Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight Years

So this morning I woke up and turned on the news and was just in time for the marking of the first plane hitting the World Trade Centers.

Just yesterday I had been thinking to myself, why? Why do we mark this time every year? Why do we put ourselves through it? Why "celebrate" the anniversary of such a horrible and tragic piece of our history.

But then I watched the news as President and Mrs. Obama walked out of the White House and stood silently, heads bowed for a moment of silence, then placed hands over heart as Taps played. The tears ran down my face and I realized, yes, yes, we still have to mark this date. Yes, it's important to remember the loss. The devastation. The fear. The humanity. The love and strength as well.

So here is my "where were you?" remembrance.

We were living in Colorado Springs. Brent had already left for work and I was taking Christopher to school. I didn't watch the morning news or listen to the radio while getting ready so it was a really normal morning until Christopher and I got in the car. The radio was on low but I was catching snippets of the broadcast. As everything started to filter through I told Christopher to hush for a moment, it sounded like maybe a bomb had gone off somewhere. I immediately thought of Oklahoma City and the bombing there, remembered watching it on the news and then being horrified as that story unfolded.

Things were still very confused as I dropped Christopher off at school and made my way to work. I was listening to the news on the radio, someone reporting from New York City as they watched the second plane hit the other tower. Now we knew that this was an attack. This was planned. I can remember feeling sick to my stomach. I made it to work. At the time I was working for USA Boxing on the US Olympic Compound in Colorado Springs. There was a gate at the front but it was never locked. The guard tower was manned by one person whose main job was to direct tourists to the museum or newly arriving athletes to orientation areas. As I drove onto campus that day the guard in the shack was sitting staring at his radio in shock.

As I made my way into the office I walked through deserted hallways past empty desks and I thought..This isn't real. This can't be real. I found everyone crowded into our break room watching the news. Tears on some faces, shock and disbelief all around. We were watching the news as the Pentagon was hit. Still watching when the first tower fell. Mike our CEO had been in NYC the week before. Had been in the Towers. As the South Tower fell he placed his head in his hands and began to cry. Andy went to her desk and began trying to call her brother. He worked in the North tower. The phones lines were overloaded and she couldn't place the call. We spent the day glued to the set, watching in disbelief as the reports came in of flight 93 crashing in the field in Pennsylvania. Watched in horror as the second tower collapsed. Watched over and over as they showed video of the Towers collapsing. The people jumping from the buildings. The devastation. It was unreal.

Those of us with kids in school tried to decide what we should do, do you go pick up your child or leave them in class? Do you go home or stay at work? What do you do? Andy spent the day on the phone trying to reach her brother. Finally right before we all gave up and left for the day she heard from her sister who had reached him. He had overslept that day due to a dead battery in an alarm clock. He was cursing his bad luck at being so very late to work when he heard about the attack. His dead battery ended up most likely saving his life.

Colorado Springs is home to NORAD. There were reports that the President and or the Vice President might be evacuated to the Mountain. I wasn't sure if that made me feel safer or more insecure. School was canceled for the week. Work was closed for the next few days as the powers that be tried to decide if the US Olympic center would be a target. When it did reopen the gates were closed, there were two guards in the guard tower and no one made it on Campus without an ID. Flights all across the United States had been grounded but when you live in the shadow of NORAD, the Air Force Academy, a military base and the flight path for Denver International Airport you really notice the silence in the skies when the planes are no more.

We turned off the TV that night. Couldn't stand to watch it anymore. And it stayed off for awhile. But it's burned into my memory. The pictures. The images. The fear. The panic. The ripping apart of our veil of safety. But then what came next helped to put all of us back together again. The stories like Andy's brother. Where what seemed like bad luck turned out to be not so unlucky after all. The stories of heroism from the first responders. The NYPD, NYFD, the paramedics, the people on the street who just wanted to help. The brave people of Flight 93 who knew their lives were forfeit, and so they chose to save so many more. The way the rest of the world came to us, offered us help and condolences. The world felt our pain and cried with us on that day. We the people, not just of the United States of America but of the World felt the loss.

So I say, yes, we need to mark the day. But hold it in your heart as a reminder that we are strong. We are all united. Bad guys are just that, bad guys. And they shouldn't win. And there are more of us than there are of them. So remember. But don't be confused as to what you are remembering. Strength, love, compassion, the after. Don't mark the death, mark the life.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

He's a what?

