On the eve of his birthday

My fingers hover over the keyboard because they know my mind is a cauldron of mixed up words haphazardly collected as I walk through the fog that is this grief. In all those words I find one phrase….this sucks so bad. It has been 201 days since my husband killed himself. There are moments when I see a glimpse of life outside of this whatever it is…this surreal reality where nothing feels real and everything is a struggle. That sounds so utterly depressing! Perhaps today and all the days that gathered to make this week have been shitty but not because anything specific happened on those days. Shitty because when a spouse succumbs to the demons of depression, the living are left to find their way in a world where nothing makes sense. I loved my husband and I hope he has found the peace he couldn’t find here. Truly I wish that for him, but for the survivors left behind, this is a new kind of hard wrapped up in an unfamiliar life where nothing has changed but everything is different.

Monday is his birthday. Last week was our anniversary. My step-daughter is in town and staying with me. Her eyes look like his so much that any time I look into her eyes for more than a moment I see him staring back at me and tears start running down my face in that way they do when they cannot be consoled so you have no choice but to accept their presence and just keep doing whatever it is you’re doing while they make their way from the corners of an eyeball, over the molding of a cheek, down the curve of a jawline before slipping underneath your chin and onto your neck. The tears are always waiting to be free so those of us who grieve must learn to co-exist with the tears, embrace the memories, and hope for a future where the glimpses become long glances become extended stays in a world where grief knows its place and time has allowed the collection of enough moments to comfortably soften the edges of this new tragedy. Her eyes look like his. When I look too long I see him staring back at me. He is buried in the ground but also right here next to me, alive through her eyes.

Muhly Grass Blooms

This morning I almost didn’t make it out of bed again. Friday arrived while I slept and settled in with no particular mood.  It was simply here, sitting in the Friday chair.  I couldn’t find the anchors that were lost yesterday morning, so I had to make do with an improvised set that looked nothing like the ones I’ve manage to patch together over the past few months.  Emotions resisted every forward motion of my foot.  Shower on, music loud, 6a.m. no sunshine yet. Today I will make my own coffee then I will go listen to the sounds of Friday settling in for the day.  Perhaps my garden will not recognize me and refuse to share their secrets.  

The heartbreak and horror of this tragedy has reared its stupid fucking head.  I’ve been splashing about in those day one and two murkiest of waters the past few days.  “You cannot lay in bed again today”, I told myself, and turned around to find the shore, pushing against the tears and sorrow and heartache that wouldn’t go away.  Water whistles on the stove then I watched it drip from the filter into my coffee cup and finally, I wandered to the garden. Today I am listening to the random recordings he used to make late at night, guitar in hand, trying to find some sort of happiness somewhere in the night.  Anyway, sometimes I find it soothing even though it breaks my heart without a doubt.  Today the sorrow I felt outweighed any sorrow I would feel from listening to the recordings.  These are the days when the sound of his voice singing brings comfort because any sorrow that tags along is no match for the heartbreak that grips my heart.  

Anyway, I’m in the garden, he’s telling nobody in particular that he’s going to “burn up this A string”, and then I saw it – the first blooms of muhly grass and all that sorrow was forced to step aside as the absolute joy found in those few meager blooms took over the space in my heart.  How do simple blooms bring so much peace and joy?  I had resigned myself to accept that the pink muhly may not bloom this year.  I haven’t visited the garden for several days.  Fucking work, I wont say more.  And there they were, the blooms; simple, unpretentious, easily missed.  But I saw them and they are absolutely stunning in my opinion.  Now the sorrow has a more proportional share of the space because muhly grass bloomed overnight.  Who knew muhly grass blooms could change the course of a day. 

From Yesterday

I’m out of bed.  So what? Big fucking deal.  I’m back inside of day one, morning one, except this time there is no funeral to plan, no details of a military burial to go over, nothing to distract my mind from whatever the fuck place this is where nothing makes sense.  

Today I DoorDashed coffee.  It’s that kind of morning here inside of day one.  I’m there but I’m here and the discordance of those two things is wreaking havoc on my brain.  I know it’s not then.  I know it’s been 184 days since the doorbell rang.  I know today is not that day, or even worse, all the days that came after, but for some reason my heart forgot  all the days that came between that day and now.  There’s no reasoning with sadness today.  It demands that I lay in my bed, kitten nestled against my chest, paws reaching over my arms, GSD vying for a spot at the foot of the bed while the old lady hound snuggles up to my leg.  My coffee arrived 16 minutes ago, yet here I lay coffeeless, still in bed unable to move while it sits patiently in front of my door.  There will be no anchors today.  No sound of the tea kettle warming the water, no sound of the blinds just before the food drops into their bowls, no spoons dropping grounds into the filter or the sound of the water as it drips through the filter and into my cup.  Today I will drift through the day, anchorless and free. 

Perhaps I’ll visit my garden.  The drizzle of rain doesn’t matter.  There’s a low hum of life steady laying thick in the air.  Summer flowers giving it one last final go.  Allium buds once purple now dried up and brown.  I wonder how they will look in the snow.  Perhaps I wont prune so I can find out.  The birds aren’t looking for Richard anymore.  They probably found him just in time to fly south.  I was going to quit smoking then forgot and now I don’t care.  There was a man who once lived and then he packed up his bags, got in his truck then put a gun to his head.  I can’t change any of that.  I can’t go back in time.  I can change the course of this day that arrived while I slept.  I can’t go to work because today there aren’t any anchors and I’m not even going to try to find them.  I’m going to sit back and drift through the day.  

It’s evening.  I’ve successfully done nothing at all except write about my anchorless day, retrieve my coffee from the porch, talk to a few old friends, and now here I am in this time fucking warp.  I am struck by the horror of the tragedy of the doorbell.  I am even more struck by how such a horrifying thing can become neatly tucked into the grooves of a day. I suppose it never stays neatly tucked anywhere though.  This morning it definitely lodged itself loose from the corners that I worked so hard to fit them into.  Fuck it.  The true horror of that fucking goddamn doorbell will never go away I suppose.  This is what happens when we neglect our souls.  It turns on us eventually, like a child crying out for attention.  Goddamn this is drab shit.  That’s how this day feels though.  Drab. Dull.  Horrifyingly horrible like it felt on day one.  Nothing makes sense.  I wonder which day will show up tonight while I sleep.


