24 September 2007

Lone Soldier

Over the course of the weekend, there was a singular death of an American troop in Afghanistan.

In consideration of the lives that have been lost since the "war on terror" began, a small number. In reality, much, much more than that.

I didn't hear of this death as I usually do, half-listening to CNN, my emotions numbed to the reality of what each loss means. I heard of this death from my sister, who called me at 12:48 a.m. this morning. She paused before she spoke, which made my heart leap.

"We got a bad phone call." I sat up straight in bed as I listened to her faltering voice.

"Why?" I had questioned, "Tell me."

"Because M was killed."

I listened to her crying, and we sat whispering in the dark, speaking in hushed tones of the horror of it; the car pulling up the driveway, (did his parents hear it approaching and know what would follow?) the knocking, the hesitancy with which they probably opened the door, at that hour, the most likely instantaneous realization of what those men standing in front of them meant. The rate at which your world could crash around you.

I thought of my nephew, how inconsolable I would be were this fate his. I thought of my children, how I was unsure if I could move on, having to say goodbye to them, having to think of how they died, having to wonder what it was for.

I've used my blog to speak of how I feel of this war; to mock the president with FARK headlines and dictionary definitions, a counter of the costs of this war keeping a running tally of the fiscal expenses. Those expressions seem trite and small now.

It's one thing to speak of it from a distanced space, it's something different to speak of it while imagining the gravel crunching under the feet of the men knocking on your door to tell you your son is dead, imagining your phone ringing to make you aware that the child you held and boy you played with is no more.

The ripple effect of his death will exist forever; multiply that by all the others lost, and what is that number? I don't know the exact answer, but I do know that it adds up to all of us.

Godspeed M.

22 September 2007

In Memoriam

I met him fourteen years ago, and loved him the moment I saw him.

He had big brown eyes (I'm not the kind of girl that falls for the blue eyed type), a great personality and an open heart. It was love at first sight, and ultimately he was a better soul than I, for he continued to love me completely and with abandon every moment that he knew me, even on the days that I was utterly undeserving.

While he loved me so deeply, his soul belonged to a different girl. A beautiful blond, with brown eyes that lead right to her soul. He slept up against her each night, their two bodies melding into one. As they aged, he became her eyes and ears, her signal to walk a certain direction or to come to greet me for treats. A beautiful girl who won't quit pacing right now, wanting in and wanting out, feebly trying to find the spot where she's certain he must be; her body jumping each time I touch her, her eyes squinting to see what she won't again. She's not known a world without him; I cannot imagine how frightening and lonely it must be.

He wasn't the smartest canine, but he made up for it in affection. In complete opposition to his wolf-like stature, his heart was one of the softest I've known. Only once did I ever see him bare his teeth, at my sister A when she came tearing up the stairs, yelling about something she was excited about. "He was going to attack me," she panted and I laughed at the absurdity of the comment until he showed his teeth to her again, this time, I'm certain, for my pleasure only.

During the course of one summer, he got into eight porcupines. Eight. (You can do the math on eight emergency trips to the vet). The final trip came after I rigged him up a run since I couldn't trust him to be alone in the yard. I came home that night, and he was pawing at his mouth. When I walked up to him, first I saw the porcupine lying there, then his mouth full of quills. "Simba, you actually met an animal dumber than you", I said as he hopped into the car, taking his seat on the passenger side, sticking his head out the window, probably dreaming of the buzz he was about to get from the pain killers.

Yesterday was the last day that he got into my car. I had to put his front paws in, then lift up the back side of him. He laid down and showed no interest in the window or the view outside of it. He walked slowly into the office, not offering a wagging tail as he usually did, gingerly stepping aside from the puppies straining to reach him from their leashes.

The vet was kind and considerate and tried to offer comfort to the best of his ability. I'd imagine it's very difficult to know what to do or say to a woman kneeling on the floor in the exam room, sobbing, rather wailing, and rocking her dog for the last time.

