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.

Friday, February 19, 2010


He knew my father. My Dragon. He knew my father and the first time he saw me I was sixteen years old riding flat out across the pasture on my horse.

He was back home in Texas from Vietnam and back at university. My father was a rancher, an agricultural auctioneer with a great bid chant, and he had a noon agricultural segment at the local television station. I grew up on 135 acres of prime black soil in central Texas on the flood plane of the Brazos River. My Dragon came back from war and attended Texas A&M where my father was an alumni, attending after his own war, WWII. My father liked to give back to the ag boys by giving them weekend jobs like hauling cattle, unloading and stacking hay in the barn, helping with vaccinations, and working auctions with him running cattle through for the buyers. My Dragon was one of those boys. I never paid attention to them. My father was strict and I was afraid of him so I didn’t hang around like some daughters would if their dad had college guys around. I would finish my chores, saddle up and ride off to get away from his criticism.

Thirty years later when my Dragon and I realized we were from the same area, he told me of the man he’d done work for. He said he’d seen this man’s daughter, and that my hair reminded him of that girl. He’d seen her riding bareback with only a halter on the horse out across the pasture at a dead gallop for a barbed wire fence. He said he held his breath. Then he watched as the horse leaped over the fence. He gasped out loud because he said my father looked up and saw me do it. All my father said was, “I hate it when she does that. That kid’s got a wild side to her and it’s going to be the death of me.” Then they went back to work.

I had another chance to meet my Dragon but we missed each other again. He was a senior in college, still doing things for the Marines, but basically a full-time student. I was a freshman at the college in my hometown 2 hours north. My parents didn’t allow me to go away to college since I was barely 17. I had optioned to test out of my senior year of high school to skip all the drama and get on to college. A girl I’d made friends with had a boyfriend in the Corps at A&M and we went to all the football games. We’d stay in a motel room together that her boyfriend would get for us. He’d hook me up with blind dates and we’d all double to the games, and go to the parties. We always had a great time. The boys in the Corps were always very respectful and fun. I loved going.

My friend’s boyfriend would tell stories of his Battalion CO. He said everyone looked up to the guy as a kind of larger than life version of what they all wanted to be. He said the guy was a veteran of Vietnam with 3 tours under his belt, was fair, a bit of a wild man, and very much a mystery. He carried a full load of classes, but would disappear for a couple of weeks here and there. Once, he said, this guy came back battered and recovering from a gunshot wound, but he was 100% there for all the drills and the more physical training the Corps guys did. I wanted to meet him but I was only 17 and my friend’s boyfriend thought the guy was too old and much too experienced for me. He said the guy had a nickname from his days in Vietnam with a Force Recon fire team. His nickname was Dragon.

And yes, thirty years later my Dragon and I talked about it, and we both agreed that I had been too na├»ve for him and he was not in the right place in his head for me. After he graduated from A&M, he left the country for several years involved in stuff that “if I told you I’d have to…..,” yeah, that stuff.

I had left college to live and care for my mother full time at the hospital in Dallas while she was dying. Long story of how that came about. After she died, my father told me he wouldn’t support me anymore now that she was gone. I got a job as a fashion illustrator for a department store, and then moved over to an ad agency as a designer.

During this time, he came back to base his home out of Dallas. You have to come home sometime every once in a while and for Dragon, it was Dallas, in a condo, two blocks from my apartment. Yeah, I know. We went to the same grocery store, the same bookstore, and had a lot of friends in common. After my mother died my father paid for the first six months rent for me until my job allowed me to take over my own care and feeding. I was in a little apartment where I had met a lot of people to hang with at the pool. It was the seventies. What can I say? The pool was our version of the coffee shop, Central Perk, in the show “Friends.” Guess who had friends at the apartment complex? Guess who, when he was in town, would be invited to come sit at the pool?

We didn’t meet then and I don’t know if the heavily muscled guy I saw sitting across the pool with some of my guy friends was him or not. But there was this one time when there was this guy with a military haircut, who had muscles that you don’t get in a gym, was sitting across from me and I was dying to meet him. He didn’t swim but only waded because his shoulder was bandaged. I asked one of the guys to introduce me and he said, “No way. He’s way out of your league.” When I persisted my friend said, “No. He’s not your typical guy. That’s not a paper cut. He’s like a soldier or something and isn’t around all the time. You’re too innocent. You’d break each other’s hearts. “

See, that guy was my Dragon. I didn’t understand back then, but I do now. It wasn’t the right time. My Dragon and I talked about it. He said his mind was dealing with what he did. They kept sending him out. He kept coming back. He said to me all those thirty years later that he wondered if he kept surprising them by coming back every time. He said I was exactly what he was wanting but felt then that he couldn’t have. He said he would have broken my heart because he wouldn’t have felt worthy, and by leaving me, it would have broken his.