Sometimes I feel like this blog should be called “Becoming a bitch: Life in the aftermath of suicide”.  Or perhaps that term offends people, so I will change it to ‘Becoming an asshole after your husband kills himself”. This way people might know that becoming a widow isn’t just learning to fold this new title into your life, it’s about the transformation that happens when life reveals its brutal disregard for normalcy or feelings. Now my mind wanders into the realm of “who will this offend” and as I stand in the doorway of “remember, you don’t give a fuck what people think”, I see that place where I lived for 90 days after he died.  The place where everybody is just who they are without pretense.  And this thought brings the first smile to my face for the day.  

I see the other version of myself leaning against the doorway of a well-lit but not too-bright room.  Mostly it’s the bands of multi-toned yellow sunlight that come in at an angle and land with certainty on the patrons that mingle in that room, caressing the countertops and dust-covered ledges that hold the secrets of this room.  This imaginary self isn’t slouched. She stands tall, yet leans against the wooden frame, keeping watch on the passersby who are just different versions of herself.  She is watching for that one who walks around worried about what other people might think, caught up in making sure she does all the right things so the world will consider her worthy.  Fuck that. 

Doorway girl doesn’t carry that weight so there is a lightness to her brutal honesty and dedication to being exactly who she is.  She stands watch so when that other girl walks by weighed down with all the things life tosses in your path to distract you from the business of living, she can catch her attention and, with a glance, invite her into the room of “fuck what they think”. 

Wednesday I had a routine check up with my neurologist.  

How are you doing.  Any new or worsening MS symptoms”, she asked.  I was prepared for the question. As I proudly told her how everything is stable and I have no worsening symptoms and I think everything is good, I mentioned an annoying little something I’ve been ignoring for a few weeks.  The look on her face let me know this thing I was describing in passing was more than an annoyance. 

Thursday I went to the infusion center where they placed a peripheral IV line then taught me how to infuse the drug myself at home for the next three days.  This pandemic has left us with a shortage of nurses.  These infusions would normally be administered by a nurse in my home, I am told.   Now I have an IV in my arm, and bags of medication in my fridge, and hours to make up at work.  My fingers don’t want to type.  They are clumsy and hit the wrong keys.  I have ignored this for weeks.  I am overwhelmed.  There is a house to take care of.  Blown electrical circuits to fix or find someone else to fix.  Work to work. Feelings to feel.  Tragedy to process.  The universe says she doesn’t have time for that shit.  Just keep going.  Pick up the problems as they are dropped in front of me, deal with the  them, then put them neatly in a closet somewhere.  I think I will go find the doorway to that room where the sunlight always falls in through the windows in multi-toned yellows, warming the air and revealing the microscopic particles that linger unnoticed when hidden from the sun.  I will find a comfy chair, have a comfy seat, and enjoy the peacefulness of just being. Until, that is, I have to take me leave to do some work. 


Sometimes I see a Flying J and stop
Sometimes I put hazelnut in my coffee cup
Sometimes it’s the chill of winter's sky
your eyes
all the conversations kept inside

all the faces that I sometimes meet
they are never you

Sometimes I see a Flying J and stop.
Sometimes I put hazelnut in my coffee cup

Droplets of a dream
without warning I remember
then I stop

it's the stars at night
a sunny day
the way I always felt that way
It's clouds at dusk in cornfield skies
then you saw a dragon fly

Droplets of a dream once dreamt
remembered in a coffee cup.
Without warning
I remember
then I stop

The Flower Orphange

Saturday afternoon I went to the local garden center which, by the way, I prefer to think of as the flower orphanage.  They are, after all, just group homes for flowers without parents. I mostly just needed to get out of the house so  adopting new specimens was not part of the plan. But, as I blissfully wandered the aisles, my eyes fell upon a beautiful purple aster that begged me to bring it home.  I couldn’t disappoint the little thing, plus it will look nice in the fall basket I have set aside for it.  So I put one in my buggy. 

On my way to the check-out,  the baby chrysanthemums caught my attention so I stopped to chat with them for a bit. They were such pleasant company that I put four in my basket then told myself it’s time to leave.  

Before I could make my escape, a group of once-pink echinaceas caught my eye.  They were so thirsty they didn’t even wave their arms or shout to get my attention.  Still, I could see the fullness of the beauty behind all the spotted leaves and blooms barely standing on their stems.  What was I to do? Leave them to languish in that flower orphanage without anyone to nurse them back to health?  It was, I felt, my civic duty to rescue these ailing flowers that worked so hard to make the flowers they still managed to hold.  Now three pale pink echinaceas joined the flowers in my cart.  

It was time to go, but now I needed more garden soil and compost. On the way to find those things, I locked eyes with the goldenrod and had no choice but to visit them.  As we were chatting about the relative risks of wayward wasps and the generally menacing tone they had recently taken, it struck me that these perfectly designed specimens know exactly where they want to live.  That’s how three glorious goldenrod plants made it onto my cart.  In all fairness, they did most of the work.  It’s a shame that these beauties are sometimes considered weeds

And now, with cart overflowing, I scurried to  the compost aisle, loaded three bags and some soil onto the cart then, in facetious  shame for my lack of will power, I made a beeline for the checkout lane lest the bundles of autumn red echinaceas talk me into bringing them home too. And so it is that this morning my garden family is just a little bit bigger than it was the day before, but smaller than it will be tomorrow  perhaps. It was a good day.


Life lays hidden, unpredictable
Wrapped in layers of routines 
Blinds to open
Dogs to feed
Clocks to set
Meals to eat
They keep us safe
We think
Then one day, maybe
a doorbell rings

Are you his wife?
	This isn’t real
Please have a seat
	I can’t
He was found
	No he wasn’t
Just down the road
	Its all wrong
We need to know
	No, don’t say it
Where should we send the body

Rehearsed routines now stand in silence

Life lays hidden, unpredictable
wrapped in layers of routines
Just below the surface
Chaos seeps unseen

And the truck?
I’ll pick it up
	Did he shoot himself in the head
You probably shouldn’t
	What was he thinking
Oh yes, of course

Moments never known before
Now gather for this scene
Red bench
Front porch
Dogs barking
Garden, not yet spring
I’ve known these things before
I know them now
I’ve never seen these things before

Life lays hidden unpredictable
routines offer up their solace
days move one inside the other
exactly as we planned
Then one day 
A doorbell rings


When I woke up yesterday morning, he wasn’t nestled up against me.  I had forgotten what life was like before he found me  3 months ago.  Worried about my fearless friend, I went in search of him.  Turns out he had finally discovered the kitten cove/bed I bought for him which has been sitting in my living room, completely ignored, for the past three months.  Was my sweet, cuddly kitten growing up? Was he forsaking me for a kitten cove?

