Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Memories

Let me first begin by saying I hate the holiday season. I truly do. And I always have. This time of year has never been a happy time for me and it has certainly never been filled with the happy happy joy joy feelings that we are "supposed" to have during this season.

But, I have gone through the motions of the holiday season for my children. While they were growing up, we sometimes spent the holidays with other members of our family or traveled to visit grandparents from time to time, but because we usually lived so far away from family, Thanksgiving and Christmas was usually a quiet affair at home.

Over the years I taught my daughters how to cook a turkey. They each learned to make deviled eggs and sweet potatos. Jaime, especially, has always loved the traditions that come during the holidays. The day after Thanksgiving our tree usually went up and the kids helped to decorate it.

Their father and I did our best to make the holidays good for them, the kids. Their father loved Christmas, as well, and insisted on buying the kids as many gifts as we possibly could. There were years when we couldn't afford much of anything, but they always got gifts from Santa.

This is the time of year when we are supposed to give thanks for our blessings -- and I have been blessed. I am grateful for my two daughters, Dani and Jaime, and for my stepdaughter, Aimee. I am grateful for the three beautiful grandchildren I have, Madison, Logan and Aiden. They are a true joy in my life. I am grateful for my sweet, kind husband, Maxx. I am grateful to have a warm home, a job, and a few friends. I also give thanks for my cats, but most especially the newest one, Raven, who is a wonderful companion to have and keeps me laughing.

My thoughts wander back to Thanksgiving 2003 in particular. It was Jeremy's last Thanksgiving and also his 22nd birthday. He was to spend the day with his dad, who had come to Houston, and I had to work. Because of this, Maxx and I did not plan anything special for Thanksgiving that year, just a quiet day at home. But Jeremy called that day and wanted to come over. The day was not going well for him.

Jeremy arrived at our house upset about something that had happened that day. I welcomed him with open arms, hugged and kissed him. Because it was too late in the day for a special birthday dinner, we had spam and potatos (comfort food for me and Maxx and what we had planned anyway).

I'll always feel bad that I didn't have something better to help Jeremy celebrate his birthday and Thanksgiving. He didn't complain, though. He was just happy to be with his mom and stepdad.

Two days later, on November 29, 2003, Maxx and I took Jeremy to Huntsville, Texas, to report for active duty.

God, I miss him. Most of all, this Thanksgiving, I am grateful to have been Jeremy's mom.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Two Years Ago Today

It's interesting how I mark the passage of time these days. Little things and events that occurred two years ago mean so much to me.

It was two years ago today, February 9, 2004, that I saw my only son, my first born child, for the very last time ever. Jeremy had come home for a final leave of absence from the Army before he was to leave for Iraq. At the time he didn't know exactly when his departure date was, but it would be soon.

Maxx and I picked him up in Huntsville, Texas and drove him in the late hours of a Thursday night. On the way home we had the usual chit chat of catching up with one another's lives that families have when they have been apart. Jeremy told me that he needed to do some laundry while he was home. Then he ventured to tell me and Maxx that he had lipstick on his collar from being at an adult club and he needed to try and get that off.

At the time, I laughed that Jeremy would tell us that. What could I say?

The next morning I got up and went to work as usual. Maxx was working on a project away from the house so he left as well. Jeremy got up with me. Later in the morning he got dressed, locked up the house and got in his car to go see one of his sisters and to go to the hospital to see his step great grandmother, Mimi. He loved that woman!

We spent a good weekend with Jeremy going to movies, the Museum of Natural Science and just generally doing things I hoped he would remember and help hold him up in what I knew would be hard days to come in the next year. The night before he had to go back we had a family dinner. Maxx grilled up some steaks (Jeremy's favorite) and we had one last family meal with him. Dani and her partner were there as well.

The next morning we had to take Jeremy back to Ft. Hood. It was a drizzly, dreary, chilly day as we drove through the Texas countryside from Houston to Ft. Hood. Jeremy sat in the truck next to me, watching Band of Brothers on the laptop he bought to take to Iraq a month previous. We stopped for smoke breaks every now and then and for food.

All I wanted was to be near my son, to enjoy his company as much as I possibly could. I knew, somewhere deep inside, that it would be my last opportunity.

That evening, in the hours just after the sun set, we arrived at the north gate of Ft. Hood and were allowed in to drop Jeremy off at his barracks. He directed us where to go. We parked on the side of the road next to a ditch that was between the road and the barracks. Jeremy got his bags out of the back of the truck and took them in while we waited for him. Then he came back out and we talked for a little while.

Then it was time to say goodbye to Jeremy.

Oh God, I remember it so vividly, like it happened this morning, still fresh in my mind. I remember hugging my only son, my first born child, as close and as tight as I could. I did not want to let go of him. I did not want him to go. I tried so hard to be strong for him, to not show my fear and my anxiety at sending him off to war. Dear God, there was nothing I could do to keep Jeremy from going to Iraq.

