how did i get here?
Monday, November 30, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
so that moment of feeling okay and thankful didn't last long. i fell off the world this afternoon. i'm scared and sad and worried and unsure of the future. it's the worst i've felt since about two days ago. that should have made me laugh but i can't.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The little boat had gotten entangled with a bigger boat and she had been very much afraid. She had tried and tried to cut the lines but the skipper of the bigger boat had always kept a close eye on her. She and her little oars had been dragged hard through the bigger boat’s wake until she almost drowned. But she had been a smart little boat. She had come to learn human nature so she kept her little oars drawn down inside close to her heart, and she had waited. She waited until the skipper of the bigger boats had been lulled into complacency by her submissiveness.
It culminated one dark night with a fateful decision. Her little oars were ready to move on to boats of their own picking. She knew she wouldn’t be able to be left alone with the bigger boat. Once her little oars were on their way, there would be nothing for the little boat to fight for, except herself, and she’d lost most of herself by throwing bits and pieces into the motor blades of the bigger boat to distract him from her oars.
She reached up and cut the lines. Quietly, fearfully, and with much screaming from the bigger boat, the little boat drifted away. She drew her lines in and coiled them tightly in her bottom. She watched the currents and tides and kept herself floating between the bigger boat when he went after her little oars. She plied the waters that way never believing anyone would want her or help her, or even notice that a little boat was fighting for her very survival.
Then one day a tugboat noticed. He wasn’t as large or as grand as the bigger boat that tormented her so, but he was strong. Tugboats can pull many times their weight and have such raw power that other boats fear a run in with one. The tugboat cautiously approached the little boat and asked her if he could help her; just help a little. On the edge of exhaustion, the little boat loosened her lines enough for the mighty tugboat to pull her out of harm’s way. Then gently he gave her back her line.
In this way the little boat learned to trust the tugboat and the tugboat fell in love with the little boat. He stayed alongside her, keeping himself between her and the big boat, letting his powerful engine roar with rage if the big boat tried to interfere with the little boat’s life. He protected her and her little oars, often pulling her to go see them in their new boats, to sit and listen to their stories of where they were going and the entire world they were seeing.
The tugboat liked seeing the little boat smile. He knew it had been a long time since she had been able to feel safe. He wanted to give her the simple life for her that she had always dreamed of and he wanted to be a part of her life forever.
In turn the little boat fell deeply in love with the tugboat. She loved his strong hull and his powerful voice that was never loud towards her. She loved looking up into his wheelhouse windows and seeing his beautiful soul. She got him to tell her stories of his life and, just as he’d helped her, she helped him breathe slowly and deeply. She helped him understand that though he’d had some ugly jobs in the past, he was a hero to those he’d saved from the awful storms of life.
One night, as a full moon cast it’s silvery light over the little boat as she snuggled close to the hull of her handsome tugboat, she heard his engine cough. He coughed again, and again. Try as she might the little boat couldn’t get the tugboat to stop making the awful sounds. She bumped his side over and over but his engine was failing. Sounding a mayday over and over, and over and over until she was hoarse, the little boat kept trying to revive her strong handsome tugboat, to no avail.
When the Coast Guard got there, all they could do was tow him in. He was gone from her. His engine could not be rebuilt. There was too much damage. He’d worked so hard all his life doing bad, dirty jobs that had taken their toll on him. And now the little boat was adrift on a sea of inconsolable sorrow.
She called out to her daughter who was living on a boat in a different place. It was a landlocked place where so much seemed strange. The little boat allowed herself to be trailered there so she could at least be close to her daughter oar. She was so sad and lonely. She tried going to a group where other little boats had lost their mates but she wasn't important enough to warrant keeping up with. She felt like a failure.
The little boat tried and tried to get involved but, landlocked as she was, it was hard for her to get around. She tried talking but no one was listening. She tried being a part of things but even if she got there, no one really talked to her. The little boat never felt like she fit in. She wasn’t as young as some of the other boats. Her oars were grown up and out on their own so her life wasn’t comparable. But she also wasn’t as old as some of the boats in another group. No, the little boat didn’t fit in anywhere.
She made things for all the other boats that asked her to and she thought she was onto something. But as the weeks passed, the little boat felt even less and less important. As the boats picked up what she made for them, they turned their backs and never called her again. They had what they wanted. For them, there was no reason to ever really speak to the little boat again. They had used her services, paid her. Now they didn’t have any reason to speak to her. They were all so busy with their friends and their work and the activities that they were involved in.