For the record, he doesn’t come with the title, Fearless Kitten, by accident.  You see, I wasn’t even considering bringing a kitten into my life when I met sweet Beau.  One day I found myself at the adoption center with someone else who was picking up a different kitten.  While I stood in that room with kittens running around, Beau leaped onto my leg then used his little kitten claws to climb up the rest of the way, across my chest, and onto the safety of my shoulder where he sat perched, purring in my ear, as if to say, “Hey, lady, wont you take him home with you?”  Admittedly this hurt a great deal, but I didn’t mind at all. Fearless kitten act One.  

But I wasn’t in the market for a kitten so we had some cuddles and then I left.  On the way out I turned to ask if he was available for adoption.  Yes, indeed he was but first he had to get better.  Beau was sick.  

The next day I filled out the application which was approved with the caveat that he stay with them another ten days to finish his treatment.  During those ten days I wavered and struggled with doubt.  After all, what would the monster think? 95 lb GSD meets 3.5 lb kitten.  Was I up to the task?  Was this just an impulsive post-tragedy decision that I would later regret? At the very last minute, after some sage advice, I committed to bringing him home.  And this brings us to Fearless Kitten act Two where Beau meets GSD. Not an ounce of fear.

Then the Fearless Kitten took over his bed and the GSD resigned himself to accepting this new ruler of the house,.

Soon he made friends with the old-lady hound who doesn’t care much for kittens.  But Beau was now the mayor of this house, so she had no choice but to accept the kitten cuddles.

Soon he became part of my mornings, always snuggled up right next to me when I opened my eyes.

During the day he is never far away

As it turns out, my fearless kitten, who was sick when I first met him, was hiding in his kitten cove because he is sick again.  Even fearless kittens don’t like to be cuddled when they are sick. 

Then this morning, after three doses of antibiotics, and a very long day of rest, he finally came out of his kitten cove, had a long drink of water and some breakfast. I know he’s just a kitten, but he’s my fearless kitten. The one who leaped onto my leg, crawled across my chest to perch on my shoulders and ask me, please to bring him home. He’s just a kitten, but he’s so much more than that. He’s Beau the Fearless Kitten.

He’s not quite ready to cuddle yet but that’s okay.


This isn’t some great piece of poetic prose.  It is a raw accounting of the text I received last night and the emotions it forced from the safety of the corners where I keep them.  I am physically ill.  The tsunami of tears has been unleashed.  I am sickened by how humans treat one another. 

Last night his sister texted me out of the blue.  I hadn’t heard from her since the funeral where, I was told many weeks later, that she had been talking shit about me to everyone there the whole time.  This wasn’t a surprise.  His relationship with his family was tenuous at best, toxic at worst.  I thought I had her blocked, but turns out I didn’t.  So, I was preparing to call it a night at the ripe time of approximately 8 O’clock when I get a text from this person asking for the wind chimes that were sent to the funeral home.  She said they were meant for her and she forgot to grab them.  

Sigh.  So many feelings about that message.  Perhaps I am over-reacting.  Perhaps her question was, in fact, reasonable.  But to me, it felt so far from the norms of decorum, etiquette, and basic human decency, that it took me some time to stop shaking so I could begin to craft my response. 

My initial reactive response was to ask her if she’s fucking kidding.  But that was quickly deleted in favor of a more measured response in which I reminded her that it is customary for the funeral director to give anything sent to the funeral home, to the person organizing and paying for the funeral, and that funeral directors are not parcel delivery services.  They don’t distribute gifts to family members during a funeral.  Anything sent is displayed, then packaged up and delivered to, or picked up by, the person who paid for the funeral.  That person is usually the next of kin so it is assumed that any gifts are intended to go to that person.  His sister didn’t like my response and to express her dissatisfaction, the tirade of texts telling me she hopes I die a painful horrible death and she hopes satan licks my burning skin while I’m rotting in hell began.  This is why, perhaps, I am so reluctant to leave the safety of my garden.  This is why, perhaps, my aversion to leaving the house is so strong.  This is why, perhaps, I haven’t yet found the courage to really open the footlocker that holds his most cherished items. 

The world is full of people who blame me for a man’s death and who, even worse, wish that the devil himself will lick my burning flesh as I rot in hell.  That is not a world where it is safe to leave a garden.  The circumstances surrounding my husband’s death are complicated.  He wasn’t well.  In the end, he wasn’t himself.  That fact seems self-evident to me since anyone who makes the choice to pick up a gun, point it at their head and pull the trigger, is not well.  So far you know the tragic event that brought me to this page. You know that my husband killed himself and that life is forever changed.  But, as tragic and horrific as that one event may seem, the story that is woven into the seams and which led to this event, have so far not been shared. I loved my husband and he loved me when he was well or on the road to coming back to well.  In the times when he wasn’t well, life was complicated and hard.  He sought comfort in people who were toxic.  Choosing to love him through that was a decision I had to make every single day.  In the end, he was so unbalanced that I had to take a protective order out against him.  He was living with a roommate down the road when he died.  But, in the four weeks leading up to his death he started coming back around.  He saw, for a brief moment, the life that was his and that brought him happiness.  He wanted to come home.  He wanted to get better.  Cautiously, I agreed, although I had to set strict boundaries and expectations.  He was so happy during those days and then one day, out of the blue, it all changed again.  But I have been through this before.  I knew the mood swings and the volatility so I gave him his space.  Then the police showed up at my door and everything, in an instant, forever changed.  Betrayals and lies and double lives were revealed.  I saw the truth of the darkness of the world he had immersed himself in.  I saw the toxic people he had surrounded himself with.  But also I knew from conversations we had before he died that he wanted to get away from all of that.  I just didn’t know the full truth of the life he was living.  

My husband killed himself.  That is tragic.  Then the rest of the story was revealed.  Wrap that tragedy in layers of crumpled up complicated secrets and betrayals and dishonest, manipulative people and somewhere in the middle of all of that lies the truth.  That is the truth of what I have been living for the past 138 days. Add to that an entire group of people who send me texts telling me they hope I die a horrible painful death and that my husband didn’t love me, and he killed himself so he could get as far away from me as possible, and you have a very dark, twisted tragedy ripped from the pages of some sort of poorly written novel about love, lust and crime.  

Truly I don’t care what anyone thinks of me or how they characterize my relationship with my husband.  They weren’t around for most of his life.  They didn’t know the demons he carried.  They weren’t the ones here when he crouched in the woods out back in the dark ready to attack an enemy who he thought was me because he forgot he’s no longer at war.  They weren’t in the seat next to him when he thought every car behind him was following us so we had to take three detours to “throw them off”.  They didn’t live in a house where the manner of how a door was closed told you how bad or good the day would be.  They weren’t the ones forgiving the lies and betrayals.  They weren’t the ones protecting him from the users and manipulators.  They were the ones talking shit about him and blaming me for the fact that he had trouble being around other people.  They were the ones calling me one hour after he died to ask who gets the benefits and did he have a will.  