We did meet one of these times. I wasn’t making enough to get by so I took a second job as a janitor at the city hospital in downtown Dallas. I worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from 11 PM until 7 AM in and around the Knife and Gun Club. That’s what they called the ER on weekend nights. Oh, God the stories I could tell.

We had this one guy come in with an 8 ball from a pool table stuck in his mouth. He’d done it on a dare but the pain overrode the alcohol and his jaw muscles locked up. His buddy brought him to Parkland, the hospital, because the bar manager had made 8 Ball Man leave his car keys in lieu of getting his 8 ball back. Hysterical. But then there were the bar fights, the train wrecks, the bus accidents, and all the other tragedies that come in. I cleaned, emptied trash, and mopped from the ER to the morgue. I saw lives saved and lives end. I heard people crying and saw people go into shock. I was 21 and my mom had been dead for a year.

Once night there was a bar fight and the cops brought in several people. People were driving themselves over. Cops needed stitches. People needed surgeries. I was mopping and emptying trash like there was no tomorrow and for a couple of them, there wasn’t. It was a wild night and I was tired. My hair was in its usual ponytail. I had covers on my shoes because of all the blood. And there was this guy. I overheard one of the cops say he was a deputy that had been called to help with the riot. His face was had bruises and contusions and his knuckles were bleeding. His arms were big, hard with muscles. He had on a short sleeve, black t-shirt that was torn and covered with blood. It was dripping all over my floor from the knife that was sticking out of his rib under his left arm.

I thought he was handsome. I thought he looked familiar. I was peeking at him when one of the nurses handed me a pack of gauze and said, “Give it to the bleeder and tell him he’s next.” They were that busy.

I walked over and handed him the gauze and told him he was next. I know I was staring. He looked up at me and I really got to see him. I looked him in the eyes. I felt woozy. I am sitting here typing this consumed with memories and I feel woozy again. I cannot tell in words what that eye contact did to me. I was breathless.

One of the nurses saw me peeking at him again and again. She said, “Sweetie, he’s sitting in the ER with a knife in his rib. He’s not exactly what one would bring home to meet Mom.”

I told her my mother was dead. She didn’t bat an eye. “Then I’ll be your mother and tell you, no. Cop or not, he’s seen more of the world than you ever will. Grow up and then look him up.”


Twenty-three years later I was introduced to a man who became interested in me. I told him I didn’t want a knight in shining armor. I told him I wanted a dragon. That’s when he smiled and asked me out to lunch, “Just as friends. You come from Texas. I do, too. At least we’ll have that in common.”

We had been going out for a month and were sitting in a theater waiting for a movie to start. He leaned into me and asked me if I’d ever worked at Parkland in Dallas. He said I looked like a girl he remembered. I turned in my seat with my mouth open. I asked him, “Knife in the ribs?”

“Yeah.” His eyes were the same. We stared at each other. As the lights dimmed he grabbed my hand. He whispered, “I thought you were cute. I tried to get your phone number but there was a nurse that was a battle ax.”

That started our comparing notes.

I think it was destiny. I think we were meant to be together. I just wish we’d gotten started so much earlier. There were times when we’d talk about our lives and how we ended up together and he’d say, “I wish I’d walked around that pool and claimed you then. Or at the hospital. I should have gone back and found you. We could have had a lifetime. I could have watched you be pregnant with our babies. I would have loved that.”

I would have, too.

Oh, God I miss him. I feel like I’m falling inside myself, like a black hole. I can’t believe it’s been a year. It hurts so bad. I don't know why it's so bad tonight. I just want him back. I feel so hollow without him. He means everything to me. Everything.

Now he's a Dragon in Heaven. I saw this cloud and got off only one photo. My battery died. I was crying. I dashed inside and replaced them but when I got back outside, it was all over the place and the dragon wasn't there anymore. Just like my life. He's not here anymore.

