how did i get here?

my husband, my beautiful Dragon, died suddenly at 12:03 AM on 9 February 2009. there was a cold, lovely full moon and 3 feet of snow on the ground. i "slept" for the following 10 months and "woke" to the physical and emotional pain and torments of deep grief. i "woke" to find i had moved the day of his funeral and that i am lost. i am looking for me while i figure out the abstract, unanswerable questions that follow behind any death. my art has evolved. his death changed that as well because i am forever changed and will forever bear the mark of losing the only man i can ever love.
there is alive and there is dead and there is a place in between. i am here wholly in my heart for my children, but i feel empty inside at this time. i miss him. i have not gotten very far in my grief journey. i make no apologies for this.
this is my place, my blog, where i write to tell the universe that i am still here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

she's coming.....

December 2nd is another full moon and on the 9th, it will be another month. 10 months. i'm sick and it's supposed to rain on the full moon. i'll have to get the photo the day before, catch it before the rain drowns my chance to commune with the loneliest woman i know. she lives "next door" and can only shine with borrowed light. like me. i only shined standing beside my Dragon.

i've read that women and the moon are linked all through history. now i am intrinsically linked to her because she watched me become the shattered woman that i am. she was full the night the Dragon's soul flew past her to wherever Dragon's go.

i wonder if the peace and freedom of getting to leave his battered body prevented him from looking back at us, at me?

i always look up. always. whether day or night. up is where i believe he is. and my moon. my equally lonely friend. she had visitors once, but they never returned. they used her, then left her alone. busy, don't you know.

i wonder if my Dragon is busy. i wonder if he's thinking of me. i wonder things i'm not supposed to wonder if i'm to journey ahead on this path i've been set upon. all i know is all i feel. and i feel misery. i feel sick. i feel fear. and i feel bereft of my Dragon.

maybe when i get well, i'll come out of this pit of despair. in the meantime, i can be found gazing at my moon. the fullness of her beauty and abilities is coming back 'round again, and she and i have shared memories to discuss.

Friday, November 27, 2009


i did take a few pictures of yesterday, that 3rd Thursday in November, but the one person i wanted there couldn't come.

i woke up sick this morning. it's all in my chest. feels like iron weights are sitting on my sternum. i faked feeling better than i do so my son wouldn't be upset that he had to drive back to his home to be back at work tomorrow. fibbed to my daughter.

the tide has moved in silently and lifted my significant little boat and carried it out into the darkness. the heaven's are so black making the water even darker. what's darker than black? my soul. but if i lay back and look up at the sky, i can see millions of pinpricks of silver light. i'm also watching the moon get fuller so i guess the black night is not total.

i miss him so much. i'm thankful. i'm grateful. i'm careful. i'm dancing on the head of a pin. i know it defies God but i'd really like to talk to him one more time. how many have said that to their own darkness? they miss their loved ones. well, me, too.

but i have to try. if i listen very carefully, i can hear the soft rustle of dragon wings. i think it's him. i'm pretty sure it is. i think he's reconnoitering. i hope he doesn't see how bad i look. i hope he doesn't know how much i cry. i hope he doesn't sense the fear that probably emanates from me in waves. but it's a kind of comfort to believe/pretend that he's out there in the dark skies where he feels so at home. but then again, maybe he's waiting for me. maybe he does know how bad it is and from where his new perspective, he knows how good it will be when we're together again.

i'm going to go lay down now. shhhhhhh. i hear wings.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

panic attack

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.

how am i going to make it?

rent increase. they wanted $60 more a month but my daughter got them down to $30 more a month. i am falling apart here. my daughter said she and my son and i will get it worked out. one way or the other. but the dark curtains that don't allow me to see through them to any kind of future seem insurmountable.

it's cloudy and dark. my dogs are sulky and needy. they sense my deep depression. i cleaned the apartment for my Wednesday/Thursday/Friday company. i'm working on Suddenwidow's first quilt. and i keep getting the shivers. i keep getting scared. what if i never get another commission? what if i become an enormous burden for the rest of my life? i'm waiting on the VA and that takes FOREVER. my Dragon was deployed often enough on a moment's notice but benefits? wait your turn.

i have things about myself i need taken care of and there will never be the money to do it. bone chips in my left knee. bone chips in my right hand. my right thumb doesn't bend anymore. my right heel is, God who knows. but i hurt everyday. fortunately the right hand can sew. i have my "special fix." it's a can of frozen concentrate - grape juice - so far out of date. i only use it to hold. when my hand hurts, i freeze it by holding that can for a few minutes. then back to work.