I cannot find a space that allows me to find my footing and step confidently from a place where I am grounded and feel safe in the world because there is an army of people wishing I die a horrible death.  This sounds like self pity.  It is not.  It’s the truth.  Still, I go out into the world, I mingle with people, I log into work, I smile at the cashier and talk about her day.  I go to my appointments and I live in this world but I know that in the corners lie the dark secrets people keep, and it sucks.  


In those first 7 days after he died my world was a swirling storm of things to do tempered by the knowledge that a tsunami was coming. There wasn’t time to feel the feelings that show up in the aftermath of suicide.  Still, they showed up, unpacked their bags and made themselves at home.  I knew that if I so much as acknowledged their presence they would unleash the Tsunami brewing inside. I felt the tide of my emotions recede, revealing in their place the deceptively calm shores one sees as the storm gathers its strength.  Everyone thought how well I was holding up.  They didn’t know I had no choice.  There were things to do, arrangements to be made, details to sort, and a husband to be buried. Inside though, I felt the waves of the Tsunami brewing.   

At some point I started taking his backpack everywhere with me. Inside, the pockets were filled with things he used to keep close by: his zippo, his wallet, his keychain with the long military green velcro strap onto which he had attached his name patch which used to live on the front of his fatigues. A thin, compact but powerful flashlight that requires special batteries.  It has a ridiculous amount of lumens.  I think he got it while in Iraq.  He taught me how to use the brightness of the light as a weapon to thwart would-be enemies.  A key to his huge tool boxes that sit in the garage.  A notebook for jotting down bits of information that were thrown at me nonstop for those first seven days.  The keys to his truck which now sat at the towing lot.  “You probably shouldn’t go get it” the officers told me. His pocket knife with the beautiful wooden handle inside the leather strap.  His army ring now broken. His phone.  His laptop.  I felt that that somehow those things held answers.  I needed to keep them safe.  So in those early days that backpack went everywhere with me while I walked around in that fog.  That hazy unreality after you find out your husband shot himself in the head but there is a funeral to plan,  military honors to arrange, a dress green, Class A uniform to prepare, boots and buckles to polish, medals and ribbons and patches to measure.  And that damn Class A dress shirt that was missing and no longer made because it was retired when they changed to Dress Blues a few years ago. What to do with the beret? Does it sit on his head, or lay in his hands? Will the wound in his head require the beret to be on his head during the viewing? What is the protocol for that? Does he take his dog tags with him  in the casket? What socks are appropriate for a Dress Green uniform? Does it even matter? What about an undershirt? Does he need that? Who will tie the tie? How will I arrange all of this? And the whole time I couldn’t escape the calls from his family asking “Did he have life insurance?“Who gets the benefits?” “Did he have a will?” “When can we come get his stuff?” Are you fucking kidding me?  I have a funeral to plan. A casket to pick out.  Checks to write. Decisions to make.  I don’t have time to grieve or sink into this new reality.  I have to tread right here in this spot, keeping my head above water so this man who served his country with bravery and courage and who carried the scars of war into his grave could be buried with the dignity and honor he deserved.  I didn’t have time to think about life insurance or distribution of stuff. I didn’t have time to feel the feelings brewing inside the tsunami I knew was coming.  There was a man, once alive, that now needed to be buried with honor and dignity. That was my only job in those moments.  

Coroners aren’t concerned with niceties.  Not that they are assholes.  It’s just that they deal with death every day.  The coroner who handled my husband’s case was in fact, considerate.  She took extra time to review his VA records before issuing the final death certificate so that she could list a secondary cause of death, PTSD, under the primary cause of death, gunshot wound to the head.  It’s just that they need to know where to send the body.  The officers asked me that question while I still sat on that red bench on my porch overlooking the garden and the walkway where they stood.  “Where should we send the body”.  “What?”.  “Do you have a funeral home in mind?”, they asked.  My mind reached into its ancient network of data, searching for any scraps of intel on local funeral homes.  Nothing.  “I don’t know”, I told them.  “There isn’t much time if you want to have an open casket”, they offered in reply.  Again the scanning of the ancient files.  Nothing.  Who has intel about funeral homes tucked away in local files, readily accessible at times like this, I wondered. I sure didn’t. My neurons weren’t firing correctly.  Turns out there is a funeral home less than a mile from where I sat.  He had stopped his truck in the middle of the road once because they were playing TAPS for a funeral.  He made everyone get out of the truck, turn toward the funeral, and place our hands over our hearts while he stood at attention. When the casket was lowered, he told us we could get back in the truck.  He did not care that there was a line of cars behind us.  He said everyone should get out and stand at attention whenever they hear TAPS at a funeral.  He said that the person being buried served their country and earned that little token of respect.   But while I sat on the bench on my front porch with police officers below me on the walkway, I couldn’t remember that same funeral home was within walking distance. I couldn’t remember any funeral homes anywhere.  I felt my heartbeat quicken, my thoughts scramble for answers, and panic made a brief appearance.  Then one of the officers said this:  “it can wait until morning but the coroner will need to know as soon as possible”.  The first in a series of impossible decisions was pushed off until tomorrow.  

There was no escape from this reality I had been dropped into with finality.  No intermission.  No timeout.  No redos or rehearsals.  I was thrown, as if from a moving car, onto this road and told to stand up and find my way, battered body, mind a mess, fresh wounds open for the world to see.  They couldn’t help me.  Nobody could change the landscape I was given. So, I pulled myself up from the ruins of the road, took inventory of the wounds I saw but didn’t feel, and asked myself, “what’s next.  What do I do next”.  His mother.  You must call his mother.  My mind, in one last frantic attempt to find its way back to the safety of life before the doorbell rang, thrashed untamed inside my head.  There’s no way out I told it.  You have to make the call.  And so I did. 


I have wandered through the marigold patch while birds talk to each other.  I swear they are calling for “Richard Richard Richard”.  I wonder who Richard is or how he got lost.  I could spend hours with the marigolds, pulling leaves that are wilted, pruning branches too long and too heavy with the weight of too many blooms.  I always feel bad when I have to cut off diseased leaves or worn limbs because, after all, they’ve worked so hard to make each stem, each petal and here I am with my garden shears pruning it all back.  It’s for their own good I tell them.  Still they always look sad when I do it.  Afterwards they usually thank me, of course, with brand new flowers and new, stronger stems.  Deep down they know I’m just an old friend making the hard decisions a good friend should. Always now in the back of my mind weighs the ticking clock drawing me nearer to work. While working my mind wanders back to the garden.  I linger insufferably between two worlds. 

