what we call her) who lives in a group home for people with Alzheimer's. Aunt Dodo is approaching 87 and has been declining for a number of years--she did not know me, but I knew her and I am very glad that we went. Then we said goodby and headed off to Vancouver, WA, stopping at one fabric store on the way (only one, I promise!).

Laurie dropped me off at a Starbucks in Vancouver--it felt odd to say goodby to someone who had literally been part of every moment for 48 hours. We covered a lot of territory in our conversations and it was good for both of us. Friends for life: who knew the gifts our sons would give us?

In Vancouver I stayed with my old friend Anne, who got me started on scrapbooking some of the pictures from the collage of Thomas that Anna had made for the wake. Then I headed north to Nan's sister Peg's home, saw another cousin there, Molly--Molly's parents lost two children to natural causes and seeing Molly reminded me that they kept going, even cheerfully on the outside, for many years. I don't know how they did it, and I did break down for a minute with her thinking about that.

Then north again to my sister's home. It was there that I spent the last weekend we had with Thomas, and it was hard to go back. I stopped at Ft. Lewis to see if they had finished rebuilding their Memorial Park (there is a memorial with Thomas's name on it) but they had barely started. I'll be back again. I passed the Taco Bell where we said goodby in the parking lot and he told me he would be back home. I miss him.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

So Laurie and I headed north, toward Eugene and Chase's spot. Laurie could probably have driven this with her eyes shut (though she didn't!) and we found our way there in the dark. Unlike many cemeterie, including Thomas's, this one did not have a fence as far as I could tell in the dark, nor did it have a gate so we were able to drive in even after sunset. Chase is three spaces in from the roadway so Laurie parked her car with the headlights pointing at the headstone and we got out. She had brought a pot of tulips. The headstone is the same style as that in the national cemeteries (Thomas has a brass marker, flat to the ground). We paused in the cold for perhaps ten minutes, talking about Chase, about this location, about the animals that visit. (Deer are constant visitors here in Maryland, and bouquets left on graves tend to take on an Edward Gorey look--just stems stripped of flowers and leaves, standing in vases after a few hours.) We said goodby, and then turned toward Eugene and my cousin Nan and her husband Ron.

I do not recommend going somewhere for the first time in the dark. We drove right past the house and finally paused in total confusion at the top of a hill. I called Nan on the cell phone, she came out to the curb and waved and we finally landed at their house, perhaps an hour after we had meant to.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Back to my Oregon visit.

Laurie drove us down to Salem, the state capital, so we could see the memorial that has been put up for the fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. She had brought paper and pencils so she could take rubbings of a couple of names on behalf of other families. It was a bit windy and we both stood there, holding the paper over the names while she worked. Maybe this looked a bit odd. It would be wrong to say that we were having a great time, but on the other hand we were pleased to be doing this. It is sad, but it is good to remember (which is the whole point of writing this blog, right?). Some memories bring us smiles, even in the midst of sadness. I took a number of pictures of the memorial which has a small wall with all of the names carved in, and space for more, though we hope it will remain empty . . . the rest of the memorial is a fountain with a statue of a soldier or marine and a map of the world spread out under the falling water. The state Capitol building is only a few blocks away, other memorials surround this one. That day, there was very little pedestrian traffic but you could see that it would be a peaceful spot to visit during good weather.

Once we'd finished there, we went to a quilting store and took solace in adding to our fabric stashes. Thomas understood retail therapy, and he also understood the importance of touching fabric: he was a very tactile kid. One of my funniest memories of him was seeing him crawl up to the vacuum cleaner when he was about 8 months old--he pulled a dust bunny off of the brush and sat there looking supremely happy that he had this nice soft thing to hold.

By now it was getting late. Time just kept slipping away and we wanted to visit Chase's grave. Clearly, we weren't going to make it before dark but we decided to do it anyway. Chase is in a place near Eugene so we headed north from Salem, determined to visit, despite the hour.