Today was the first day of Christopher's Senior year. Class schedule picked up, Senior pictures are taken, school's back in session. He is taking it in stride.

I, on the other hand, am quietly (mostly quietly) freaking out. Which is odd for me. I don't put a lot of stock in age. It's a number and yes, it does keep going up but I don't feel "old". I tell myself I still look damn good, and not just for my age, so please don't add that to a compliment and think it makes it a better one, it doesn't. I didn't cry when he started Kindergarten. I didn't flinch at First Grade. I was a little shocked when Middle School came. Then when I somehow had a kid old enough to be in High School I was a little confused as to where the years went. But as far as real true freaking out over him aging or me aging, it just hasn't happened. Until this summer.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out why. I know why. I also know it's completely irrational. But that's what freaking out is right? An irrational response?

Ready? You knew it was coming, back story time!

Registration my Senior year. I was sitting on "The Wall" with Cinnamon having a cigarette and seeing who all would be around picking up schedules and books. Across the courtyard by The Triangle came Eric and Brent. I watched them walk for a little bit and then turned to Cinnamon and asked, "When did Brent get cute?" and that was the start of it all. We didn't actually start dating until October. We saw each other a few times and then started dating "For Real" in November. We had known each other since our Freshman year but just had been friends. By February of Senior year we were engaged and Brent was set to join the Navy. By Easter we were living together. June graduation, full times jobs, marriage December after our Senior year, January enlistment, March move to Florida and that was all she wrote.

Looking back on my Senior year it was just a place holder. Time that had to be marked before we could GET ON WITH IT already. I have blogged about how I was leaving the Church by that point. I was in a really bad place with my family and my Senior year and the stretch of time before I left for Florida were probably the worst it's ever been. Brent and his folks had a huge falling out as well. We were disengaging from parents and siblings and life in New Mexico at a really rapid rate. So for me to realize that Christopher is the age I was when I decided to marry Brent, leave New Mexico and leave my family blows my mind.

Now truth be told, Christopher is a MUCH better kid than I have any right to have expected. He goes to class, he gets excellent grades, he doesn't smoke, he doesn't drink, he's respectful. He and I have a good relationship. Not just a good for a teenager good, but an honest to goodness good one. We talk about most every important thing out there. I have worked really hard at making sure that he knows he can come to us with anything and I think he does. I enjoy his company and I believe he enjoys ours. But he is a Senior and for me, that means leaving. And so I am doing my best not to try to hold on too tightly. To let him go do his thing knowing that he isn't me, he isn't just chomping at the bit to get out of Dodge. That graduation will come and go. College will begin next fall and he will still be just a phone call or text away, still willing to tell me about his day, his classes, what cool new idea he has been exposed to. Sending me xkcd cartoons that he then has to explain why they are funny...

I came clean to Christopher last week and told him I was having a hard time with this year. That it was bothering me and I told him why. And with the true heart of compassion he said, "That's dumb." :-) So I am dealing with my freak out, and putting it away, and knowing..."That's dumb."

Monday, September 7, 2009

It's Complicated....

So, I am on Facebook. I really dig it. I have connected with people I haven't seen in years and gotten a chance to see what they ended up doing in life. I have family that's on Facebook that I get to see pictures they post and status updates that help me feel much more connected to them than I would have been in the past. There is also a social aspect that I love since I work from home instead of in an office now and without people to "chat" with I would go a little stir crazy.

But there are aspects of Facebook (and the online world in general) that still boggle my brain. For instance, this morning while I was answering a question on someone's wall I noticed that their relationship status was "It's Complicated", now you see this every once in awhile. It's Complicated. I always wonder a few things when I see that. First I wonder is your partner on Facebook? And if not would they be surprised to see that your relationship is Complicated? Or is it really Complicated? I mean, you have options right? On Facebook you actually have 7. Single, In a Relationship, Engaged, Married, It's Complicated, In an Open Relationship and Widowed. So none of the other 6 encapsulate your relationship? You had to go with It's Complicated?