Let’s take a stroll through the marigolds, shall we? I am enchanted by the rich yellow orange tones of each flower.  How do they make such things of great beauty with only some soil and water and light from the sun? How do they stand so tall on their stems?  For the discerning eye, you are correct, these aren’t traditional marigolds.  They are calendula whose street name is pot marigold for some reason.  So far I haven’t caught them ever with any sort of pot, street variety or other.  

I love the way this one looks like he’s hanging from an old fashioned streetlight,  with one arm, singing to the one that he loves nearby.

One of the more elegant specimens I have discovered so far.  She sits quietly humming her soft quiet song.  

This is one of my favorites with the baby flower bud poking out from behind
And finally, the gracefully aging petals that continue to shine while the plant starts working on making the seeds for next year’s show

Old Friends

It’s Tuesday again.  This isn’t something I think consciously when the sun ushers it in like clockwork every week.  It’s something that sits in the chair in the corner of my room, patiently waiting for me to open my eyes.  Even then it doesn’t announce it’s presence.  It doesn’t say “hi” or “good fucking morning, let’s have a great day”.  No.  It’s much too experienced in these matters for all that.  It just sits slouched in that chair, legs crossed, quietly waiting for me to open my eyes and notice it is there.  Maybe that’s why I don’t throw back the layers of blankets and move my feet to the floor until nearly 8 O’clock this morning. 

Secretly sometimes I browse the houses for sale in Portland, Oregon, as I dream of packing my car with my two dogs and one fearless kitten and leaving all of this tragedy behind.  It’s a nice dream but I know it wont happen any time soon.  I know tragedy doesn’t get left behind.  It is part of this reality that sits awkwardly inside me.  There’s no leaving it behind.  Fearless Kitten cuddles in the curves of my arm, watching as I scroll through pictures of houses I wont actually buy.  He says he likes the one with the big yard and asks if there are any birds he can chase. Tuesday clears his throat from the corner. Time to get up.

Coffee made, dogs fed, kitten cuddled now I’m sitting outside in the rocking chair that sits beside another one, empty. It’s raining again.  No gardening today.  That’s okay there is work to be done.  Cases to review.  Misdirected anger to reign in and calls to be made.  I still have my rocking chair on this porch overlooking the garden.  The myrtle tree leaves have stopped turning yellow.  I wonder if the extra organic fertilizer filled with iron that I gave it on Friday are what finally made it feel better.  Summer is packing its bags, turning its attention to other parts of the world.  Fall weaves its wintery hands into the air.  Tuesday sits down in the rocking chair beside me, leans back and asks how I’m doing.  “Fuck you” I say in response.  He leans back, slowly cross his legs then tells me he’ll be here all day, no rush.  

I’ve arranged to start work two hours later than usual for the foreseeable future.  This is a good compromise I think.  It allows me time in the morning to sit with my garden and meet all the words that have convened in my head overnight before setting on the task of harnessing the reserves of my mind so I can focus on work.  We’ll see how that turns out.  It’s Tuesday again, this time commenting on the rain.  Fuck you I tell him.  He isn’t phased.  He just keeps on rocking in the chair right next to me. I guess in that way he’s like an old friend who will be by my side no matter how much I push him away.  Maybe I’ll offer him a cup of coffee instead. 

And to my old friends who sit in rocking chairs, metaphorically, right next to me while I push you away, I see you are there.  You are noticed and cherished even when I look away.  You know who you are. Good morning.  It’s Tuesday again.

Good luck

I went to the store after work.  I knew I needed to get out of the house.  I can’t remember the last time I left.  Oh yeah, I ran up to the garden center 8 days ago to get compost.  I’ve been in this house ever since.  Being at home day after day without much interaction with the world has an insidious way of takings its toll on a person’s mental health.  

So I’m walking to my car that sits in the driveway and I realize this trip to the store will be more than just picking up the one item I need.  I tell myself I’m just grabbing that one thing then coming back home. But also I knew I would linger longer because I knew once inside the store, roaming the aisles that exist outside of this house I would feel, for a moment, a slight easing of this weight that has lay on me all day.  Shit, it’s been here for 132 days.  I’ve just grown used to it like an odorous air that blends into the background. This odorous air lay heavily on me all day, except today it didn’t blend into the background. I could feel it all fucking day.  It hit me while sitting in the dentist’s chair this morning having my tooth grinded (is that a word?) down for a crown.  Well, actually it hit me when he brought out that monstrously long needle and pushed it into my gums.  That’s when the weight suddenly rose up and said “hey you.  Are you fucking ignoring me.  Because I’m right here and I’m not going away”.  And I could feel the tears running down my cheeks even though I wasn’t sobbing.  Just those fucking tears and I couldn’t stop them, not even for that long needle pushing into my gums.  

I’ve known my dentist for a while.  He’s a rather eccentric, cool cat leftover from a time when dentist took time to know their patients.  He has his own little airplane that he travels in to pick up sculptures which now decorate the courtyard that is visible from all of the three chairs in his office.  He doesn’t subscribe to modern day notions of perfectly white shiny teeth.  He’s more of a “be comfortable with who you are and fuck everybody else” kind of person. It’s a quality I rather like.  Turns out he suffered the same kind of loss four years ago.  His son killed himself.  So he knew.  He didn’t try to tell me it would be okay.  He didn’t ignore my tears but he also didn’t make a big fuss which was exactly the perfect response.  He acknowledged their presence, offered a more comfortable position, then continued with the drills and the tugging and unpleasantries one must endure in the name of dental health.  The whole time I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my damn face.  That was the beginning of my day and I never fully recovered. 

Work was a hot mess.  I produced almost exactly half of the work required.  I couldn’t get my head in the game and then it was time to log off so I did.  Normally I would be worried.  Today I am not.  To me, the fact that I stayed and tried to work is a win.  I’m not sure what anyone else thinks. Perhaps I should.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that, I finished just as my nifty little enneagram class was starting and I just couldn’t find anything extra, not even one little sliver, to make me open my laptop and click the link to log into the class.  So I didn’t.  Instead I went to the grocery store and that brings us back to the porch.  