i am pathetic. i'm back to being the insignificant little boat with rotting wood, peeling paint, and no way to patch myself up.

i can't find a grief counselor that doesn't want money. not through the church. not anywhere. i just want someone to sit across from me and talk me down from some of these fears. i want to talk about the Dragon. i want someone to hear some of my dark secrets and know they won't blab to anyone. i want them to tell me it wasn't my fault. i feel like it wasn't my fault i was unlovable for all my years until i met him. he loved me. and now he's dead. how can i go on?

everyone is supposed to be born for something. there should be a reason i was born. i bore my children and protected them. i raised them and they are out and away. i met my Dragon and i nurtured his soul. i made him feel like my hero. he accepted himself and knew/knows how much i adore him. he knows i am in awe of him. but life treated us like crap and took him before he could get us set up. we managed to pay for colleges and medical and stuff for my daughter and son and then he died. there's nothing left.

was my children and soothing his soul, showing him how worthy of love he is the only reason i was born? and now it's over? i got only 8 years of love extended to me and that is supposed to be enough? i don't get safety? i don't get to have a tiny home with a small yard and a way to get to go to the doctor?

i want to know what kind of miniscule stipend the government thinks all his service deserves? oh, God, i'm really not in a good place. all my old sorrows are creeping around me like tendrils of smoke meant to choke me.

i can hear my mother's voice in my head. "you're such a disappointment. you're never going to amount to anything. you don't deserve what we give you."

my father's voice: "don't ever do anything that will shame my name." that was about it for him. he wasn't a talker. he didn't do much father/daughter stuff with me. he was just gone early, home late, and was the second go-round of whippings i.e. "wait 'till your father gets home." all whippings were done twice so the point could be made very clearly.

the voice of my ex: "it's my money. you should have asked permission before buying them new shoes." "you're not going to wear that are you?" "why did you buy a new pair of jeans? wear what you have." blah, blah. right up until he said, "i'll show you what it's like to live without my money. you'll never have any of it. the kids will suffer because of you."

such darkness inside me and no one to hold my hand anymore.

Thanksgiving? i am thankful for my daughter and my son. i am thankful they are the wonderful adults they are. in spite of me or because of me, they are fantastic people. honest. responsible. intuitive. decent. if i influenced them, it was only partially. they came to me like that.

i am also so very humbly grateful that my Dragon somehow, weirdly, (erroneously?), who knows why, but he loved me. i got to hear the words, "you are my whole world and i love you so very much."

i know all your aches and pains are gone. i know you're at peace. i talk to God everyday, multiple times a day. now i just want to be safe for what time is left to me. i just want to feel safe. i don't have to be happy. i don't have anything except my things back from storage that is controlled by the ex and a tiny little townhouse. with a 6 foot privacy fence so i can let the dogs out to play without leashes. wow. i want a lot. i guess that makes me selfish.

well, i also want a car and enough commission work to give me a little padding each month, and health care, and.....and.... hmmmm. i think that's about it.

no, i wish i was on the island with my Dragon. i wish our dreams to live by the ocean had all worked out. i'd be home then, home in his arms safe and warm. i'd be in the light. not in the dark.

Monday, November 23, 2009

i am thankful for my online "sisters" and SSSF.

i've been extremely depressed missing my Dragon. very rough times. you know what i'm talking about. but i finished some fun things tonight. i wanted to send this photo out to you all. also inclusive is Split Second Single Father. i think of you and your daughter and include you both in my prayers as well. we're all "family" on our respective journeys. thank you all for reading and commenting and keeping up with me. it makes my isolation easier to roll with.

i hope everyone has a peaceful Thanksgiving and for Boo across the Pond, i think you may be the little fishy on the far right. you have a nice dorsal fin on top and the little fins on the sides are from my Dragon's socks. (the two white fish and the white horse are made from my Dragon's socks. i had to. i need something for me.)

i'll post photos of my Thanksgiving with my son, his girl, my daughter, her husband, and his dad. i'll be the blonde behind the camera. =0}

peace to all.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

the gift of color

i love color. bright sunny days, cold, crisp. the bite of the up-coming winter that is in the air as you walk before noon warms up the sunlight. i love (loved) walking with him on days like that. days like in my photos.

slow pace. holding hands. stopping for me to take a picture.

so different here. so empty now. i'm tired of worry. i'm tired of hurting. i'm lonely for him.

