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Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

I had thought by the time I did this Writing Practice, we would be well into the green of Spring and Winter would have died a slow death. It’s green. But on the second day of May it dropped to 30 degrees. Ice crystals fell from the sky and pinged the windshield. I am still bundled in fleece, pulling a high collar up around the scruff of my neck to keep warm. Nature is unpredictable. So is the nature of one’s death. It happens that on the week we are writing about death and dying on red Ravine, Osama bin Laden would meet his demise. I feel no joy in his death. It is a strange mix of emotions, more like confusion and relief.

I remember the writing workshop with Natalie in Taos, New Mexico right after September 11th. She thought about canceling it but decided it was important to go ahead. It was a large group, over 50 writers, a talking workshop. The first night we went around the room, introduced ourselves, and spoke briefly about what it was like for each of us on September 11th. Some lived in New York, some had lost loved ones. I was more removed from the immediate impact. But it changed our country forever. Oddly, I don’t want to write about it. Not now. I will leave it for those whose voices ring with more certainty about what it all means. I can’t put labels on it. The whole ten years and two wars mostly makes me sad.

The older I get and the closer to death, the more I think about it. I can’t predict its time, but I can dedicate my life to living while I am on God’s green Earth. I listened to an interview with Janis Ian before seeing her in concert at the Fitzgerald last week. She had gotten very sick, and thought she may die in middle age. She said her thoughts on death before her illness were that she would take the time she had left to write songs, to write the perfect poem set to music. But when the time actually came, when she thought her life would be cut short, all she wanted to do was sit on the porch with her partner and watch the birds. To be close to her loved ones. That’s all that mattered.

It reminds me that I’m not going to be on my deathbed thinking about how hard I worked at all the jobs I have had over the years. It’s not likely I’ll be thinking of co-workers, the people with whom I’ve spent a majority of my daylight hours. I am more likely to want to spend time with Liz, stay close to home, hang out with the cats. I am more likely to want to go visit my mother and close family, to spend the time with friends I know I can trust. Friends with which I can share my deepest fears about dying and death.

There are moments when death doesn’t scare me. Late nights, when I wake up at 3am and can’t sleep, I do feel the fear. I try to befriend my idea of Death. It changes like the seasons. I do believe that life goes on after death. I find some comfort in that. I don’t have to get it right the first time. There can be second chances. But life will never be like the one I have right now, in this one moment. This is my life. I want to make the most of it while I am here.


-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — DEATH & DYING

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Dad in Le Mans, France, two months after the Normandy
invasion, 1944. Photographer unknown. All rights reserved.




Usually it’s Mom I call but this time I ask for Dad. When I ask him what he’s doing he says he is playing Sudoku even though he should be ironing shirts for the trip to Denver.

My parents haven’t been to Denver for a couple of years. Janet is coming to pick them up. They’ll be gone almost a week.

“Will you stop in Costilla?” I ask.

He says they will, and this time they’ll also stop in Ft. Garland. There is a World War II memorial there, and my dad’s Uncle John’s name is on the wall. His brother Onofre’s was supposed to be on there, too, but for some reason it didn’t make it.

“We’re also going to see Nena,” he says. Uncle Onofre’s kids, they all have nicknames. It drives me crazy because they use their first and middle names, plus the nicknames. Nena is Magdalena. She only has two names.

“Did you go to the funeral?” Dad asks. He’s talking about Onofre now.

“Da-ad,” I say, “yes, remember?!?”

“Oh, that’s right, you drove. And who else came with us?”

“Patty,” I tell him.

“Oh, right, and Janet came down from Denver.”

“Dad, don’t go losing your memory on me now.”

God, please don’t let him slip away like that. He’s already a little viejo. Don’t let him lose his memory. Onofre died in spring. The wisteria froze, big grape clusters whithered brown overnight. Don’t let Dad become the wisteria, frozen after a too-warm February.

“Why isn’t your name on the memorial?” I ask.

“We already moved to Taos,” he says, “and the memorial’s only for people in Costilla County, Colorado.”


In a box in my writing room, I keep a picture of my father. I have many pictures of him and Uncle Nemey, from the war. Nemey was in the Navy, Dad the Army.

The Normandy invasion happened June 6, 1944. My father knows all those dates. About two months later, after camping out for weeks in an orchard, his unit finally got to go into town and take showers. They dressed in uniform and walked all around Le Mans.

There’s Dad, standing with legs a broad shoulder’s width apart. He looks happy.

“I was happy,” he tells me.

My parents have another picture, of Dad and another soldier with a young woman who happened to be walking by that day in Le Mans. We joke that she was Dad’s girlfriend. Nah, nah, he always has to tell us, we didn’t even know her!

“Little did she know she’d become part of our family photos,” he laughs.


I’m crying now. I’m getting a crying headache.

Dad was walking the morning of September 11, 2001. Seven years ago he still walked five miles every morning, even more on the weekends. I’m trying to remember when it was he fell while taking his daily walk. Was it the following year?

I know he saw the cranes from the work they were doing to widen the Montaño bridge. I know he got dizzy and out of breath, that one of the workers saw him and came running. I know he got sick to his stomach, and that the ambulance was only able to reach him because of the construction project.

After they put in the pacemaker, that’s when he went from good old age to not-so-good old age.

“I don’t like to dwell on those things.” He is talking about 9/11. He goes on to describe how he was walking and someone told him that a big airplane had hit one of the towers. He says he couldn’t understand how the pilot could have made such a mistake in daylight. He got home to the TV just before the buildings fell.

“A day of infamy,” he says. Then, after a moment he adds, “like Pearl Harbor.”

My father has seen so much. So much life and death. I am an ant compared to him.

“I’ll come by before you leave,” I tell him.

I want to see his gray watery eyes. They used to be so dark they looked black.





***NOTE***  When I went to scan the photo of my father, I found a poem that one of my daughters printed out on my old scented stationery. I’m not sure if one of them wrote it or if they found it somewhere Dee wrote it; I loved it and wanted to share it now.



Rose thorn

 

by Dee

 


Remember the flowers?

Oh so red

So smooth the petals but beware the thorns

Ending sadness

Tomorrow the wound shall be gone

Happy with your new rose

Out with the thorn

Roses are red

No longer my finger.




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