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.

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