Heroes of the Heart

In 1942, no one instantly became a hero simply by enlisting. Everybody signed up, if they could. Heroes were people who did something selfless and extraordinary under extreme circumstances. Often they died and were declared heroes posthumously. Sometimes they survived to collect their medals, and became heroes quietly. Like my Dad.

96th Infantry Division (“Deadeye Division”), 382nd Infantry Regiment. Battles of Leyte and Okinawa. Wounded twice. Survived, came home in 1945, lost two front teeth in a bar fight with a Marine in San Diego, fresh off the transport. Went to college on the GI bill, then law school, and worked his way across the Atlantic on ships each summer, to drink wine, eat bread and dream in French, back when the French actually liked Americans. Graduated 1952, married Mom in 1954 and provided for her, my brothers and me. Died in 2003, age 78.

Dad carried the trauma of war with him for 58 years – dampened, but not obliterated, by as much scotch as he could absorb each evening before shuffling off to bed. But he had already been traumatized before the war. His mother committed suicide when he was 12; after the war, his eldest brother also took his own life. A few decades later, his younger brother died at just 50. How much can one man take?

A lot, it seems. Endurance is a type of heroism. “Soldiering on.”

I’m stumped that I can’t find that picture of Dad in his army uniform, at 17, in 1942. I loved that picture. I don’t know if he lied about his age, but he joined up and set off for war, and they let him.

Here’s another picture of him from around then, jamming on the drums, before he went for training (which included Army Ranger training, when he was required to jump off a pier in San Diego, about 40 feet above the ocean):

Dad drumming

Mom was a hero in her way, too. She quit her job at the peak of her nursing career to raise my brothers and me, in the 1950s style, staying home while Dad went to the office. I know she felt thwarted in some way. She found outlets in volunteer work. Dad wasn’t easy to live with at times, and we kids weren’t appreciative enough of Mom. She was hypercritical of me, I thought. But in this, my “third quarter” of life, I find that I understand her better. I get it, now, Mom.

Mom's Nurse Photo B&W scanned as color

I hadn’t cried in a while, about my parents or about my late husband Mike. But yesterday morning, listening to some random playlist while paying bills or keeping ledgers or whatever I was doing, I heard Eva Cassidy’s version of Sting’s “Fields of Gold.”

Mike liked Sting, and he and Angelic Daughter kept a CD with that song on it among their collection in the car, to listen to as they drove around, running errands. Something about Cassidy’s version went straight to the hurt and the loss and the missing him, to the regrets and the inadequate, unfinished apologies, the time wasted in anger and blame, and the shock at the magnitude of the loss, even when I knew it was coming.

I went to find that picture of Dad (not there) and picked up one of Mike instead. I noticed tears dropping off, around me, when I blinked, instead of running down my cheeks. Mike faced his illness bravely, trying to stay with us, and calmly accepted hospice when the time came. Another kind of heroism.

I haven’t posted a picture of Mike here – some idea of privacy, or just grief, not being ready to share this picture that I love so much. But yesterday I realized it’s time. I’ve written so much about him, it’s only fair you should see what a beautiful, vital man he was (cola and poetry on my parent’s back deck):

Favorite photo of Mike

I’m grateful for this private Memorial Day 2020. No parades, no loud barbecues, no toy soldiers flapping flags while swilling beer, to “honor” those who actually serve, or those who, like my Dad, personally experienced the horrors of war. In the midst of massive and incomprehensible loss, numb shock, ongoing uncertainty, isolation and loneliness (front page, NYT today – 100,000 dead from the pandemic in the US alone, and counting) I cope by retreating to my personal, familiar grief, letting the tears come, remembering Dad, Mom, and Mike.

Both Dad and Mike made pancakes on occasionally on weekends. They were much better at making them than me. I wanted to make pancakes for Angelic Daughter today, but discovered we’re out of syrup.

She didn’t really want them, anyway. When I asked her what she wanted to do today, she listed several options, and then chose, “talk to Mom.”

Remembering those now walking in Elysian fields of gold, I remain, your grieving, grateful,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

Let Me Entertain You

I like the blogs I like because they give me something: good writing, a laugh, or a glimpse of an engaging personality.  I like some of them because they make me “feel the feels,” as some in the writing community seem fond of saying.

I’m getting that “what have I done for you lately” feeling about this blog again. Unless I’m sure the writing is good enough, and the feeling of the feels will be carthartic enough, I’m going to pause the whinging about loneliness and isolation. No one wants to hear that crap from a woman who is safely sheltered with a roof over her head, a job, a full fridge and the company of an Angelic Daughter. Instead I’m determined to try to give you something, at least one of those things I listed, with every post.

After my Cryin’ Songs, I promised you a more upbeat playlist. So here’s Ridiculouswoman’s Bungee Chair Bouncing Playlist intended to provide a boost of energy and even silliness when 2 p.m. rolls around and you just want to fall off your bouncy bungee cord desk chair and take a nap, but you still have two hours of work to do. If the link doesn’t work I think you can just search for it by name. The embed code doesn’t seem to be working or I’m just not a good enough coder to make it work, but whatever. You’ll find the playlist if you want it.