Once the little boat was asked to come to a party but she felt uncomfortable. It was on a day that she was missing her tugboat very much and she was crying a lot. The boat that asked her became offended and never called her again. The boat said that it was her own fault for giving in to her grief over her tugboat. It made the little boat sadder that she wasn’t allowed to feel sad for so great a tug.
Other boats were casually cruel to the little boat. Most likely they didn’t realize it because for every little hurt they did to her, they blamed their grief for forgetting her, or being late, or for not speaking to her. It was confusing that their hurtful behavior was excusable while her fear at being in a new place filled with strangers added to her deep depression over witnessing her tugboat’s life being torn from her was not acceptable.
Once she wrote to the important boat that facilitated the group meetings. She called her three times and left messages begging her to call back. But the important boat didn’t bother. The little boat was saddened.
She watched the important boat pursue contact with the other boats, was privy to inside knowledge that the important boat actively reached out to the others, even met with them outside the group for private grief counseling, but could not find it in herself to reach out to the little boat. Was she wrong in her belief? The little boat was in no position to judge. She was too tired. She was too sad. It was hard for her to see the reality of anything anymore, except the reality that she was alone with no visitors except her little oars who worriedly came by as often as they could.
One other boat did call occasionally but she called for herself. She needed to talk and the little boat was a very good listener. Other than that, she was very, very alone.
So the little boat stopped going to the group meetings. She beached herself beside an ocean in her mind and she lay there. She let the rough grasses grow up around her until she was quite covered. If anyone happened by and spotted her, she smiled her small little smile but it never reached her eyes. Never.
She dreamed of her tug on two occasions, night and day. She lay there and waited for the full moon to rise up over the horizon of her pretend ocean. She’d watch it with a silence that was like watching a cloister take Communion. Her little hull gleamed dully white, like old bone, in the moonlight. Her heart ached for she had weathered badly being so exposed. She sometimes wondered what her wonderful, handsome tug would think about what had become of her.
Besides quitting the widow’s group, the little boat also quit going out unless it was absolutely necessary. When she left, she carried with her, hung on her bow, a precious glass pendant of blue as deep as the darkest night and capped with silver made to look like a moon and star. Inside it she carried a small bit of the ashes that her beautiful tugboat had become. She was never gone from her imaginary beach for long because to be gone would mean to be away from her dreams of him.
So she’d hurry back and nestle herself down into the pretend sand and let the grasses flow over her to hide her. She sometimes smiled to herself about that because really, no one was looking for her. She didn’t matter to anyone except to her little oars who knew she was forever changed and did all they could to help her find a small amount of peace. But the only one who could revive the little boat was gone. So she lay with her dreams of him, her sadness over his tragic death, and her aloneness that she resigned herself.
It seemed to her that her empty berth at the meetings went unnoticed because no one checked to see if she was okay. She had been born an insignificant little boat and only her oars and her magnificent tug had ever seen any value in her.
But in that thought there was some solace. Her oars were wonderful and were living honorable lives. And to have been loved by such a strong, handsome, and legendary tugboat was more than she had ever expected from this life she had been made for.
And then it hit her. Maybe to be there for him, to be the consort of that incredible tugboat, was what she’d been designed for. It was what she had gone through hell for, to be with him. It was her blessing to be the one there for him at his end, telling him over and over every day they were together how much she loved him and how proud she was of him. It was the love in her voice he heard as he died. It was her hull against his that he felt when all the feeling in this life stopped for him. She had been built to be with the tug whose life was mythic and who had, more than anyone, needed the love and devotion of an insignificant little boat.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
This is for my Dragon on our first Veteran’s Day apart. It and Memorial Day were always spent alone together with his memories of times he seldom spoke of, and only then in a hushed voice. There will be a couple of his memories here so be forewarned. I’ve not been graphic per se but they are not happy memories. They are the memories of a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. And like any other warrior of any other branch of service, they are heartbreaking, but they are similar to the memories all soldiers share no matter where they are in the world. I wish Veteran’s Day was about more than sales.
My Dragon is a veteran. He is a Marine, Force Recon, who did three tours in Vietnam before he was 22. There were countless other times over his years where he was in the middle of combat no matter how you define it. He’s been in knife fights, gun fights, shot, stabbed, blown up, and had his parachute brought down by automatic gunfire making that last 60 – 100 feet fly by and the landing very hard. He was a prisoner for a while, tortured for what he might have known. I asked him if he was scared. He told me he was but mostly he allowed his anger to keep him sharp and focused. He said he hated the SOB that ran the camp he was held in. The details of how he escaped are his to relate and he’s not here. Suffice to say, Sherman was right. “War is Hell.” My Dragon escaped.
