Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I made a quiet day for myself.  I should have gone into town to pick up that last teacher gift.  I should have watched the morose movie that needs to go back to the library.  I should have cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed, weeded in the yard.  I really should have seasoned the Dutch ovens.  Usually, they're so well seasoned that when Mike makes his cherry chocolate surprise, it doesn't stick at all.  I have to try to season them while Nick is out of the house because the smoke from having just the right amount of heat on the oil bothers his asthma. 

I hate to tell that boy, but his asthma is going to keep him out of the military.  He'll need to be free of his inhaler by the time he's 14 for them to take him.  Still, I can tell him that his grandpa worked for the Navy without ever enlisting, that his grandpa designed weapons.  Nick has a notebook devoted to the weapons he's designed.  His grandpa would be proud.  My dad was in the ROTC, but never enlisted.  He worked for the Navy, but never had a rank, unless you count GS-13.  It's funny that a kid can listen to little details like this and remember them forty-four years later.  I sometimes wondered if my dad had wanted to be in the military.  I know he wanted to be an astronaut because he looked up the requirements and discussed them with my mother.  She wasn't going to move away from her parents.  She was adamant.  He didn't say any more about it, but I could tell he was sad, that this exciting time in NASA's history was going to leapfrog over him if he didn't move quickly. 

He wouldn't have had a chance.  It wasn't long after that discussion that my dad found out he had cancer.  It was a very dark time in my childhood.  Mostly, I was expected to act as though I didn't know he could die and to continue as if nothing was happening at school.  I remember looking around at my classmates one particularly difficult day and feeling as if all of these people were strangers, like I'd landed here from another planet and only just looked like a human being. 

Oh, I know I'll have to write about those long and difficult days some time, but not just now.  I'll have to gird my loins before I'm ready for that.  I'll really have to clear a wide path before I can begin to write about those days. 

I found out today, that a childhood friend died on Sunday.  Oh, I won't tell you her name because I'd hate for anyone from her family to find this chatter in their grief over losing her.  She was a year older than I am and grew up in the house next to mine.  Her dad, a mechanical engineer, also worked for the Navy.  Our whole street was populated with men who carpooled together to the base every morning and designed weapons in secret.  My friend was a sweet girl, though she always made it clear that she was the boss because she was a whole year older than her little sister and I.  That year used to make so much difference back then and it's so irrelevant to me and my friends now.  I have friends who are twelve years younger and other friends who are ten years older than I am. 

My friend was always there when we were playing on our bikes, when we jumped rope, when we climbed trees in the back woods.  Even as a kid, she was a capable person, knowing just what to do when her sister jumped out of the tree and broke her leg.  She sent my brother to get her dad and held her crying sisters in her arms until he arrived to carry the poor girl away.  I just stood there with my head hanging, as if he was going to take the time to yell at me because of what we had been doing.  My friend was quick to laugh and quick to hug and that's what we did the last time I saw her about ten years ago, before her father moved out of the old house.  Her only son is twenty, too young to be losing his mother.  I pray he can find solace.

That's all I can think of, that he'll be able to find peace, that his dad will help him through, that they will really be together in their grief instead of separated the way it is when so many people grieve, the way it was for me, alone in my own deep well of pain.  I know that grief is always personal, but some families manage to support each other.  I pray that my friend's boy can find that kind of support.

I needed that quiet day today. 

Thank you for listening, jb

No comments:

Post a Comment