Tuesday, October 30, 2007

November 11th is Sunday this year. Our parish's 10:30 Mass in the hall will pray for Thomas. A number of people have told us they will be there so I think we'll have lunch afterwards.

February brought Thomas's Fort Lewis possessions back to us. A moving van came with his clothes and his television set, as well as some books. The television is enormous--I think he bought it to play video games--and we are still using it in our family room. There was a sticky ring on top from a beer or soda can and one day I found myself just putting my cheek down on this ring, trying to feel close to Thomas (who was a bit of a slob in some ways). The man who delivered these things told me he hated this duty, which I could understand. In deference to him, I tried to not cry while he was there, with mixed success.

The one thing that we had been looking for was Thomas's laptop, hoping that he might have left some of his poetry on it, or any writing at all. But, the computer was not there. I don't remember if we asked David's parents whether they could ask David if he knew where the laptop might be, but in any case we ended up believing that he must have left it with David's things (which turned out to be true). So, more waiting.

Monday, October 22, 2007

[Please note: I cannot get the returns to work for paragraph breaks. I apologize for this little glitch and I hope to cure it eventually!] We've had a lot of out of town guests this past month which has meant repeated trips to the National Mall to visit the Smithsonian museums, twice to Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, and a tour of the Capitol and then some of the monuments. This past weekend was the most tourist-oriented of these visits and the only one that concentrated on the memorials that march from the Capitol building to Arlington National Cemetery. So this is about the two days we spent remembering.

Our first stop on Thursday morning was the Visitor's Gallery of the House of Representatives where we had apparently just missed hearing Rep. Pete Stark make a truly stupid statement about the war in Iraq. They don't let you carry anything into the gallery which is a very good idea or I might have had to throw something, if I had even been there which I wasn't so I guess this is moot. Nonetheless, settling whether this dumb remark could be struck from the record held up the proceedings in the House so we mostly got to watch people standing around which bred its own kind of resentment.
By afternoon, we had worked our way down the Mall to the World War II memorial, pictured above. It is large and majestic as befits the events it commemorates. Some find it a bit cold. Some just wonder why it took the better part of six decades to get it built. I love it. My father was at Attu, a battle in the Pacific theatre, the name engraved along the edge of a fountain. A very old man was wheeled in by his family as we stood, reading the quotes carved into the walls. He got out of his chair and walked over to the wall on the Pacific side to read something, seemed deeply pleased, and finally sat down again. I think my father would have loved to have seen it too . . .
The Korean Memorial is astounding, portaying men in rain gear, marching through mud. Each statue stands for a certain number of those lost, but I didn't see the ratio written down that day. To the south of this triangle of men is a wall (granite?) etched with photographs of servicemembers at work and those at the homefront.
The VietNam Memorial, the Wall, is so well known that it's pointless to comment, but I did look up my old neighbor's son and walked to his panel in the middle of the memorial. He was on the third row down so I had to crane my neck to look up at him. As is customary, the area in front of the Wall was full of flowers and mementos like letters and copies of yearbook pages: personal memorials. I cried.
On Friday, we went to Arlington. This was the first time I had returned since we went to the interment of Thomas's first sergeant, Michael Bordelon, in May of 2005. Stupidly, I stood in the Visitor's Center and cried at the display of photographs. We took the shuttle around the cemetery which meant not going to Section 60 where the fallen from Iraq are buried. At the tomb of the Unknown we witnessed a wreath-laying ceremony in light rain: when the bugler played Taps--well you can imagine.
I've spent a lot of time in cemeteries in the last several years. I'm still processing the different impact of each of these places. I will have to go back to visit Section 60 soon.
It was harrowing but I am glad that we went. It is good to remember the dead from all of these conflicts and maybe it will help us figure out how we will honor the fallen of this war.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You know, I have to go back and edit my last entry. Thomas was always on my left side at the table. I have a little left/right disorientation which is usually not a big problem (I always have a 50% chance of being correct!) but does make driving an adventure some days. Thomas always sat on my left side at church too. These days, his grandmother is usually at my left. Though I always know it is her when we are holding hands during the Our Father, I always feel like Thomas is there too. He's just kind of present to me during that part of the liturgy . . .

January, 2005. Richard, for whatever reason, got tickets to the presidential inauguration. If it had taken place at a stadium, we would have been in the nosebleed zone. We were conflicted about going, it was cold, no one cared if we were there or not except the fellow who had given Richard the tickets, but we went anyway. We had to split up for some reason and Maria and I got the better seats. I don't remember much except that I wore the beautiful new coat I'd bought at Lord & Taylor, on sale (Anna was working there). We saw a young Marine in dress uniform, on crutches and minus a foot. Maria started crying because we would have taken Thomas back in any condition at all. A foot gone, at least that day, didn't seem so bad (and if any amputees are reading this, please know that we understand that it is very tough to adjust, physically and mentally, to life when a piece of you is missing. We were just in a place where we wanted him back under any circumstances).


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Today it has been three years exactly since I last saw and spoke to Thomas. He had asked Anna and me to come out to Washington because he knew he was going to be deploying sometime in October. We had planned to come in the previous February, but I got very sick in January and ended up in the hospital instead. Looking back now, I am glad. We might have just decided to settle for the long visit we had with him in July and let him go off to Iraq without seeing him again. Since the original plan was just for Anna and me, it seemed natural that it would be just us again. We met him at Sea-Tac where one of his friends dropped him off as we landed and drove north with my sister and her husband to visit for a few days. The weather was incredible, clear blue skies as only the northern piece of my home state can produce them. I have pictures but the are buried in my old computer files somewhere and they are really hard to access. Maybe I'll try though tomorrow and add one of Thomas, the way I last saw him: lanky and shaved, khaki pants, blue sweater, baseball cap, wolfing down a Taco Bell meal outside the walls of Ft. Lewis.
OK, this is the next day, and I discover that he was wearing jeans! Maybe all of that Army khaki was more than he could take. It took quite a while to pry this image off of the old computer but I think I've rescued it for now.

That July visit is worth a few words, but maybe not today.

We are buying a new table and chairs for our dining room. You faithful readers may remember that I was a bit obsessed by our lack of chairs. We are buying six new dining room chairs to go with the new table. I'm a little conflicted about the new table: the old one was where we all sat as a family for most of our time in this house. I bought it at Salvation Army in Hyattsville Maryland mostly so I could have the chairs that came with it. The chairs have been steadily disintegrating, despite my reupholstering efforts four years ago (I own an electric staple gun in the wake of that experience). However, the table is terrific. While Thomas was living at home, and whenever he returned, he ate dinner sitting at that table, always to my left on the side facing north. When he died, it was as if someone had bombed our home and left a crater at his place at the table. But, we have learned to not notice it so much any more, and maybe a new table will help us let that go a little more . . .

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