Every fucking thing on the way there reminded me of him.  The car that followed too close would have pissed him off and, based on his reaction, I would have known what kind of day he was having.  Finding a spot closest to the doors would have eased his anxiety just enough so he could walk inside.  He would have grabbed a cart, stopped to grab the coffee I like, maybe some brie.  A sign for sushi.  He never had sushi until he met me.  He would have wanted to get some while we were there.  The wine. I couldn’t drink port after he quit drinking because, besides beer, that was his only other alcohol weakness.  Today, for the first time in years, I grabbed a bottle of Dow’s tawny 10-year, still feeling like it was the wrong thing to do.  But I did anyway because that’s what you do when you’re trying to remember that someone once living is now dead.  He walked so slow when we went to the store.  Now I know why because I did it too in those very early days when I tried a few times to make myself shop.  I found myself so overwhelmed that I could barely move.  I’m guessing that’s how he felt.  Then slowly the sounds and the people watching distracted me enough so that every little thing didn’t remind me of something about him.  And then I was home.  

Working after tragedy leaves no extra room for things like classes or thinking or feeling emotions, so they come out all cock-eyed and stupid at inopportune moments like when you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair. I can’t decide if this is good or bad or absolutely fucking indifferent.  I don’t even know that it matters because a girl must work. I know that spending my days getting lost in the garden or wrapped up in these words left me feeling much more balanced and grounded and emotionally intact.  So what is the solution? Fucking push it all aside and get my shit together.  That’s the solution.  Good luck.


This morning when my kitten walked across my chest so he could curl up right against me, stretch his little kitten paw to touch my face, close his eyes and go back to sleep the same way he has done every morning since I brought him home, I thought to myself “this is my favorite part of the day” this part where my fearless kitten finds his way onto my bed, walks across my arms and chest then snuggles up against me.  For the first time since 128 days ago, the first thought when I opened my eyes was not “I fucking hate mornings”.  

I still hate mornings but also, because of cuddles from a fearless kitten, it is my favorite part of the day.  I will count this as a victory.  A short-lived victory though because feet must touch the floor, anchors must be dropped onto the day and work, fucking work is waiting.  

I have a job.  This is good.  So many people don’t have jobs right now or they have jobs that barely pay their bills.  I am fortunate.  I have a good job with great leadership that pays me well.  But still, overcoming tragedy, I feel, requires more than the few hours remaining after work each day.  Shit, I can barely focus while I’m sitting at my desk.  It’s sort of pointless but I do it anyway.  I sit at a desk staring at a screen sometimes not moving for an hour.  Sometimes I look up and find I have been productive for an entire hour and that’s another win.  But always I can hear my garden calling me.  Always I wonder if it needs a sip of water or how the bees are doing today or if they have something new to tell me.  I linger now between two worlds: the one I was given after he killed himself where I sit for hours watching dragonflies rest on ledges, hummingbirds hum nearby, cicadas crescendo in the distance then write it all down, and this old world where I sit at a desk in a room painted desert bone with screens and keyboards and cases to review and I go through the motions.  I move my eyes across a screen.  I move my hands across a keyboard.  I call my mind back to this room as it drifts unnoticed down the stairs outside into my garden.  No more endless hours watching honeybees dance among round buds of purple standing tall on top of allium shoots.  No more getting lost inside the creamy yellow coreopsis and the drifting blades of muhly grass dancing with the wind.  I linger now between two worlds: the world I made from scratch from the ruins of this tragic tale, and the world where nothing every really changed.  Not enough time to get lost inside my garden.  Not enough strength to focus on my work.  I dip my toes in each world and then move on. Always in the distance I hear my garden call me back.  

I should be more grateful. I AM grateful.  I should be more focused.  I try! I should do so many things.  Yet here I sit exactly where I want to be.  The symphony of summer writes its final score.  But work awaits.  I shouldn’t sit here any more.  

I made coffee today. That’s a win.  I’m hungry but I don’t eat.  Not a win.  Then my eyes land on this thing of wonder, this Crape Myrtle that I brought home eight weeks ago, nursed back to health then planted where the cherry tree died, this Myrtle whom I’ve come to know so well and absolutely adore has, while I sat upstairs in my desert-bone office staring at computer screen, opened up her first bloom.  That, my friends, is indeed a victory. 

Work awaits. I must go back upstairs. 

Anchors of a day

Piles of blankets and a duvet for good measure.  
My head on a pillow.  
The warmth of a kitten purring next to my heart.  
German Shepherd sneaking onto the bed 
Old lady hound dog licking her bone  
fan moving in circles ominously above
Where are the birds
It’s Tuesday again  

Door sliding open 
dogs rushing out
Kitten paws landing on counter tops purring
Water turns on filling the bowl
Clicking of blinds in the kitchen as they open
Still enough summer to let in the sun
Water running into the kettle then onto the stove
Kernels of food dropping into their bowls
The sounds of the gathering of things required to continue this farce

I feel rushed 
there are words waiting to be touched
Words waiting to be gathered together then placed onto this page
But first the routine that anchors the day
Its a farce

The sound of the lid from the kitten food opens
He purrs even louder he knows what’s inside
The sound of the lid from the dog food opens
The spoon mixing it up tells the dogs its time to come in

This routine is a farce but it makes me feel better
The sound of the bowls as they are placed on the floor
It’s all been written already
They know what will come
They know all the sounds that will happen as the anchor is gently lowered on to the day

Coffee beans in the grinder disturbs the soft quiet of morning
Old-lady hound, German shepherd, and kitten 
They are not disturbed 
They know what is coming 
it’s part of the routine
It’s the anchor dropping into the depths of the day
It’s a farce of course

Ground coffee lands in the filter
Kettle whistling on the stove
Water poured trickles through the coffee, the filter, then into the cup I will soon drink
It’s part of the farce
This routine reconstructed from the ruins left behind

But there are words to be found 
Words to be touched 
Gathered gently, arranged, and put on this page
But the clock.  The damn fucking clock 
It keeps ticking
I wish it would stop  
Work awaits

I want to wander the corridors of my mind
Mingle casually with words that are hidden inside 
I want to listen intently to the stories they tell then reach out and touch them 
Look closely and see them each on their own side by side
This isn’t a place one opens a door and goes to
It’s a place one finds while wandering curiously through the corridors of a mind
Where clocks aren’t ticking and work isn’t waiting
I want to wander through the possibilities of my garden while digging in soil
Measuring fertilizer, spraying the leaves
Talking to flowers
Asking them about the secrets they know
I want to let my mind roam free without the constraints of a clock
Work awaits
It is Tuesday 

This morning I must choose a quick soiree with the sounds of the words mingling together
Or a quick visit to the garden to hear the secrets they learned overnight
It is Tuesday 
I must leave all of that behind
The clock is ticking
I must go to work


Sometimes when I open my eyes I feel the heaviness of the day embracing my body like it thinks it’s my duvet and it’s job is to wrap itself around me.  At least now it’s only sometimes.  In those first few weeks I felt the weight of the day like a quilt laying on me every morning and I learned quickly to hate mornings.  Those were the words I felt and repeated as I lay in my bed every morning during those first few weeks: I hate fucking mornings.  I hate them. 

