Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Sometime later during the summer, I think during July, we received an invitation to come to Fort Lewis at the end of October for a dedication of a Memorial that would include Thomas's name and the redeployment ceremony for his unit. This caused a certain amount of turmoil in me and in the rest of my family, though there was never any question that we would go. After Thomas died, it really seemed to me that I might never set foot in the state of Washington again. However, most of my remaining family lives there, as well as several friends who've been part of my life since junior high and high school: obviously I was going to have to get over it and go home sometime and this seemed like the moment to do it. Still, I put off doing anything about it for many weeks, as we tried to figure out who could go and how long we could stay.

A more immediate challenge was getting ourselves to Arizona. Richard's office was holding its annual meeting in Phoenix at a resort (cheap rates in Arizona in August). It seemed that we really ought to go. They were planning a day tour to the Grand Canyon, and we could stay on and do some tourist things once the conference was over. The girls could not go (Anna was working, Maria was both working and taking a class) but we could take Matthew (who was not overly-enthusiastic but didn't have much choice in the matter). I like to travel and I had always wanted to see the desert southwest--this looked like a great opportunity to get away from our somewhat overwhelming situation and see something new.

Thinking back, I was still in a state of both wanting everyone I met to know that I had lost my son in Iraq, and not wanting to be noticeable at all. I was still prone to start crying at inopportune moments, frequently while I was driving, but sometimes when I was just talking about topics I would have considered emotionally neutral if anyone had asked. Going to Phoenix meant that we would be in a place where no one outside of the conference would know what had happened unless we told them. I could practice just not saying "my son died in Iraq." Three and a half years later, I still rehearse these words in my mind, trying to figure out under what circumstances I could say them without bursting into tears, or even just trying to condition myself to say them, not casually exactly, but matter-of-factly. It hasn't happened yet, though from time to time I get close. But in Phoenix I could just let this be a private matter without inflicting it on strangers.


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