Friday, September 28, 2007

It's been a bit busy here. Life has marched on and that meant back to school night for Matthew (only two more to go in my career-- I think I've been to approximately forty between the four kids and their three different high schools, whew!). His English teacher didn't say anything about his essay, but she knew exactly who we were . . .


I was realizing that I had failed to talk about two events that took place around Christmas in 2004. One was the bombing of the dining hall in Mosul on December 21st: 22 people total were killed (I think that does not include the suicide bomber). Matthew looked at the pictures of the destruction and said "Does that mean that even if Thomas had lived through November 11th, he might have died today?" How on earth does one answer a question like that? We went with the truth: yes, he might have died today instead, or he might not have. We will never know. The Strykernews forum had the busiest day in its history up to that day, a record that stood for I think over two years. I have since met the wife of one of the men killed in that bombing, a strong, strong lady.

The day after Christmas, the tsunami hit in the Indian Ocean and several hundred thousand people lost their lives. Again, Matthew looked at the television and listened to the story and said: "Are all of those peoples' families going through what we are going through?" Again, we said yes, though this time we noticed that in some cases the whole family was swept away and there was no one left to mourn. In this case, I found out a few months later that a former G Street colleague had lost her brother and his wife that day while they vacationed in Sri Lanka. In fact, she had come into the store looking a bit sad and I thought she must have heard about Thomas when she came up to me (which is a big problem with this whole thing: it's hard to remember that it really isn't all about our situation/us--other people have sorrows too). She was buying fabric for banners for her parish, I think, while she told us about her brother and sister-in-law and how their son and daughter had survived.

For a while there, it looked as if we would never get past 2004.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It is September 11th, 2007. Six years. Rather selfishly, I just see it as a marker now, counting the months since Thomas died: 34. I visited the cemetery yesterday and noticed that the crab grass is thriving--we've had a hot, dry summer--and saw a fawn running along the fence. I don't think Thomas really cared about crab grass and he would have loved the deer so I'm not worried about it. I took a picture of his marker with my cell phone camera: it came out clearer than I would have thought likely.

Friday, September 07, 2007

This evening, Matthew told me that he had written a personal narrative for his English class about the day that Thomas was killed. His teacher was impressed and told him so. But what he said to me was more to the point: he told me that while his class was working on this project, he had looked forward to writing it all day and that he was sorry they had run out of time because he felt that the end was rushed a bit. When I asked if I could read it, he said it would probably make me cry. I pointed out that I would cry anyway and he agreed.

I think that Thomas, who wanted to teach English, would have been proud.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

There was more about that trip to Long Island, though just a little. Earlier in the day, that Saturday, we had gone to Long Island National Cemetery to visit Richard's father's grave. The cemetery is huge--I was told once that over 300,000 people are buried there--but the ground is a little bumpy. They've opened a new section for the casualties of the Global War on Terror: I saw that in March of last year when I visited the grave of another Stryker Brigade soldier, a native of the Bronx. We met his family a couple of times and have corresponded some by e-mail--in fact, I dropped in on them once on one of my trips to Massachusetts to take Maria to college--I'm just sorry that Maria is now driving herself so there's no real reason for me to pass by that piece of New York City right now. I like that feeling of connection with the other families, even if it is a sad connection. This time, we only went to my late father-in-law's grave. Things had changed a bit, more wives' names had been added to the headstones, and I tried to read as many as I could because these were mostly people of my own parents' generation and it seemed right to remember them. My mother-in-law, however, has decided that she prefers to be buried here in the Washington area, near Thomas. On a practical level, it makes more sense, as she is likely to stay in this area for the rest of her life. Emotionally, I don't know, but it's not my decision.

I don't remember a whole lot about January of 2005. There was the cell phone cancellation, and the letters had dropped off pretty much, though new ones still appear sporadically, nearly three years later. One peculiar thing that had happened as a result of all the extra people in our house (resulting in about 15 extra showers for the week) was that our topmost bathroom developed a leak. After the funeral when everyone had gone home, Richard laid down on our living room couch and stared at the ceiling, only to realize he was staring at a wet spot on the ceiling, a spreading wet spot. We had known there were problems: it looked like we would have to take care of them sooner rather than later. Our friend the plumber thought it looked like the tile was leaking in the tub area. We threw up our hands and called in BathFitters, who worked up an offer on two bathrooms (OK, this house was 38 years old at that point and we had a lot of work to do on it). Looking at the contract now, I realize we must have spent January holding our breath that things would not get really bad before the contractor could get here because it was the beginning of February when the bathroom was finally fixed.

I don't remember exactly when this happened, but our refrigerator also stopped working. We theorized that it was all of the opening and closing that had gone on when everyone was bringing us food or stopping by. It was never a great refrigerator, and it only lasted nine years. We found a new one with an icemaker, which Richard had always wanted, and moved on.

In January also, Maria was finally out of the Army and had come home. She decided to take classes at Montgomery Community College for the spring semester, not wishing to waste any time (she's so good at this, that even with that semester off for basic training, she will be graduating with the rest of her peers, on time, this coming May).

All of these practical details kept us grounded and moving. It meant that we could give some perspective to our grieving, remember that we still had other things to take care of. Thomas would not have wanted us to let the house fall down, particularly in the middle of what seems to have been a pretty cold winter (it would probably have felt cold even if the average temperature had been in the 90's). We continued to visit the cemetery pretty frequently, waiting for the marker to be installed. I do remember standing over his grave on a very cold, windy day, and crying while saying "I'm sorry" though I have no idea of what I was sorry for at that moment. But I also remember that I did not linger.

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