he made me laugh. he made me sigh. he made me feel like no matter how bad life treated us, we'd survive. now i'm just not sure sometimes. but my son called me earlier tonight. he told me that no matter what, i'd be alright. he wasn't going to let anything bad happen to me. he told me, "you're my mom and you've had it so rough. but you're brave. you're the strongest person i know." and i cried and told him i wasn't anymore. he told me i was and that he would bring me to live with him in his new house if it came to it, if i couldn't make it all work. he told me to always know, last thought before i try to sleep, that i was going to be alright.

i'm tired from sewing all day. i'm headed for bed, to try and find a way to sleep. i hope i can find some hope somewhere. find a way to breathe a little more deeply without so much pressure or desolation weighing me down. maybe i packed it up and it's in the closet.

i'll try to find it tomorrow. tonight, well, tonight my son says i'm going to be okay. i heard a bit of our Dragon in his voice. i think i can find some sleep realizing that.

enjoy the color up there. the world can be such a beautiful place.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Quiltimus Maximus Finis !

yay!!!! it's just after noon on this eastern side of the US on the western side of the Pond and i'm taking the rest of the day OFF !

Thursday, November 19, 2009

be the turkey

i am a turkey, the one from the slang dictionary. my mother had relentlessy told me i would never amount to anything and despite my best attempts at life, i have become exactly what she always thought of me as. i am a turkey.

it haunts me more now that my Dragon has died. he is not here to stroke my feathers and tell me how pretty i am.

my mother always thought i was too bookish and artistic. she despised that about me and while i withstood heaps of lectures on how to be the woman she wanted me to be, i quoted Shakespeare in my head. "to thine own self be true."

and i have been. but persevering through her predictions of my future failures doesn't make me less a turkey. it just makes me a turkey with convictions who failed anyway.

because of my ex, i learned how to endure without love or much hope. but my convictions kept me from making stupid mistakes. i learned how to take it on the chin. is that a metaphor? only the turkey knows. but i did arrive at the breaking point. i couldn't take it anymore and i left him. he took everything.

in flies my Dragon. and because of him the turkey glowed with the inner light she always had.

okay, wait a minute. first, way back when, i was in a boat on the water in a fog. i was listening to the wrong bell and rowing away from safety. then just recently i was the "insignificant little boat." and now i'm a turkey? damn straight. i can lay claim to anything that fits who i am. today, i am the turkey so i will be the turkey. tomorrow, who knows. there are a lot of metaphors out there and, well, it's my mind. it's all in my mind.

and that's where the trouble always starts. just when everything is going along, someone starts to think.

and wish.

and become wistful for things they weren't meant to have.

i always wanted a little house to live in for 60 years. the ex moved us around within one little town as he tried to improve "his" property ownership. nothing during that marriage was mine. my Dragon and i supported my two children during college when the ex did not and we rented a house by the ocean. a perfectly old and shabby little house where i would have lived for 60 years. and now i am trying to accept this tiny apartment as my home.

"forever? but what about the lighthouse? what about our dream? what about even a small place by the ocean? are we just giving up on that?" that's the voice in my head.

not all dreams come true.

i always wanted friends and family. i gave up, unnoticed i woefully add, on the widow's group. i have my wonderful daughter and son. i am blessed. my brother refuses to speak to me. friends are hard to come by. why? maybe because i am a turkey and they see in me what my mother did so long ago. "you're kidding us, right?" (my mind always speaks in third person to include all my various personalities.) "our life sucks! it blows! we need people to talk to us, to come get us and take us to the mall or to a movie! sure the kids love us and that's wonderful but there has to be someone else out there. c'mon! dial it up! get mad!" what good would it do. "crap. we are such a turkey. but yeah, right now, there is nothing we can do. but if they can't see how cool we are then....." hush.

i always wanted to take little trips, to see places. i got to "see" them through my Dragon when he talked about all the countries he'd been in. i bought a map of the world and brought it to him once. i had a sharpie and asked him to tell me what countries he hadn't been in. if i remember correctly there were about eleven.

i always wanted to deny my turkey heritage. "now that's just sad. so what if we're a turkey? turkeys are smart and cool. hey, Ben Franklin wanted the turkey for the national bird. that should tell you something right there." Ben Franklin was also a womanizer and wrote an absurd little book called 'Fart Proudly.' "oh. well, so the man had a sense of humor and a zest for life. so does our Dragon, but without the cheating part. you know how much he loves turkey." stop it.

i'm losing my mind. "i'm right here." really losing my marbles. "they're in that little bag over there on the bookshelf we bought for $3 at Goodwill." see?

i've been putting in 12 - 15 hour days working on what i now call "quiltimus maximus." but i am on the last little bit of sewing on that 8'+ x 9'+ monstrosity. i have called and the woman is coming for it on Monday. "after she leaves we're getting drunk, even if it's morning."

and then it's full swing on Suddenwidow's quilts. but right now, i'm tired and the turkey in me is wistful for what can never be. i'll never have a little home. i'll never again live by the ocean. i'll most likely be pretty much alone. if i find a friend who likes turkeys, it will be a miracle. i am wistful to travel like i read about people getting to do. i wish there were friends and neighbors who called to check on me off and on during the week like i know other people have happen for them.