What's Complicated about it? Did you get in a fight this morning and this is the warning shot across the bow? Are you poly-amorous or a polygamist? So not really an open relationship but not really traditionally married either? Are you a stalker so YOU think you are in a relationship but the object of your affection does not? Are you single but dating someone and you don't want to be the first one to post In a Relationship, but you don't want to keep it at Single so you choose It's Complicated? Are you trying that think it into being thing? You know, you really want to not be single but you haven't found someone yet but you are doing self actualization to bring them into your life so you choose It's Complicated?

I guess there are Complicated options out there, but I always wonder. And the cynic in me always thinks It's Complicated really means, "In a Relationship but Willing to Entertain Options Just Don't Tell My Partner".

Friday, September 4, 2009

Family and the miracle of time.

Thanks to Facebook Brent has recently gotten back in touch with his cousin Kim. It's been really fun to watch him interact with her. Family is a really different thing for him to get used to. I have an excess of it. He has always had very little. His dad had two brothers and they each had two kids but once Jack and Ann left Michigan they really haven't kept in touch. Jack's parents are both dead and Ann's father is as well. Brent's grandmother on Ann's side is still alive but we don't have much contact with her. Basically up until a month ago if you were to ask Brent about family he would probably have mentioned Christopher and I and his mother and that was it.

Kim and Brent have been catching up and visiting and commenting on each other's posts and doing all of the things family does. Shared family and shared experiences are a cool thing. Even if it was years ago.

Kim sent a package to Brent this week of photos and mementos his grandmother had kept. His dad's 7th grade yearbook, a bible that belonged to his dad and pictures. Pictures of Brent's great grandparents. Pictures of Brent's grandparents. Pictures of cousins and aunts and uncles. It was nice to look through them. When Christopher was born I put together two photo albums for him. One called Mom's Side and one called Dad's Side. There weren't a lot of pictures from Jack's side of the family so this is a great find for me to add to Christopher's books.

When the package got here we looked through everything. Then looked through it again. Who is this? When was this? Oh my gosh look at this! I knew Jack was raised in a household similar to mine as far as religion goes, but to see he also went to a private Christian school was interesting. To read the dedication in the bible he received from his folks made me smile. He would have been about the same age I was when I got my own. And to know that he had come to the same conclusions about religion as I had later in life gave me another touch stone with my father-in-law that helps explain why we got along as well as we did.

There was also a picture that made both Brent and I laugh. It was a picture of Jack that had obviously been cut out from a bigger picture. Kim's note said that there had been "Someone" else in the picture but she cut them out. Brent and I had to laugh because the "Someone" else had to have been Jack's second wife. Jack and Ann married very young and had Brent within two years of marriage. Jack went to Vietnam and Brent was born while he was there. When he got back he was transferred to Germany, Ann said she wasn't going and they ended up splitting. While they were divorced they each married other people. When Jack was transferred back to the States his second wife said she wasn't going, so they split as well. Years passed and eventually Jack and Ann remarried. This is just family history. But it made us laugh that Kim would go to the trouble to cut Pat (we think that was her name) out of the shot just in case it would upset Brent to see his dad with his other wife. Kim is good people, as my father would say.

Now the part that amazed me the most was the miracle of time. When you lose someone you get all of the condolences and the sayings of comfort. The main one you hear over and over is "it just takes time". This week was a strong lesson on the healing power of time. That package? With pictures of Jack, and Jack's things? You know the day it arrived? September 2. The anniversary of Jack's death. Two years ago Brent's father died. It ripped a hole in all of our lives that at the time felt like it would never heal. Last year on the anniversary of his death I cried most of the day. We called his mother and cried with her. This year we talked about if we should call or not and decided that it was macabre to mark the time every year and so we would choose to not. But that package came anyway. Kim didn't plan the day of its arrival, just one of those quirky things that happen. And we looked through everything, and talked about the pictures and family and laughed at the cut out. And didn't shed a single tear.

Time heals. It really does.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Short angry political blog...

Okay, I give up. Health care reform isn't happening in any significant way. All of the politics and posturing and nonsense has prevented America from truly showing that we care about ALL Americans.

But as I give up I just want to give a special shout out to the Republicans specifically. You say you don't want the government involved in your health care decisions at all? Great. I think that is a wonderful idea, make sure you keep that in mind when it comes time to vote for things such as...oh I don't know...a woman's right to choose her own reproductive health care choices. Let's keep that decision between a woman and her doctor, the way YOU say it should be. Glad to see you finally came around.