Friday, October 24, 2008

It's been a long autumn so far. For whatever reason, this one has felt really hard. I've been wearing my Gold Star pin for the last few days--no one really notices (or at least says anything) except the people who already knew about Thomas. And even Maria says that she used to really love this time of year until . . .

For our trip to Fort Lewis, we made our flight reservations on Alaska Airlines. They have a non-stop from Dulles to Sea-Tac which seemed more humane for the non-flyers among us. Also, it got us to Washington earlier in the day so we would have time to visit friends and family before any official events. Thomas's friend David and his wife Amber had been assigned to escort us which seemed logical and right. Actually, a lot of this is kind of hazy which I'm afraid might have been true if I'd written it the week after these events. It was a very emotional time and trying to face Washington state without Thomas was really daunting to me. However. We pulled up our socks and went.

Flying out, it was Richard, Maria, Matthew and me. Anna had to take a later flight due to work. We could not all sit together so Richard and Matthew had seats a few rows in front of Maria and me. For inflight entertainment, the flight attendants passed out what looked like DVD players to each passenger for ten dollars apiece. When she got to us, I asked her if she could tell me how my son was doing as he was very upset about flying. I also told her about the event we were about to attend. She did not charge us for the DVD players and she took good care of Matthew for the rest of the flight, bless her.

We also got boxed breakfasts on that flight: enclosed was what looked like a prayer card with a picture of a beautiful sunset on a beach and these words:
Give thanks to the Lord,
for He is good;
His love endures forever.
PSALM 107:1


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Because she turned out to be so kind (no surprise!) I must mention Louise Penny, the Canadian writer I quoted in my August 29th entry at least one more time. After I put that quote in my blog, it occurred to me that it was rather lengthy for a non-review, even though I had attributed it, and that the courteous thing to do at least was to let the author know what I had done with her words. She not only gave her permission to use the quote, but a few days later wrote to me to say that she would be attending Bouchercon (a convention of mystery writers and readers) in Baltimore this past weekend and would I be able to meet her there? And so I did. She is 6 feet tall which leaves me feeling a bit petite at 5'4". Despite the height difference, I felt very comfortable with her immediately. We met on Friday afternoon and I spent something over an hour explaining what had happened the day Thomas died, and showing her the scrapbook of pictures that I had put together with the aid of many friends this past summer. She listened very intently, asking an occasional question. It's been a while since I told this story, either in writing or discussion and it must have been time to revisit it. Louise turned out to be the perfect listener and I am so glad this all came together so well.

Louise did write about our meeting in her blog on Sunday, October 12.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I'm having a restless morning. I looked at my own blog, followed a link from the Run for the Fallen entry (which has pictures of Arlington), wandered around trying to figure out lunch. Looking down, I realize I'm wearing the same sweater I had on when they came to tell us Thomas had been killed. And now that I write that out, I realize as well that it will be four years ago tomorrow that Anna and I said goodbye to Thomas in that Taco Bell parking lot outside Fort Lewis.

This would have been my mother's 87th birthday, the Memorial of the Guardian Angels.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

September of 2005. I'm trying to remember the rest of that month and the preparations to go out to Fort Lewis. We were not being very cooperative about that trip--the Army would pay for Richard and me but that would mean that they would make the arrangements and our desire to stay a few days longer might make that harder. Moreover, we had to make our own hotel reservations--a block of rooms had been set aside for the families of the fallen at a motel just outside of Lewis, but I had waited so long to make our reservations that they were fully booked (this was also going to be the weekend of the redeployment ceremony for the entire brigade which meant that approximately four thousand families were going to be staying in the area). In the end, I made reservations at the Governor House hotel in downtown Olympia. Looking at the address, I realized that it faced the park where I had often eaten my lunch as a state worker during the summers of college, that the Greyhound bus station would be off to the right and that my old high school friend Karli lived on the same street but a couple of miles away. My parents grew up in Olympia, lived there when young, moved back in middle age, then both of them died there in the 1980's. My grandmother had owned a house up on the hill that overlooked the downtown area. In fact, this trip was going to be hard for more reasons than Thomas.

The thing was, when Thomas was assigned to Fort Lewis, I had been a little exasperated to find that after all of my moving around the country, my kid had ended up 30 miles away from where I graduated from high school. It was both a kindness and a sorrow when I had to go back after his death. I wasn't sure right after he died that I would ever be able to set foot in Washington state again, but the months that passed let some of that feeling pass as well.

Meanwhile, I had started hearing from some of the other Maryland families as a result of my project with Governor Ehrlich's office. I still talk to two of them regularly, Linda Faulstich and Elsie Bowen (they don't do e-mail!) but mostly these were one time contacts as I realized that I did not have the energy or resources to pursue this as vigorously as I had hoped. Still, I think it did some good. One mother called me and said that she didn't know what she wanted to say, and then she spent an hour and a half on the phone with me, telling me her story and her son's story. I think that telling one's story is important and can be very healing. Knowing that your story and that your child's story not only will not be forgotten, but that they are appreciated and understood--that is an incredible feeling. I think it helped that day.

Labels: ,