Finally, I let him go and, with tears streaming down my face, turned to get into the truck. I remember opening the door, looking at the inside of the door for a second, then turning and running back to my son, my sobs escaping. We hugged each other for the last time ever and I told him to please be careful and to stay safe. I told him I loved him.

Then Maxx and Jeremy hugged and said their goodbyes. We got in the truck and watched Jeremy disappear into the barracks.

This was the last time I saw my son -- ever. I never saw his body when it was returned to us seven days later in a wood box, his head damaged and mangled from the trees taking off the roof of the rental car he was driving. I wanted to remember Jeremy just the way he had been in life, not to have the image of his damaged head burned into my mind for the rest of my life.

I cried a cry from somewhere deep in my body after we left Jeremy that last night at Ft. Hood. For a long time on the drive home, I cried, deep sobs that I could not control. I knew I would not see my son again alive. Yet, I was powerless to do anything to stop what was his fate.

It still hurts as I remember and the tears have come so easily as I write this.

There is one truth that I have learned during the past two years and it is this: Love never dies. Just because a person we love has left this life, our love for them does not end. I can feel Jeremy's love, too, from somewhere beyond that veil of mortality, radiating back to me.

I love you, Bud.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Jeremy's Death Month

Time gets away from me sometimes and I forget to do updates and all the other things I need to do. I sure wish I didn't have to be a capitalist and work because it really gets in the way of my life! Okay, I'm kidding there, but am also halfway serious. I'm very grateful to even have a job these days.

So, it's time to play catch up and relate what's been going on, upcoming events, etc.

First and foremost, on the 13th of this month (February) is the second anniversary marking Jeremy's deathday. In some respects that day is harder to face this year than it was last year because I don't feel the absolute and all-consuming numbness I felt last year on the first anniversary. It's also harder because I miss my son more and more every single day and I feel so angry that he is gone from my life. As I sit here typing this, I look at a picture hanging by my computer of me and Jeremy taken just 14 months before he died. We are standing outside in front of our truck, arms around each other. Jeremy is wearing his favorite old, worn out hat and an Army T-shirt. And he is grinning that silly grin he had, the one where he was happy but he was trying to hide his smile.

On the 20th of this month, President's Day and also the second anniversary of the day we buried Jeremy, I am hosting a protest in Houston. Gold Star Families for Peace, Code Pink and Veterans for Peace, along with several other local groups, will be taking our protest to Barbara Bush. We want to ask her "Why did our sons die for your sons lies?" Cindy Sheehan, Dede Miller, Ann Wright, Mimi Kennedy and others will be joining us for this protest. Everyone is pretty excited about this.

Other things also on my mind this week. Did the irony escape everything that Corretta Scott King died the night before Samuel Alito was voted into the Supreme Court by the Senate? The wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., who carried on his hope and dream of equal civil rights for all died right before a Judge was empaneled who is probably the worst person ever to be there. This is certain to be a real crisis for civil rights and for our country as a whole.

Ahh, the times, they are a-changin'.

Friday, January 20, 2006


For the last week or so I've been thinking about the crossroads we each encounter at some point during our lives. These are the times when we come to a point where the decisions we make will greatly influence our lives for a long time to come.

For instance, in the Spring of 1986 I was pregnant with my youngest child, Jaime. Her father and I had split up for awhile and I took my two older kids, Jeremy and Danielle, to my family's home in Utah to stay for six weeks. The kids' dad and I were really struggling with some major differences in lifestyle choices, ethics, morals, finances, religion -- you name it, we were having problems with it. I desperately wanted to go back home to Seattle where we were living at the time. He didn't want me to come home because he was busy enjoying the single life.

Eventually I did go back home to pick up the pieces of my marriage and try to put it back together, which we were eventually able to do. We stayed together until the year 2000, when we finally divorced for the same basic reasons we had split up so many years before.

But.... what if I had stayed gone and divorced him at that point? What would have happened if I had stayed in Utah? My kids' lives and my life would most likely have been vastly different than it was and has been. Looking back now, all these years later, I know I could have saved myself and my children many years of heartache, sadness and goodness knows what all. There is absolutely no doubt in my life that had I divorced him then, our lives would be vastly better.

But I didn't and I can't go back and change the decisions I made. To be honest, I regret going back because I know what it has cost myself and my children. I went back because I was scared. I didn't know how to be a single mother. I didn't know how I could possibly take care of three small children all by myself and I had absolutely no resources whatsoever. I let my fear of the unknown guide me.

America is at one of those crossroads right now. We can continue to let King George and his court of jesters rule this country, taking away our civil liberties one by one, or we can Impeach him and his cohorts. We the People of the United States of America have a choice to make. Are we going to let fear rule us and run our lives? Or are we going to break out of that fear and do what needs to be done?

Al Gore said in his recent speech that fear drives out reason. He is absolutely right. As Americans, we must push past this fear that so many of us feel. We must follow our instincts and our hearts and do the right thing, even though we may fear what is to come, what might happen if we do. I fear even more what is happening right now and what will continue to happen if we don't fight back.