"we're mad. admit it. well, we're upset anyway. that widow from the group stopped by last night and we thought she was coming to see us but she just needed to use our restroom before she kept driving home. i mean, how rude is that? out with the other widows and we weren't invited. she passes our apartment and needs to pee? really? why didn't we say something crude?" because the first thing out of her mouth was that she was having a bad day missing her husband. "well, we were having a bad day, too. we miss our Dragon so much that we spontaneously burst into tears and scream into our pillow. why isn't our grief as important to them as theirs is to us? and we didn't get to go out and hang with everyone. and her saying we hadn't been invited because it would have been inconvenient to come get us? seriously? but our toilet is close enough to pee in?" water under the bridge. "obviously not because we're talking to ourselves again. turkey."

well, if you are the turkey, might as well be the turkey.

i miss my Dragon more than i have the words or ability to express. i'll never stop loving him or mourning him.

"bye for now. we got our feelings hurt last night. sort of an 'unnailed, uncoffined, unknown' view of our future. so it's crying time again for turkeys."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

widow's web

i was leaving a comment for Boo and when i write, it just falls out. i don't have anything set in my head to say. i don't have any idea of how to comfort someone. i say what i say to myself, what i tell myself to try and give myself grief counseling since i cannot find it or afford it.

if you heard me talk, you'd have this little epiphany, "hey, she writes like she talks." so i was writing to Boo and mentioned that we were weaving widow's webs. and my eyes fell onto a quilt i had made from scraps that i needed to get rid of. too many tiny pieces to really do anything with but i hate tossing things like bits of floss and fabric.

i remember vividly making this quilt. i had finished it just two months before my Dragon died. he would watch me sew. he loved watching. he'd say, "we'll be warm because of your magic needle." i'd laugh because only he carried the magic. he was the one who made my "magic tea" that always appeared because he watched over me and knew when it was gone. i'd be in what he called the "artist state of mind" and put the pitcher back empty or murmur, "i need to make more." but he would smile and do it. "i just like doing little things for you. i can't give you a castle but i can make your tea."

he had all the magic. he could entice a woman in the shadows out into sunlight with just his smile. he had found all the broken pieces of me and was putting them back together, like one of those structurally difficult 3D puzzles. i told him that once. i told him putting me back together was like putting the one of Notre Dame Cathedral together. he told me he liked my "flying buttresses."

see there. i went off on a tangent. i do that all the time and my Dragon would just sit and listen. when his smile got really big, i knew i had gotten off on a tangent. he'd say, "it's okay. somehow you always come back to point. keep going. this is fascinating." so back to sewing. i always sewed. when my friends were being drafted and going off to Vietnam, i wrote to them and included bits of sewing. i'd make cutoffs from my jeans and would cut up the legs into pieces and embroider flowers, peace signs, hearts, and words like "home," "you are loved," and silly teenage girl stuff like that.

and now i sew quilts. not just the Memory Quilts. i sew baby quilts, crazy quilts, embroider clothes, make denim skirts out of blue jeans. you want it. i can probably make it. it's what i do. i certainly have the time. my Dragon isn't here to entice me away.

i'm all alone now. they took him from me. no, that's negative thinking and i can't afford to break myself apart. i have a bowl with the remaining pieces of me that my Dragon hadn't had time to put together and i staunchly refuse to break what he repaired. but i do have a huge hole in my heart and nothing can fix it. only him. only the sight of his face. only the smell of his skin. only the touch of his hands. only his kisses.

so i sew. "a needle pulling thread. la. a note to follow sew." that's me. i'm the "la" that follows "sew." i'm sewing a widow's web over the top of that bowl with the rest of me in it. i'm taking it with me when i die so i can sit with him and he can finish putting me back together. and i'm also weaving a widow's web over that hole in my heart. i don't want all his love to leak out when i'm asleep, or have someone come and try to take it from me with harsh words that i'm too exhausted to fight against.

i love him and he loves(ed) me. to reference an Air Supply song, he "made love out of nothing at all." and that takes more magic than anything i possess or will ever be able to make.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Matthew West ~ Save a Place for Me

a woman who stumbled across my writing here sent me an email with this link for this song. she thought it sounded like it was written for me, and oh, my God, it does feel like it.