I also updated 27 Things with 27 observations about things that changed because of , well, because of all this, that I don’t expect to change back after. And I believe in an after – there was some very preliminary, but hopeful, news this week, and I’m choosing to stay on the “look for the silver lining” side of things.

Suggestions for additional songs for the playlist are welcome. I’d love to hear from you about the music that keeps you going.

Until then, I remain,

Your bungee-chair-bouncing, foxes-in-the-backyard-watching, gleefully-overhearing-Angelic-Daughter-reading (I knew if she got bored enough she’d finally realize that there is always a friend in a book!), and very, very grateful,

Ridiculouswoman

The Isolation Age: Jackpot Edition

There are days where things just go right.  Days of success and hope, little triumphs, unexpected discoveries, and gentle joy.

Saturday, charged the battery and assembled my new cordless electric mower (easy, just had to attach the handle), read the manual, and shaved the lawn. The battery made it all around my third of an acre, with power to spare. Good workout, too, pushing and pivoting the thing. Walked the machine back into the garage, and spent a good ten minutes deciding how I’d store the battery until next time. Then I retired to the deck to admire my work:

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Somewhere deep in the night of Mother’s Day morning, I woke up with the cold certainty that I couldn’t remember where I put the mower key. It’s a safety device, and I can’t start the mower without it.  In all my fussing over the battery, I forgot what I did with the key.

Between preparing the computer for online church Sunday morning and ransacking the garage, I confirmed that the key was no place I thought I had put it, or anywhere I might rationally have put it.

Gone.

DAAAAAAAMMMMIIIIIIIIIT! ONE MOWING AND YOU LOSE THE KEY? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, ANNIE? HOW COULD YOU DO SOMETHING MONUMENTALLY STUUUUUPPPIIIIDDD!!!! (scream, stomp, howl, etc.)

After emptying my tool bag and rearranging my drill carrier bag and sorting through three plastic storage boxes of wrenches, screwdrivers and consolidated “random fastener crap,” I ended my tantrum and resolved to be an adult about it. I’d just call for a replacement.

Called the number in the manual early this morning. The recorded message asked for my patience due to the current situation and told me to call back in three business days. Then it hung up on me.

DAAAAAAAMMMMMMMIIIIIIT!

OK get a grip, Annie. I am stupid lucky enough to have a job, which requires clocking in and performing 8 hours of good honest work, which I am happy and grateful to do. But I knew I would never settle down until I found that key, and I was still SURE that it was in the garage somewhere.  So, during one of my two permitted 15 minute breaks, I backed the car out of the garage, took one more pass through my newly organized random fastener crap basket, and my plastic box of more wrenches than my child-sized hands will ever be strong enough to wield, to no avail.

Admitting defeat and humbly resolved to wait for three business days, I walked out to pull the car back into the garage. On the way, I glanced at the mower, sitting there, all cobalt blue and keyless.

And I saw a glimmer of yellow plastic on the floor underneath it.

I swear I rolled that mower back and forth twenty times on Sunday, but now, today, there it was, peeking out from under it – the KEY! FOUND IT!!

Gleeful and relieved, I put the key on my keychain and went back to the computer to participate in the morning video meetup.

Just as it was ending, a red fox trotted by the window, stopped, and looked right at me.  I turned the laptop to point the webcam at him to show my colleagues. He plunked himself down under the same tree the rabbits live (lived?) under, and took a long nap. When he emerged, he took some time for a good scratch, and with very little concern about my vocal “encouragement” to depart, trotted slowly off.

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I finished work, logged off on time, and headed downstairs for my low impact YouTube cardio exercise session, with the cheerful and oddly motivating English guy.  The routine includes a few rounds of uppercuts and straight punches that allow my imagination to supply a full-on catharsis. I get sweaty and happy and invigorated, and I feel good.

On a quick pre-workout stop to replenish the under-sink cabinet in the basement bathroom with the cheap TP that is so flimsy it actually stays stocked on the grocery shelf above the “no limit” sign, I find … DISINFECTANT WIPES. A new, unopened cylinder of disinfectant wipes.

JACKPOT!!!!! I had forgotten about them – had no idea they were there! They are now hidden where Angelic Daughter, who loves nothing more than to be helpful, won’t find them and use them all up in a day (I hope.)

What a bizarre but amazing age we live in, when a roll of chemical-soaked cloths could bring such a feeling of elation.

And a red fox can look you in right in the face, settle in for a nap, and take his own sweet, nonchalant time scratching, before skipping slowly away.

Hoping you’ll find your own forgotten stash of something once mundane but now precious, I remain,

Your lawn-mowing, aerobicizing, imaginary-punch-throwing and merrily-doorknob disinfecting,

Ridiculouswoman