He is a hard man. His nickname, Dragon, wasn’t given lightly. He earned it. He is very intelligent and astute to the behavior clues people don’t realize they give off. Subtly is not in his vocabulary. He always said what he meant. “If it’s important to you, say what you mean. It’s your right to believe in it. Don’t let anyone take your voice.” He worked so hard to give me back my voice. I had previously only used it to protect my children. He wanted me to have it for myself as well. One aspect of my grief over his death is to keep trying to find my voice.
No one that I ever saw him interact with saw past the “good ole boy” mask he kept tightly in place. No one knew what he did when he went “out of town.” No one was aware of his nightmares. He was very good at hiding who he was. He didn’t want to face the “monster” accusation that I had seen a few times when someone found out. I found my voice those times. I protected him.
My Dragon was an assistant scoutmaster so he could be with his son as much as possible. His specialty was teaching marksmanship and safety of the shooting range, rock climbing, and survival skills. For the one week during the summer his troop went to scout camp, he always set up his tent at the very edge of their designated area. And he would tell himself to sleep light so he wouldn’t dream. He didn’t want to risk screaming in the night. He’d come back from that week exhausted and I always fed him, had him shower, and then put him to bed. I’d crawl in beside him and hold him and tell him how much I love him.
Memorial Day was always hard for him. During his years he’d lost a lot of mates, brothers all. Some died beside him. Some he carried on his back to an extraction point desperately trying to save them. The death of one young man haunted him all his life. The boy was 19 and had gotten a Dear John during my Dragon’s second tour in Vietnam. Very quietly, the boy self-destructed. My Dragon was vigilant in keeping an eye on him. He and the team tried talking to the boy. The girl had been ruthless in her letter and her name was added to the Wall of Shame, but there is little to do when someone’s heart is broken, and broken on the other side of the world in a jungle that feels Godforsaken. Their fire team was sent back out but the boy wasn’t right. My Dragon tried to have the boy stay behind under watch but only he and his “brothers” knew what was happening inside the boy. His injury was to the soul and bodies were needed ‘in country.’ It took him three days to find a way to die. “He was very cool about it, stepping away from the team. We didn’t really notice as I never allowed us to stand too close when we out just in case of booby traps.” My Dragon’s voice always broke here.
“He saw the mine before we did, a Bouncing Betty. I looked directly into his eyes. He had palmed her letter. All he did was shrug and take one step. Just one step. The concussion from that blast leveled us all. We were thrown back and I lay there with all this debris falling like snow, green leaves and dirt and all of it stained pink. I lay there and I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to be their leader. I wanted to go home and just be a twenty-year old. The kid was my responsibility and I watched him like a hawk. But he got away from me. He found a way to go. We just couldn’t stay so close together when we were out in case there were booby traps. If one went, we all went. He found a way. There was nothing left to send home to his parents. I hated that girl for a long time and wondered if she ever had any regrets.”
They wrote it up as killed in action. My Dragon said there were a lot of those in Vietnam; a lot right after mail call.
Veteran’s Day opened another closet door of memories. I remember our first Veteran’s Day together. He took me on a picnic. We had been dating not quite 3 months but we knew we were meant to be together. We weren’t young anymore and life had been unkind to the both of us. We had a bond that had been instantaneous and profound. On that first Veteran’s Day we sat in the park and he told me as much as he could about his career; his secret other life where he went all over the world with one thing in mind, do the job that had been asked of him. By the time I had met him, he was allowed to pick and choose the jobs he would do. He was getting on in years yet his experience in his field of expertise was very hard to train and could not be done quickly. It takes years to learn to improvise in the field and most of it came from simply going out to do the job. A lot of men never made it back.
Our second Veteran’s Day I vividly remember the story he told of a friend of his who “came back but didn’t.” My Dragon is not a tall man. He is all hard muscles and athleticism, a mesomorph body type. His shoulders and chest are big and his legs are tree trunks. His hands are big and very fast. He was perfect to be the team’s tunnel rat. In Vietnam, the North Vietnamese had an enormous tunneling system with deadly snakes tied up, dangling from the ceilings, or men waiting with knives to slash at the face of any American soldier. Yet it was in these tunnels where their planning meetings were so each one was investigated. It was my Dragon who was sent into the darkness with a pistol in one hand and his K-Bar in the other. And fortunately his eye-hand coordination was fast enough that the snakes he found never bit him and the VC he met didn’t either.
A fellow “rat” that he knew made it back home to Oklahoma where he was from. About ten years after their return, my Dragon had to visit this man’s town and he looked him up. They planned a meeting in town and when my Dragon saw him pull up, all he did was say, “Get in. I’m cooking at my place.”