i have to put it up and say thank you to her. i won't post her name for privacy but bless you for knowing about this song and sending me the link. though i cried and cried listening to it, there is comfort for me here. i'm going to itunes now and spend the 99 cents to have it on my little baby ipod.

if i got it wrong look up Matthew West and the song is called "Save a Place for Me." i hope it makes others feel better as it did me for this awful-for-some-reason-that-i-don't-know-why weekend.

don't be mad
if i cry
it just hurts so bad, sometimes
'cause everyday it's sinking in
and i have to say goodbye all over again.

you know i bet it feels good to have the weight of this world off your shoulders now
i'm dreaming of the day when i'm finally there with you.

save a place for me
save a place for me
i'll be there soon
i'll be there soon
save a place for me
save some grace for me
i'll be there soon
i'll be there soon

i have asked the questions why
but i guess the answers for another time
so instead i pray, with every tear
and be thankful for the time i had you here.

save a place for me
save a place for me
i'll be there soon
i'll be there soon
save a place for me
save some grace for me
i'll be there soon
i'll be there soon

i wanna live my life just like you did
make the most of my time just like you did
and i wanna to make my home up in the sky
just like you did

but oh, until i get there,
until i get there

save a place for me
save a place for me
'cause i will be there soon
save a place for me
save some grace for me
i'll be there soon
i'll be there soon

Friday, November 13, 2009

i wish he could come back

i'm not doing very well tonight. see, these Little Debbie Christmas tree snacks are out now. i had walked to the grocery store for milk and bread crumbs - don't ask. anyway, they were on the end of an aisle as i walked into the store. i stood there shell shocked. he used to buy these for me. he'd get a box and sing as he got close to the cart, "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" with this big smile on his face.

i felt hot inside and my fingers and toes felt cold. i grabbed a box and moved on to get the milk.

i'd like him to come back now. i've done the widow thing and i'm ready for him to come home. i know i don't live where we lived but he can find me. if anyone can find anyone, it's him. it was one of his specialties. and i'm not trying to hide from him. so, i'm ready for him to come home.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and then, well, you know. i need him back. i'm really tired and lonely but i only want him.

i love him. i adore him. he is too cool. devilish. funny. intelligent. street smart. he took care of me. he made me laugh. he loved me so much and i have never felt so important. i loved the way he looked at me.

i don't like going to bed. i hate it. i lay there and read and read, trying to forget i'm alone. i miss him breathing beside me. i miss tangling my legs with his.

i don't like waking up. he's not there to kiss and groan at the morning light with. he was the cook. he made the most awesome breakfasts. and lunch. and suppers. i can't cook worth a damn. nothing tastes like his cooking.

i don't like life anymore. i'm alone so much. my daughter's store moved and she only has one day a week off now. i don't see anyone but her and now it's only once a week. i miss him so much. it's been 9 and a half months and i'm not any better. is it possible that i'm still in shock? i feel so distant from everything and everyone but then that numbness goes away and i cry. i feel like i'm breaking apart.

the crying gets so bad sometimes that i wonder if the neighbors can hear. i'm like some animal caught in a trap. i can't find the words to speak to the physical pain in my sternum, my hands, my head. i miss him so much. i reach out to him, to a picture of him, but my arms can only grab at emptiness. i look at his urn and i can't imagine such a man is reduced to being in there. to me, he is so handsome. his arms are so strong and when i was in his embrace, i felt like nothing could hurt me. when i put my arms around him, his chest was so big and his back so muscled that only my fingertips touched. how can he be in that urn?

so you see, i wish he'd come back. i need him. i don't want to go through the rest of whatever life i have left without him. i don't want Christmas to come without him. i don't want to sit in front of the television on New Year's Eve without him.

i don't want time to go by. or maybe it should go by really fast so i can get to be with him. i have no idea how i'm going to do this. i need him to help me. i wish he'd come back to me. i need him to come home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

quitting the widow's group or the broken little boat that got away.

Once there was there was a little boat. She was an insignificant addition to the harbor of life but she had always thought there was a reason for her to have been built. One of those reasons had been to protect her oars. She had two of them, a beautiful daughter whose personality was like the sun breaking through a cloudy day. The other was a quietly handsome son who was introspective and reticent. His inner light shone more like a full moon. The little boat loved her little oars very, very much and she did all that she could to give them a safe life.

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

Wednesday is Veteran's Day

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

yes, i am Catholic. yes, we believe in Christ.

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?