The summer has marched on--another month goes by and here we are. In the course of that month, we visited Long Island, New York where my husband grew up and where most of his extended family still lives. We happened to be there on August 11th, 33 months since Thomas's death, eating dinner in a nice restaurant with Richard's cousin Patty and her daughter Jenny, and Jenny's husband. I have no idea what set me off (though the general cause is clear enough), but I found myself crying uncontrollably in the middle of dinner. Patty held my hand told me not to be sorry for doing this and, really, one of the things I have learned is that you will not melt if you cry in public, but the purpose of being there was to visit, I thought, not inflict my sorrow on others. Eventually, I calmed down, dinner ended, and we returned to Patty's house a few blocks away. We had not been there ten minutes when a friend of the family came to the door to tell Patty and Richie that their middle child, Peter (age 34), had been killed in a motorcycle accident that evening.
It was a very strange feeling to be present at this tragedy and it is very difficult to write about, but I think that both Richard and I were glad that we could be there when they needed us. It was very, very, hard to see another family beginning to grieve, but we hoped (and hope) that our presence at that moment was a help. The words that Patty spoke to me that evening before we knew about Peter--she needs to remember them now.
Richard returned to Long Island on Wednesday for the funeral while I stayed home to take care of the relatives who could not travel. On Thursday morning, I had to get out of the house and ended up at G Street Fabrics, talking to Juli, my former partner in kayaking and running. She has a new guy and he, it turns out, was an Army nurse in Mosul when Thomas was killed. She worried a little about telling me this, but we are still thirsty for information. Hopefully, we will speak one of these days soon.
Mrs. I. had asked me to come to work between Christmas and New Year's. [Something tells me that I talked about this about four or five posts ago but I didn't find it when I went back looking.] I think her goal was to keep me from brooding at home too long, even if I didn't do the store much good. Maybe also, I needed to be able to drive to the store to go to work, having been stopped in my tracks on November 11th: a little exorcism. As I told the owner later on that first day , I'm afraid I wasn't too productive. I remember a former employee coming in who had not heard about Thomas: she was talking about her new granddaughter and I ended up excusing myself to eat. A few minutes later she appeared, apologetic and understanding. She had lived in Israel in the 70's and knew a bit about living with war. And that's about all--it's amazing how little lives on in my memory of that week.
In January, I decided that I had to cancel Thomas's cell phone. I knew he hadn't taken the phone with him (it never worked well on Ft. Lewis anyway) but every time I opened the bill, there was his number. I sort of lived in fear of seeing it with outgoing calls listed which was not rational but there it was. Cancelling the number required working up the courage to call AT&T and explain the problem. I don't remember dialing, but I do remember telling the customer service rep that I needed to cancel the fourth number on our contract because my son had been killed in Iraq. She put me on hold for a bit (quite a while actually) and when she returned she told me that under the circumstances there would be no charge for breaking the contract. She told me she had talked to her supervisor and I, maybe a little cynically, wondered if they had checked to see if such an entity as Thomas Doerflinger had actually died in Iraq. I wouldn't blame them if they had--it was a story that must have come at them from left field, though I bet that most soldiers have cell phones and a number of them must have used AT&T. I never called the number before they turned it off, even to hear Thomas's voice announcing his name one last time on voice mail. I deleted him from my phone book, but I think that at least one of his sisters still has him listed on hers. No matter: his e-mail address is still on my computer address book, and there it will stay.