My Dragon got in and off they went, out from town, very rural. The man had a small ranch home in the center of 20 acres. All he said to my Dragon was, “If you ever come for a visit, call this number (handing my Dragon a card) and don’t leave the road. Don’t walk across the fields.”
Inside the house was very simple and neat. But they weren’t “home” yet. The man lifted a rug and revealed a ladder that lead underground, under the house. My Dragon climbed down into the man’s real home. His home was clean and very homey, but it was all underground. My Dragon said before the visit was over his heart was racing to be let out. He kept flashing on the tunnels in Vietnam. His friend apologized that his home had an adverse affect on my Dragon but for him, as he said, “I only feel safe down here. I can’t live up there with the nice folks. I get scared. This is my tunnel. I built it so I know it’s safe. It’s the only place I can sleep. I’ve got five exits. It’s not so bad once you get the feel for it.” My Dragon told me he would not be able to get enough of a feel for a tunnel ever to make it his home. That was the difference between two old vets.
My Dragon didn’t see his friend again until the man’s sister called to ask if he would go with her to check on him. She hadn’t heard from her brother for over a week and she was scared to go alone. My Dragon went in the house first. The man’s sister had never known about the “real house under the fake one.” My Dragon had the man’s sister stay “up top” and he went down into the tunnels. The man had died in his sleep alone down there. It was harrowing for my Dragon to have to take care of calling 911, to be there to keep law enforcement from walking the fields to look for the other exits, to try to explain to men who hadn’t gone to Vietnam why the field was dangerous. They called in the bomb squads to find and blow the field later, much later, after the funeral, after the man’s sister had returned to her own home so she didn’t feel that her brother had gone crazy.
I was in the kitchen making supper the other evening and a commercial came on for something. I don’t know what the product was for but the tag line was this: “Not every hero is pure.” I cried. I had to stop what I was doing, put my head down on the counter and I cry. I cried for my Dragon and what I know he felt about himself. I cried for all the love and embraces and words I had given him to try to prove to him that I believe in his honor and integrity. He never liked what he was asked to do. It always weighed heavy on him. I never let a day go by that I didn’t tell him how much I love him. I had told him just moments before the sudden heart attack that took him from me.
That first Veteran’s Day he told me he wanted to spend his life with me but that eternity wasn’t ever going to happen. “You, my love, are going to Heaven, but I am most definitely going to Hell.” And that’s when he started telling me about his other life. That was my first day in total commitment to NEVER letting him think that he was a monster deserving of Hell ever again. I told him all the things I believed starting with how very much I love him, was in awe of him and what he had to endure in his mind, and how strong in spirit I knew he was. I told him that in hating what he did, there was forgiveness. I told that in his accepting work that he felt someone else might enjoy and make a sin of, there was honor. I told him that in his humbleness and fear before God, there was grace. And I told him that from then on, every day I would pray for him. All he could do was embrace me and then, typical of my Dragon, he asked, “So does that mean we’re engaged? Was that a yes?”
I love him more than anyone I have known or could ever know again. He is larger than life to me. A hero. Now that he has died, his stories have taken on the power of myth. He did so much for his country so quietly. There is a star for him somewhere, a gold one that doesn’t have a name beside it. The world was a bit safer because of him and now his stories are safe because he has died. I hint at the little he could tell me because I want everyone, fate, and the angels, and yes, God, to know that I think of my Dragon as a patriot, a hero, and the most perfect husband to me. He acted in all things with honor and humility and fear before what might happen to him after he died.
Few knew what he did. Few are left anymore. My Dragon was an old warrior. He is a veteran that no one can ever know the extent of his service. There are others out there like him and it’s Veteran’s Day and people should at least be aware that there are people who give up everything to maintain a balance in this crazy world of egos and religions and politics. At the very least, remember that there are some men of whom almost too much is asked.
I pray my Dragon is at peace and happy and sheepish at being welcomed into Heaven. I pray he is waiting for me, anxious to show me stuff, maybe a new ocean, a beautiful beach to walk with him, and a field of daisies so he can continue to give me “a daisy a day.” I want to be able to tease him and say, “I told you so.”
