Friday, July 31, 2009

I worked on November 10th. The photographer came that night. I just remember being aware of the days getting shorter though the weather was pretty pleasant as it had been the year before: there was the late autumn sunshine.

I think that Chris and Rusty arrived on the morning of the 11th (it took a little thought to remember that). Richard and I went to Mass that morning, and then to the cemetery--nothing happened particularly, I don't really remember the visit to the cemetery, just that we did it in the morning. Maria picked the boys up at Dulles and they both went to bed for the morning, planning their visit to the cemetery for the afternoon. When they got up, they put on the Class A's and those awful berets that Thomas had complained about so bitterly--he claimed it was almost supernatural, their ability to disappear. He described getting the beret stretched out into the right shape, finally fitting your head properly, you would set it down, pick it up and find it was someone else's! I never saw Thomas in the beret and I've never even seen a picture of him wearing it so if anyone out there has one, please send it along.

Anyway, the boys put on their uniforms in preparation for their visit to the cemetery. I decided to not go back, but Richard did, Maria and Matthew and I think Anna too, all went with them. It was the first time Matthew had been back to the cemetery since the funeral. Later, Richard told me that they stood around the grave and Thomas's friends told stories about him, and also about things that happened after his death. They figured he was still looking out for them--a grenade that did not explode when it fell at the feet of his friend (apparently duds were very rare) particularly. I went off to Starbucks to drink coffee with Debbie while this was going on, somehow feeling that it would be better for everyone though why I thought this has now escaped me. It wasn't bad, just maybe I should have been there.

The rest of the weekend is kind of blurry. We took the boys out to dinner Friday and Saturday nights both because our kitchen was now torn up and not really usable for large scale cooking. The first night I think we took them to Harry's, a local restaurant/bar which was pretty close by (they closed earlier this year). We had celebrated Thomas's high school graduation there so there were some memories there. The dinner the second night was at a restaurant in downtown Silver Spring, an area that has been restored and rehabilitated in the last few years. Thomas left for the Army before the construction was finished, but when he was home that last July in 2004, we had all gone to the movies (Spiderman 2?) in the new cineplex that was now open in that block. So again, some memories.

In fact, almost everywhere I drive here, there is some memory of Thomas. When I drive down East Randolph Road, a daily occurrence, I picture him with his backpack trudging down the sidewalk from his incredibly distant bus stop, coming up from behind because I had to make a U-turn to get back to him on that road (half the time he would have stayed at school and not remembered to tell me so I was almost always late to picking him up, figuring he wouldn't be there anyway). Yes, I really do miss him every day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

According to the Baltimore Sun today, we are up to 13 here in Montgomery County. It looks as if the marine in question lived in Olney. Another widow, a child without a father, not much information beyond that.,0,7862321.story

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Back to remembering. There's been stuff going on around us, including another meeting of the Veteran's Commission of Montgomery County and the launching of their website which includes a page showing the now 12 fallen servicemembers from Montgomery County but I'm leaving that for another day.


Once we got home from Ft. Lewis, we had to return to our normal lives. The truth is, I don't remember much about the next week or two and even the day of the anniversary is a little hazy, but there are some things definitely happened in the interval that I remember clearly.

Two of the soldiers we met during our trip, Rusty and Chris, had told us they would definitely come out for the anniversary. Maria took charge of keeping in touch and making sure the arrangements happened. So that was taken care of.

I stayed busy from the time of our return until the anniversary. I worked at the fabric store five or six times, I went to the funeral of an old friend's mother, I had the kitchen floor ripped out in preparation for a massive remodel (the tile contained asbestos which had complicated things). I have pictures of the progress of the kitchen--I may attach the one that epitomized the whole project. On my calendar, I have not marked November 11th as special at all. I think the boys arrived on November 10th or maybe they took a red-eye and got here very early on the 11th. It was a Friday. I tried not to think too much about it.

And, one of the other mothers of the four Maryland soldiers who had died in that three day interval with Thomas called me to say there was a Baltimore Sun reporter who wanted to do a story about all of us. I agreed to be interviewed--it seemed time to break our silence officially. Greg Barrett came to the house a few days before the anniversary to do the interview. This poor man--I think he may have asked one question and then I talked for two hours, maybe more. Among other things, I told him I was going to be doing the four mile run for the Team River Runner run/kayak biathlon on the 12th of November and he wanted to me to let him know how that turned out as the story would not appear until the 13th. There was also a photographer who came on the evening of November 10th. He called for the appointment, I volunteered some directions which he claimed to not need (correctly as it turned out). He arrived on time as I remember, set up his camera and light and a screen maybe, then had me sit on the much reviled love seat which had it's back to the front door. We often leave that door open because the storm door is sufficient--at this time, we still had Thomas's Gold Star banner hanging, so with the door open, you could see it behind me in the photograph. The photographer wrote a short essay about this experience that appeared the following week, describing how controlled I had been until he asked me to hold the flag case. At which point of course I fell apart, which I'm sure was both his intention and his fear. The essay was factual but compassionate, and I liked it: maybe it was ego as it was mine alone, but I hope not. It was a bit of a weird experience as the main article was generally correct, but there were a few details that were not quite right--nothing important but it was a little irritating to realize how difficult it is to transmit information accurately.

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