A mother remembers the days following the death of her soldier son, and other reflections.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
It's Thanksgiving. For our family, there have never been any traditional ways of celebrating it--we just responded to whatever was going on at the time. Thus, we went a couple of times to Richard's mother's home on Long Island when she still lived there and the kids were young, some years we invited people to our house (my father's last Thanksgiving was with us in our home in Mt. Rainier Maryland in 1988, twenty years ago), some years we were at my brother-in-law Jim's home, or friends' homes. This year we are going to my daughter Anna's new in-law's home. A hodgepodge of celebrations! I don't remember Thomas being particularly attached to anything but the food . . .
This year, we do have things to be thankful for, notably our new son-in-law Mike and our new puppy (not equally important of course, but improvements to the quality of life, both of them!). Mike and Anna got a puppy too so we plan to put the whole group in our Christmas picture, to go with the usual Christmas letter. We haven't done a picture since Thomas died so this is a milestone.
And now, off to make fresh cranberry sauce and pecan pie, while sitting of course! Have a happy Thanksgiving my friends.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Sorry for this long pause. November is always a difficult month for us now, and on top of that I managed to get the local cold germ which did not want to let go--I find typing while with a runny nose is an unrewarding experience. However, I am now pinned to my chair because once I got over the cold and felt well enough to run in the park again, I broke my ankle. This happened Monday so maybe I'll be getting a little caught up here!
Trying to remember that day is odd. I know that after we checked in and got to our rooms, we went out looking for lunch. We walked around the several square blocks that constitute downtown Olympia (and have ever since I can remember) looking for somewhere to buy a sandwich--there are plenty of small restaurants there and we did end up somewhere comfortable and casual and a little crunchy in the way a home to ageing hippies is likely to be. I felt as if the streets were full of ghosts: my parents and grandparents, friends from school, the girl I had been in high school, the college student who spent three summers working for the State of Washington just a few blocks away. My husband and children were not haunted in the same way but I think they may have felt a little disoriented.
People kept turning up throughout the day. David and Amber picked Anna up from the airport in midafternoon, and brought both her and some of Thomas's possessions to us at the hotel. They had his laptop computer, and also some clothes that he hadn't wanted to store, though I think they must have just been what he was wearing when he packed up to leave for Iraq. I got one whiff and said: "I am not taking his dirty laundry back to Maryland." It's amazing how long the aroma of sweaty young men can linger. The clothes were not in good shape anyway so we tossed them (the only thing I've been able to throw away, though we did manage to dispose of his socks and underwear finally).
Eventually, Anne arrived from Vancouver and we went back out again with a different goal this time, shopping some of the little boutique places that have sprung up in the storefronts. There was a quilt shop that I recall, but I don't remember what, if anything that I bought there. And then it was time for dinner.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
We survived the fourth anniversary. The day was beautiful, sunny and a little autumnal. I ended up going to the cemetery twice because I didn't want Richard to go alone--he came home from his meeting later in the afternoon, after I had already been with Anna and Mike and Edith (my mother-in-law). It was OK. I probably would have stayed there all day if I could have.
Anna and Mike brought flowers, adding them to some that were already there. I brought a small American flag bought at Fort McHenry, and a Remembrance Day poppy that Barbara sent from the UK. We tucked the flag into the flowers and the poppy into the base of the vase. And then we went across the street to Taco Bell to have a commemorative meal (I had iced tea and nachos, not really that good a combination). The last meal Anna and I had with Thomas was at a Taco Bell and we thought he would have appreciated this gesture.
I wrote a guest blog entry on Louise Penny's blog today at her invitation (obviously!). It can be found at www.LouisePenny.blogspot.com
Labels: Fourth anniversary
Thursday, November 06, 2008
We are close to the anniversary. In the last week we've gotten a Mass card from a captain who has sent one every year (or had his stepfather send it) and a long letter from Thomas's friend David. It fills in some details for us of their time in Iraq, however brief. David also talked about the two photographs he sent us: one of the two guys at Ft. Knox during training that we displayed at the funeral, and one of Thomas with another soldier in Tal Afar on October 21, 2004. It is good to know--that is the last photo we have of him. (This image is from that picture.)
We arrived in Seattle in the middle of the morning, the joint function of crossing three time zones and taking a very early nonstop flight. It did give us a lot of the day to visit with people, have lunch, check in to our hotel in Olympia, walk around trying to cope. It just felt so damn weird to me. Anna had to come on a later flight so she was not with me as I returned to Sea-Tac for the first time since we had said goodbye to Thomas. I remembered meeting him there a year earlier--someone from Fort Lewis had dropped him off and he met us at baggage claim as we arrived--it seemed like he should be walking through the door this time too. Driving down I-5 past the exit to Tillicum where we had said goodbye in a Taco Bell parking lot . . . well, it was hard. And it was mixed up with all the memories of growing up in this area too. I drove up and down this stretch of road many, many times, essentially from the time it was built to visit grandparents, to visit friends, to go to Seattle for various events or up to Canada to camp even to go to the airport for other, happier trips . . . so many memories.
Still, it helped that the sun was shining on this particular day, that traffic was not impossible (after years on the Capitol Beltway, no traffic except maybe Rome's looks impossible!), and that I knew exactly where I was going so at least we were not heading off into entirely unknown territory.
We arrived at the Governor House hotel around noon and parked our rental car in the back. Richard and I went inside to check in and were immediately confronted with the Daily Olympian's issue for that day on the front desk, noting the death of the 2,000th servicemember in Iraq. Names of those with local connections, including all of the Fort Lewis members, were printed in fainter type on the front page, shadowing the story. I found Thomas's name without trying. We did tell the desk clerk why we were there and she expressed her sympathy. Maybe she was aware that across the street behind her people were going to be protesting in the park later on that day. We never did interact with the protesters (Maria doesn't even remember seeing them): maybe we only saw the debris they left behind, candles and signs.