When he walked out to give us a few final moments, Simba's breathing was shallow. "Please quit breathing right now, please quit breathing right now, please quit breathing right now", I kept whispering. Anything to let the final decision not be from my hands, but of course it didn't work out that way.

He didn't even pick up his head when the needle was inserted into him. "I love you Simbers, Jessie loves you Simbers. I'm sorry, Simba." I watched his eyes as I held his face, hoping he could see and know how much I loved him, hoping that his last thoughts were of love and devotion.

I drove him to my sister's, where she waited to take him to the first home he knew, my parents. The home where my dad had spent part of his day preparing Simba's grave, near the stream and pond in the woods where he had once lapped water and laid lazily in the shade of the trees. They put him to rest there, my sister placing the picture of Jessie on his heart, where it will remain with part of my broken heart always.

Godspeed, Simba.

19 September 2007

If I Could

If I could, I'd take this load from your arms, and I'd carry it myself.

If I could, I'd take the whispers and nods and little glances of the eyes and make them directed at me.

If I could, I'd take this world and turn it back; back to the day of two girls playing in a bedroom, sharing secrets in the dark, holding hands when they walked, faces to the sun, running full-speed into the icy waters of Lake Michigan, never once hesitating.

If I could, I'd make it all alright. I'd take the ache in your heart and put it in mine, and fill yours with light and laughter.

If I could, I'd take the breaths for you that sometimes feel too overwhelming to take.

If I could, I'd walk in your shoes while you rested your feet in the sands of a secluded beach, listening to the Counting Crows, drinking in sunshine and peace.

If I could tell you how much I love you in words, I'd need to create new ones.

So many things, if I could, I would give you.

All those intentions are there, in the hand that is always holding yours, no matter the miles between.

06 September 2007

Death By Pixie Dust

If you were standing here, looking upon this scene, your head leaning against the door frame to the left, you could probably see it.

The moment, right there, where childhood, so sweet and innocent, slipped away and left me standing, eyes wide open, mind reeling, "No."

With a single sound, the sound of two silver coins being collected into Big A's hands, there, in front of my eyes, childhood moved along to what lies beyond it, without so much as a warning or goodbye to me.

It slipped away, at 3:47 a.m., drifting into the breeze of tomorrow, pixie dust and my tears falling like shooting stars in its wake.

When Big A sheepishly came down the stairs, I asked her if she wanted to talk about it.

"So you were awake the entire time?" I asked her.


"Why didn't you say something?"

"I don't know. Because I was wondering. I kind of thought that it wasn't real, but I just wanted to make sure."

And her last letter from the Tooth Fairy, left lying on the floor, a scrap, a remnant, a reminder of what won't be again.

It didn't end there, though, what slipped beyond in that doorway.

"So, I need to ask you something else."


"Santa Claus. Is he real?"


"Well, you know, there are a lot of people that dress like Santa, because obviously, Santa can't be everywhere..."

"Mom. Do you believe that one man gets in a sled on Christmas Eve and goes to every house in the world? And I want you to tell me the truth. Not some white lie."

"I believe in the spirit of Santa."

"Do. You. Believe. Santa. Is. A. Man. That. Is. Alive?"

"I believe that, yes, there might be a Santa. He might not go to every single house, but who's to say that there isn't something magic out there that shows up to the people that need it most?"

She looked at me, head tilted, drinking me in, I suppose, my tears and faults and wondering how she gets stuck with a mom that cries over someone that isn't even real.

"OK. I guess I believe in that, too. But I don't believe in him like I used to."

"And mom, one more thing. Christmas Eve. Are you the one that buys the presents from Santa?"

And there, in front of me: Snow falling, church bells ringing, "Silent Night" sung sweetly in the accent of my Grandfather's tongue, children racing into my grandparents house, siblings and cousins sliding on the snow in our best shoes, into the house where Santa would soon arrive, calling us each by name, giving us each a gift. Photo albums becoming full with the passing of time, each Christmas Eve and each child, on Santa's lap.