I just hope that cloud was a sign. I need it to be a sign. I want him so much. We were meant to be together. Our whole lives kept leading us together. Providence. Why did they take him away?


Dan, in real time. said...

What a wonderful story you have. I loved it. It reads like a screen-play. I could picture it as if watching on the big screen. Providence, yes. I would call it an Epic Love Story.

I also love the cloud photo. I saw the dragon immediately. You were meant to catch it in one shoot. I would also say, yes, it is a sign.

I'm sorry tonight has been so full of sorrow. I have felt that way as well. There is no logic in this.

Kim said...

Tearing.... this music playlist you have on here is especially getting to me. I was smiling in such a painful way reading this. Is there life beyond losing your soul mate? I keep telling people, "He wasn't just the man I loved, he was my SOUL." I don't know where to go from here. When I read " I think we were meant to be together. I just wish we’d gotten started so much earlier" I started crying. Me and Warren were both from South Africa and had many chances to meet as well - but we met 18 years later in America. Then he shipped off to Iraq and now our physical journey is over.

It doesn't make sense. There is no logic. To have such pure joy and unconditional love ripped away. I see your pain your writing and it hurts me. I weakly ask the quiet room around me, "WHY???"

Destiny. Fate. Kismet. Soul Mates. How can that equal this life? It boggles me too. I hope our journeys are over soon.


Andrea Renee said...

Oh my God. Not only did your post touch my heart so incredibly deeply, but then to hear Sarah McLachlan's Angel just sent me right over the edge. Matt and I had several opportunities for our paths to cross, but didn't meet until a bit later on as well. And this song was pivotal in our early years. How is it that couples who are so mismatched can live in unhappiness for so many years, and people like us who had our perfect match have to lose them so soon? I can only hope that it's true that we will be together again someday. I don't believe in hell as in fire and brimstone, but I believe that what we are going through is. And what we experienced being together with our soul mates was heaven. When I looked at Matt, and when I look at his pictures now, it's honestly like looking at half of myself. It seems to make sense, because half of myself is now gone. Thanks for the good cry - I was overdue.
Many hugs and lots of love to you.

womanNshadows said...

Dan, there is no logic, no footprint to follow to get through this. just sit down for the ride. i hate it. i want him back. morning hasn't lessened my anguish from last night.

Kim, i feel your pain in your writing as well. we are both suffering so much. i hope when we close our eyes to this life they are the first ones we see in the next. has to be that way. has to.

Andrea, i agree with you. how can there be couples who live together for 50 and 60 years in complete unhappiness while we lose our hearts and souls? no one said life is fair but this is tragic.

love and peace to all of you.

Suddenwidow said...

Wow, there are tingles running down my spine. I agree with Dan that it reads like a screen play. Austin and I had a couple of times where we were in the same place at the same time and wondered why we didn't find each other then. But we always came to the conclusion that, in hindsight, we weren't ready to offer each other the sweet love we had when we finally met on Sept 4, 1993. And I guess I'd rather have known and loved him for 16 years than having him for longer but not sharing the true love we found when we were ready to purely love each other. That being said, I so agree with all of you that it is completely unfair that those of us who had such amazing loves have lost them while others who don't even like each other get to spend whole lifetimes together. Just one more thing I really don't understand, in a world of things that don't make sense, like children starving, child abuse, good people dying while nasty ones live......

judemiller1 said...

Beautiful. I am crying.

Widow in the Middle said...

Utterly amazing! There is no doubt in my mind that your souls were meant to connect and be together as one. There is some comfort in knowing that when those earlier opportunities passed by, the Universe did not give up and brought you together again...

womanNshadows said...

you are right, Debbie. i'd rather have had the few years we did than to never have known him at all.

Jude, hi. thank you for reading.

WITM, he and i were meant to be; so very much meant to be.

Ansia said...

WOW, what a story! I feel your pain in every word and I ache for you.
That cloud was beautiful. I believe it was a sign to you. I wrote a post about a cloud only a few weeks ago and as you will see I very much see it as a sign that we are loved.

Thanks for this beautiful post!

Chillin' with Lemonade said...

Wow! While reading this, I kept thinking, "whoa! No way!" that is truly an amazing love story.

Karen said...

That cloud is amazing. I am astounded and goosebumped by the quite obvious Dragon formation!

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