Today is one of those days.  In that space in time before your eyes open but life is easing it’s way in, I felt the warmth of my kitten purring on my chest, the  ceiling fan whirring oblivious above me, birds chattering outside. What time is it? His watch wasn’t on my arm but the sun was trying, faintheartedly, to shine through my windows.  It must be 5:30 or 6.  I have time.  Time to open my eyes and let reality thrust itself on me. It likes to wrap itself tightly around me in those moments just before I open my eyes for the day, as if it’s only job is to remind me what awaits.  I used to tell him when he had morning likes this that “you never know what will happen in a day”, because we really don’t know what can happen in any given day.  I, for instance, had no idea that on that Tuesday morning, when I opened my eyes and met the day in a friendly, inviting way, that someone would knock on my door to tell me my husband had shot himself in the head.  Oh, I’m sorry, is that too graphic fro you? Well actually I’m not sorry at all.  It’s a difficult sentence to read even when it’s not your husband of whom I speak.  Anyway, on this morning I don’t have the luxury of letting the intrusion of reality settle in gently.  I don’t have time to let my heart and soul and mind come to terms with this reality I am living so that they don’t feel shoved into gear like a poorly driven car.  You never know what will happen in a day used to mean the day is full of wondrous possibilities.  Now it means the world is unpredictable and tragedy has no sense of decorum or compassion.  It comes and goes as it pleases.  It thrusts itself into your life then moves on unceremoniously, leaving you to pick up the pieces of the destruction it left behind.  So yeah, you never know what will happen in a day.  I hope nothing happens today. 

Tears met the intrusion  of today with vehement protest.  I can’t get out of bed.  You have to get up. It’s Tuesday again.  You have to go to your office, log in and work and pray that nothing happens to day.  But the tears.  How can I work? How can I pretend none of this happened.  Then I remember, newly planted coreopsis are waiting for my visit, and marigolds and verbena and garden phlox all wait patiently for me to tend to their faded blooms and tell me all of the secrets they learned overnight.  I must get out of bed.  My garden has things to tell me.  I’m sure the lillyturf will ask why they don’t yet have a home. They might need water I’m sure, to prepare for the sun that will soon reach down with its sultry warm hands to drink up any moisture laying haphazardly around.  Faded blooms need pruning.  Potted plants await placement in their homes in the ground.  I must get up.  The garden has secrets to tell me. I hope nothing happens today.

Sleep’s understudy

It’s late.  I overslept. That’s not accurate.  Sleep plays tricks on the grieving, coming and going outside of regularly scheduled programming.  Last night’s program was scheduled to play until circa 0500, maybe 0600 depending on the sloth rating of my mind.  Instead, on this morning, sleep shut down programming at 0300-ish and woke me up to tell me just that.  Perhaps it was the nightmare.  Enough with the fucking nightmares already. One day I will tell you all about them.  They don’t visit me every day anymore.  In fact, I’ve slept dream free for many days in a row.  Right now, I have exactly one minute to get this one onto millennial paper. Not possible cries the clock!! Dare me I say, but not out loud lest the birds think I’m strange or I scare the new daisies emerging from their little tiny flower wombs.  Back to the story.  The nightmare.  

This night’s feature presentation was the one where he is alive.  He knocks on my door and walks in all at once and I say “but you are dead” and he smiles as if in agreement, as if acknowledging to me that he is, indeed dead; but then tell me he’s still alive without actually speaking.  Something isn’t right. This feels wrong. He’s in my doorway with a bag collecting his things.  He says he has a baby on the way that he needs to take care of and so he must go.  It doesn’t feel right.  Something is wrong.  He is dead but there he is in my house wandering around as if he got the memo but decided he didn’t agree.  He’s got things to prepare for.  He smiles.  There’s a baby on the way. It isn’t mine.  That part doesn’t bother me because why is he here in my house putting things in a bag? He answers even though I didn’t say it out loud.  He smiles hurriedly and tells me there’s a baby on the way. He seems happy but in a panicked sort of way.  

I watch him and worry that the maker of the baby is only luring him with false promises of love and comfort.  I know better.  I know the truth.  The maker of the baby, whom he’s known for exactly only seven days, doesn’t love him but he can’t see that.  He’s caught up in the promises the maker of the baby has fed him.  I see her even though she isn’t there.  She knows exactly what she’s doing.  She is evil.  She has no real shape.  Her nebulous form floats always nearby, nudging him to hurry, not to linger too long.  Then he is gone and I am wandering through my house confused. 

I panic and rush to the shelf where I keep the flag, now folded in a triangle, the single dog tag on its chain (the other one was buried with him per military regulation), the medals, epaulettes marking his rank, patches and challenge coins and pins and I see they are all there.  Why didn’t he take these things with him? I’m relieved but confused and then I wake up. 

It is 0300ish and I can’t go back to sleep. My kitten cuddles next to me.  The dogs quiet on their beds on the floor.  It was just a dream.  I can’t go back to sleep.  My kitten senses I am awake and starts purring loudly while reaching a little kitten paw up to my face.  I wouldn’t have this kitten if he were still here.  He barely tolerated the dogs even though he loved them and the GSD never left his side. I wonder if the GSD is waiting for him to come home.

It is 0430ish and I lay staring up at the blackness into the nothingness waiting for the sun to mark morning’s arrival.  Perhaps I dozed off for a bit, grasping for the remnants of sleep.  But the program had ended.  The studio was closed.  Still, I lingered nearby in what was an amateur version of sleep. Sleep’s understudy perhaps. 

0700. I really need to get up out of this bed. Why was he alive in my dream? Now it is 0829 and I’m 29 minutes late for work.  Up the stairs. Into the office in the same room where I sat while he drove to the tree, parked under its shade then picked up the gun.  

Good stories have some kind of great ending to bring everything together. This one doesn’t. Not yet.