And there, in front of me: Me, buying my first gift from Santa for my own child, my own baby sitting on Santa's lap, "Silent Night" bringing me to tears, snow falling, children racing into my grandparents house, Santa calling them by name, this new generation, these wide-eyed creatures who still believed, who couldn't sleep from the excitement, who couldn't wait to sit on Santa's lap.

And there, in front of me: What I already know, what I've tried not to know, what I'll be thinking of this Christmas Eve, her first when she is certain that some things don't exist: Time, standing in front of me, always, always in front of me, leaving me behind, handful of pixie dust and heart full of unicorns and a Santa that is real.

04 September 2007

Tooth Fairies and Pixie Dust

Big A lost a tooth tonight.

Not a milestone of gigantic proportions, to be certain. Not her first, not her last, but this one, this one was tricky.

For the last tooth she lost was a couple of years ago. And back then, the Tooth Fairy came sweeping through her window at night, leaving behind pixie dust and letters written in the colors of the rainbow. Back then, Big A definitely believed in magic and fairies and pixie dust.

We all know what can happen to some beliefs over the period of time, within the passing of hours, and weeks, within moments and months, let alone the period of two years. And let's not forget, Big A isn't your average nine year old. She's nine, going on older and wiser than me.

I sent a text to her dad, "What do we do"? And when he didn't respond in the time I deemed appropriate, which was about, oh, 19 seconds, I decided to veer out on my own.

"Huh, I wonder if the Tooth Fairy knows that we moved"? So tricky, this humble servant.

"Um, probably, since people move all. the. time". Eyebrow raised, probably wondering how the hell she got so smart coming from my womb.

"Mom, I do wonder something though". My heart swooping, I was careful to turn and look into the cupboard, busying my face so that she couldn't watch it fall.

"If I don't write a letter to the Tooth Fairy, do you think they'll still write one to me"?

"Probably, Big A. I mean, who knows, she might be really busy now, but I'm sure she probably will."

"Why do you think it's a She?"


"Why do you think it's a She? I mean, it could be a He, right?" Her smart ass grin lingering, clearly enjoying posing a question I'd never thought of.

I looked at her for a few seconds, and then said, "I don't know. Maybe."

She smirked and flounced up the stairs to the shower while I wrote a few letters from the Tooth Fairy to Big A in my mind:

Dear Big A,

Seriously? You thought I could be a man? Do you know any men that know where Jo Ann Fabrics is located? Let alone where the hell the pixie dust is located within that store?

Jesus. Here's your dollar. If you're going to spend it all in one spot, may I suggest it be on helping to pay for the removal of the dagger from my heart.

The Tooth Fairy


Dear Big A,

A Man? You thought I could be a man? Hello? Your letters have been laced with ribbon and painted with glitter, on painfully chosen paper, not grease stained from hot dogs and bearing rings from beer bottles, scribbled on the back of fast food bags.

And I didn't sign them, "Go Team".

And they were written in pastel. In calligraphy.

You're smart, you can do the math.

Love (grudgingly),
The Tooth Fairy


And here is the note that Big A will actually be getting:

Dear Big A,

Wow! I haven't collected one of your teeth in a long time! It took me a minute to find your new house, but I'm so glad that I did.

You're getting so big I can hardly believe it. I bet a lot of things have changed for you since I last saw you sleeping. Not much has changed for me, except now I'm using a computer to type my letters instead of writing them all by hand. I can't believe how much time it saves!

Remember that tooth that you lost playing soccer? I still have that one on a special shelf. There were three other kids since you that lost them during a soccer game, so their teeth are up there, too.

And now you've lost a tooth on the first day of the Fourth Grade, and on the same day that you finally got your back hand-spring. I don't think there will be many other kids that will have a tooth on that shelf.

It was good to see you again, Big A. I'm sure I'll be back soon~you're getting to the point of losing a few more teeth.

And, just so that you know, I love how smart and funny you are~but I really hope you were just giving your mom a hard time when you asked her if I was a boy. You didn't really think that I could be a boy, right?

I mean, how many boys do you know that wear skirts and carry pixie dust and sparkling wands?

The Tooth Fairy


What can I say? I'm a Servant, not a Saint.