All I want is to be with him again, forever.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I am a Catholic. I converted. My reasons are my own and nothing that would shake the earth. I have been questioned living here in my new location. Surprisingly my admission has raised a few eyebrows. A Catholic priest blessed my daughter’s marriage and her new in-laws were as nervous as I’ve ever seen a group of people be. Her mother-in-law had asked me about Catholicism and what it would mean to their children. I managed to keep a straight face when I said, “Well, the second born is always given to the Church, even if it’s the only son.” For two minutes, not seconds, minutes, she believed me. I did my best to reassure her that there would not be any drastic differences in their lives. Probably none she could ever see. She did ask if Catholics celebrated all the Christian holidays as they do in her Baptist church, which is very Christian. “We believe in Christ. We don’t worship Him dead on the cross like you do.” I explained the crucifix but it went passed her somehow. All she heard was that she could expect a Christmas tree in the house. When I told her there would even be a crèche she got lost again. I quit while I was ahead.
I wear a little cheap bracelet (see close up photo) that is called the Emergency Pass to Heaven. It is fully loaded with Jesus and Mary, Jesus on the Cross, the Holy Spirit, St. Joseph, and St. Christopher. And as the card in my wallet describing the medal says, “But that’s not all!”
On the back is the twelve stars representing the Apostles surrounding the “M” for Mary and the cross which symbolizes, you guessed it, Christ the Redeemer. Also on the back is the symbol of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Holding the Baby Jesus who promised that whoever wears the scapular will never see the fires of Hell. AND it says, “I am a Catholic. Call a Priest.” But that’s only in case of a serious accident. And only if I can’t speak for myself. I didn’t take a photo of the back simply because I didn’t want to overload anyone’s senses.
I also have a mouse pad (see other photo) of Sister from the Heavenhelpus site that makes all these neon-colored medals and wonderfully tongue in cheek things. The mouse pad reminds me not to go to those sketchy websites. Sister has her eye on me. My Dragon would have defied her on principal alone. He would have loved it.
I know the stories. I’ve heard the accusations. I’ve seen Bill Mahr’s “Religulous.” I’ve met priests and nuns who did not earn my respect, whose lives I didn’t feel had one speck of grace in them. I’ve also met greedy lawyers, arrogant doctors, angry retail employees, nasty bankers, evil politicians, crappy mothers, and bad fathers. I’ve seen cheating wives and I have noticed cruel husbands. Lived with one for a while. I'm one of those out there kind of people who fully believes that avarice is not selective to one group, species, gender, or faith. Bad people are not wholly a Catholic domain.
Contrary to this, I’ve met a man whose job it was to kill people in war, combat, however you describe it and he is the kindest, gentlest, most loving, and humblest soul I’ve ever known. He fully believes he’s going to Hell. I know he couldn’t have. He has too much honor, too much sorrow, and too much reverence for life. Being a soldier is complicated. It’s a whole other blog.
I’ve had a couple of my most significant moments because of Catholicism, epiphanies, if you will. I know I wrote about it before. I’ll only touch on it here. When my mother was dying, my Methodist pastor came once and expounded for an hour with Bible readings and his canvas, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” In my six months watching her die, it was the only visit I got and it was the most soul draining. A priest I caddied for on the golf course came several times because he felt “compassion for my wee lass up here in the wards alone.” His Irish brogue was very heavy even after all his years in the States. When I asked the hard questions, he held my hand and said, “Lass, I don’t know. I know your fine mother is hurting. I do fervently believe our Lord is crying with you. I have no idea of His great plan but I know that you are loved even if you can no feel it tonight. See, that’s why He put it in me head to drive the two hours up here. Now, girlie, eat the burger and drink the shake and let me tell you about how terrible me golf game has been.”
You had to have been there at 2 AM in the waiting room of the ICU. I cried with him and he had me laughing. And then I slept with my legs stretched out across the seats while he kept vigil and read, yes, the Bible. He had all the books of the Bible in these separate little bindings. He carried one until he’d read it and made notes in the margin. Then you’d see him with another one, another book. He was a good person and a fine priest. He baptized me and comforted my Methodist father who was very angry and upset at my conversion to Catholicism by saying, “Good, Lord, man, it’s not like she’s shaved her head, put on a caftan, and is trying to sell flowers at the airport. Yes, we’re a cult. Oldest one. Been around for a two thousand years. You Methodists were the rebels who deserted us. There, there, I’ll take good care of her. She’s a grown woman, man. Dry the tears. You’re wetter than she is and I sprinkled the water on good.”
Funniest priest I’ve ever met. I’m sorry he’s passed. I’m sure his wisdom and Irish mysticism would have been a comfort now that my Dragon has died. He would have loved my Dragon. What wonderful conversations (read arguments) they would have had. An Irish priest and a half Russian, half Sioux Marine. I would have kept them in Guinness and made sure the tape recorder had fresh batteries and ready tapes to change out.
I miss them both. The world is a darker, less spiritual, and most definitely a less funny place because my priest and my Dragon are gone. I wonder if they’re talking now?