The shadow, the tree and the road

Life is unpredictable and unforgiving.  You must accept the things it offers up without warning.  Offer is the wrong word, it implies that I have a choice to accept it or not. Some things are offered and some are just dropped, unceremoniously right in your lap.  There’s no getting around them.    Slammed into existence.  Like a meteor landing on a well known road whose path you’ve travelled for so long, suddenly cutting off access.  Suddenly you find yourself wading waist-high through overgrown grass, thickets of thorn bushes, foreboding trees, wondering where the fuck you’re supposed to go now.  Which direction leads to another road.  There are no “directions” to go.  No tiny little foot paths hidden beneath the brush, worn by the feet of long-ago travelers that might give you a clue.  It’s just an overgrown wilderness and suddenly you’re there all alone.  Why did he shoot himself in the head? Is he at peace now? Where is the new fucking road I’m supposed to be on?  Did I do it wrong? No, don’t fall into that cliche.  You didn’t do anything wrong.  This was his choice.  But still, the “what-ifs” are so determined to be heard.  No.  I will not hear them.  They are a fool’s trap.  Look the other way.  Where the fuck are you? Why did he leave? Why did he choose that tree in that parking lot facing the road?  The exact same tree whose shade served as our picnic blanket while we ate lunch so many times before.  Why did he choose that spot? What was he thinking? What was the catalyst that let loose the sorrow that finally pulled him under forever?  What was great shadowy cloud that moved overhead to finally block the last vestige of light from his view? What was he thinking as his hand, gun nestled firmly in his palm, moved to the temple of his head?  Did he hesitate? Did he wonder if this would pass? Did he wonder if anyone would care? Were there tears in his eyes or relief in his heart? What was he thinking when his finger moved from the top of the trigger down to the curved part of the gun that he told me never to touch unless I was ready to shoot? What was he thinking? Did he hesitate? Did he have tears in his eyes or relief in his heart?  Did he remember that I loved him? Did he know that I cared? What was the thing that finally pushed him forever over the edge? 

I should be working.  I should be reviewing this case but how can I work when there are so many questions? When working is the thing that frees my brain to acknowledge the questions are even there?  No, my sorrow does not block out my sun.  This sorrow does not make me long for death.  I should be working but instead I am writing these words on this laptop that sits next to my desk.  

What was he thinking as he picked up the gun? Did he know I would remember all the things that he said? Was he comforted knowing I would honor his wishes and fight off the wolves that he knew would descend when they heard he was gone? Is he somewhere right now finally free? 

Push back these thoughts.  Block out the questions.  Go back to work.  Life keeps living even after the living are dead.  Where is the road? Am I already on it? 

Ordinary Days

Day three back to work.  I am not crumpled up in a ball on the floor unable to function.  I am not laying in my bed trying to convince myself that there’s a world worth waking up for.  I am sitting on my porch, dogs fed, kitten cuddled, coffee in hand, listening to the birds.  Yet, the idea of walking up those stairs to stare at a computer screen and focus my mind on the details of work leaves me feeling doubtful and restless. I prefer days that require nothing more of me than visiting my flowers, checking the soil, asking “how are you doing today Marigolds and verbena”.  I prefer days where I can watch the carefully orchestrated dance of the bumblebees as they move through the garden.  Today I must go sit in  that room  where I sat, ordinarily oblivious to the things that would come, all the while knowing that I was sitting in that room,  in that chair,  staring at that computer  when the doorbell rang.  Alas,  time soldiers on even in the face of tragedy.  I can sit at that desk, in that room where I sat, exactly as I have done a million days before, but I will know it is no longer safe to assume that tragedy won’t stand on the other side of my door before sounding it’s arrival with the ringing of the doorbell.  Time is sort of ruthless that way.  The universe moves through the day carrying with it all the things that will happen, like a breeze, carrying with it the promise of a storm. Is it already written? I don’t fucking know.  What I do know is that in 36 minutes I will be expected to be logged into a computer looking through emails, reading through the details of the day, taking in information and spitting out decisions because the living still live and the decisions must be made and the ones that I make while sitting in my chair in that room will impact people in the world I don’t even know.  

My husband killed himself.  That is not ordinary.  I must go sit in that chair in that room and do ordinary things while inside I feel….well, not ordinary anymore.  Nothing will ever be ordinary ever again. 

Did you know the marigolds we, he and I, seeded last year and which barely made it through the summer, re-seeded themselves this year.  I didn’t even know they were growing in the raised garden bed he built for me because I couldn’t bring myself to visit that particular garden this spring.  Then one day I couldn’t not notice the collection of bright orange flowers standing tall on display.  Marigolds are not perennials.  I think he sent them back for me.  Not even that, my friend, is ordinary. 

Soldiers never really come home

My morning was perfectly predictable.  No straying from the order I’ve re-composed around the welcoming…no, the resignation of accepting, the beginning of another day.  Now the poem I wrote rings through my head and knowing he couldn’t hear the garden symphony tears at my heart and I feel it at my core.  Stupid fucking poems. 

Remembering the look on his face as his head reached skyward, the determination in his step, anxious, almost panicked as he battled what he knew and what the war had made him see.  That helicopter we hear while sitting on our porches is just a helicopter to us but to him it was the war coming back to haunt him.  And so he walked with determined step to a place where trees didn’t block his view, and with panicked eyes he turned his head to the sky to confirm what his mind knew was true but what his soul insisted was a lie.  “It’s an air-care helicopter” he would tell me.  This seemed irrelevant to me but I thanked him anyway.  I knew why he looked.  In fact, if you are are out in the world and you see a person looking toward the sky to identify exactly the source of the sounds of a helicopter flying low, you can know for almost certain that person knows the battlefield and he can never escape the sounds.  I didn’t know this before I knew him.  

These details became routine in my life.  Little by little I learned the why’s of what he did so the outbursts in the store didn’t break my stride. I scanned plots of movies for any indication there might be scenes of war before pressing play. I knew the gaze that meant the war had called him back and now it was my turn to nudge him back home with a word about anything from this life we were in right now (one must never nudge a soldier back from the memories of a battlefield by touching their arm or touching anything.  You must remember they are, in their minds, at war at that moment even while they sit on that chair in that garage in that house in the suburbs with the birds chirping outside.  They aren’t there with you.  They are at war).  The same goes for dreams; one must never wake a soldier as you would someone else by gently shaking their arms, or a gentle kiss on the cheek, lest you become part of the nightmare he’s in an he reacts swiftly to protect himself.  I learned never ever to walk up behind him without announcing clearly from a distance that I was behind him.  These little things all added up to a life tailored to a soldier’s wounded soul.  They go to war to fight the battles so we can sit here on our porch beside our gardens.  Then they are called home except they can never truly come home because the war, in some ways, comes home with them. 

He was a soldier.  He fought for us and then his battlefield became the things he carried inside his soul.  A man’s soul, wounded from the things of war, can never truly be mended.  They simply move among us, doing their best to accommodate this life so that we, the ungrateful, can be at ease.  It’s a lot to say in one little paragraph or two so for now, just know that moving among you today are soldiers whose battlefield has become the wrestling of their souls as they struggle to reconcile the things of war.  Before you judge, consider this real possibility.

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