Sunday, March 25, 2007


Been angry yet today? No? Too busy watching AFV? Haha, yeah, that "Baby Loves Head Rub" should totally win. Anyway, maybe this will help ground you if you're feelin' groovy. Sorry. I have to do it.

It's a Salon article from two weeks ago (which I just heard about on a Randi Rhodes Show replay), about injured troops being redeployed to Iraq. You read that right--injured troops, ones with metal rods in their backs, who are heavily doped up on pain medications, who can barely walk due to degenerative spine and knee problems, who doze off suddenly in narcoleptic episodes, who have unaddressed psychiatric conditions, etc. etc.

The seventy-five soldiers from Fort Benning who were initially examined and classified as unfit for redeployment suddenly found themselves scheduled to go back. This was done without follow-up exams--that is, according to the soldiers themselves. A division surgeon who met with the 75 on February 15th says that they were given exams that day. The soldiers insist he just sat there, downplaying their problems and busily rewriting their profiles. Hmm, who to believe...

The army says these soldiers will be given cushy jobs, evidently not overly concerned that many of them can't wear Kevlar body armor or carry gear due to their injuries, or that at least one who depends on a breathing apparatus to stay alive may have no electricity to run it.

The soldiers, who I presume are the farthest thing from cowards, wouldn't give their names, fearing retribution. I guess they mean like the bullying revenge exacted on the whiners recovering at the Walter Reed VA hospital who have recently been made to fall in for middle-of-the-night inspections, which had never happened before the whistle-blowing about the shameful conditions there.

Now I'm reading that the redeployment of severely injured troops is nothing new. I guess the fear of our own Commander-in-Chief is greater than the fear of the "turists." When the hell are they gonna impeach this lunatic already? How many more innocent Americans and Iraqis does he have to kill?
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Monday, March 12, 2007

Love and Thanks.

Got back from Long Island Friday morning. It was a long week and I'm still catching up on my sleep. I enjoyed spending time with my brothers and sisters and their kids, and the many family members I haven't seen in years (some of whom I didn't remember at all because I last met them when I was very little), plus all the friends and neighbors from long ago. It was all rather dreamlike, which may explain why I didn't dream the entire time I was there.

Adding to that surreal feeling was a serene, windless storm which enveloped the day of mom's funeral with fine snowflakes that, despite falling steadily for hours, somehow never accumulated past a half-inch. The day was unfailingly gray, peculiar and beautiful, and that suited me just fine. Standing amid the flurries as I laid a perfect rose on her casket, I think I even smiled.

Thank you to everyone who left their condolences here, or called, or sent cards. I love you too.

I feel like I should write more about mom, who she was, what she meant to me and everyone else. It's still hard to think about. I'll just say that, if you didn't have a mom, she was the mom you'd ask for.

My sisters went down to Carolina to sort out mom's stuff, and they found a music box set out for each of them, as if she knew they'd be coming. They also came across a planning guide that mom had filled out, for funeral preparations and so forth. With it there was a note that mom had written years ago, meant to be read after her passing. In it she said how proud she was of us kids and that, although she never had much in the way of material things, she couldn't have wanted for anything, other than wishing she had told us she loved us more.

I know you're past worry, mom, but just so you know... you told us.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Finding Words.

Mom died last night. She would have been 78 in two weeks. She hadn't been feeling well for a while, but this was sudden and unexpected.

I still don't know if I will be going to Carolina for a funeral, or, if she wanted to be cremated, to a memorial service on Long Island (as that's where most of my family is). Or maybe I won't go anywhere--it's impractical and inconvenient, as life and death tend to be.

Donna wants me to go. She says it will bring closure. I say closure is misunderstood and overrated. Sometimes you have as much closure as you're ever gonna get, and pursuing it further only prolongs the ache. Sometimes you think you've had your closure and proclaim so as you set aside the book with a satisfied sigh, only to realize later that there's still pages to go in that chapter (and then maybe a whole second volume you didn't even know about).

Besides, it was Donna who brought me my closure, years ago. She was the one that made me see that it can never hurt to tell the people you love that you love them. Mom and I had never expressed this to each other, unless you count birthday cards.

Dad died in '85, also suddenly, two days after his birthday. Being sixteen, I was too wrapped up in whatever to remember to buy him a gift or a card, and I felt guilty about it so I simply said nothing. No 'Happy birthday,' no 'Good morning,' not even 'How was work?' Then he was gone, and the weight of those unsaid words pinned me for years and years. Even after dad died, I found those words hard to say, and I admit I could still say them more now. But mom and I exchanged those words at the end of every phone call for the last few years and whenever we saw each other, and I can never thank Donna enough for that.

My brothers and sisters think mom wanted to be cremated because, after my Aunt Claire died last summer, she mentioned the ridiculousness of the expense and rigmarole of a funeral. The day my aunt died, I dreamt that she was talking to me at a family picnic. I didn't recognize her at first because she was younger than I ever knew her to be, and frankly I hadn't thought of her much in years. She talked to me at length in the dream, and days later I found out from mom that she died right around the time I was sleeping. I had no recollection at all of what she said in the dream.

A few years after dad died my brother Charles got married. The night before the wedding, my mom was lying awake and crying, thinking about how she wished dad could be there. It's not fair, she thought over and over. Our dog, Rocky, who slept at the foot of her bed, suddenly got up with wide eyes and the fur of his back bristling. Mom asked him what was wrong, and then she heard three loud knocks. She didn't know where the sound came from, but Rocky settled back down and went to sleep, and soon my mother did too. The next day, mom told this to my sister Jackie, who said, "Ma, your song!" My parents' wedding song was "Always," which contains the lines:

Days may not be fair, always / That's when I'll be there, always.

When Donna and I married a year and a half ago, I read her the lyrics of that song as part of our vows. Shortly after, mom and I (along with Donna and her dad) danced to "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," a favorite of mom's. After learning mom was gone last night, I watched TV with Donna, holding each other, my head alternating between numb and spinning. The first puzzle on Wheel of Fortune had the category "song lyrics":

- - - - / - / - - - - / - - - /
- - - - - - / - - - - / - /
- - - - / - - -
It didn't take long for me to figure it out. This time.

I'll miss you ma. Say hi to dad for me. I love you both.