What I Know for Certain~

But don’t you want to be happy? Don’t you owe it to your kids to remember you as happy? Life is supposed to be happy. Maybe you’re depressed. Don’t you want to be happy?
If you’re a widow/er, then you’ve heard the same questions and comments. I know you have. Or, if you’re public about your grief, as I am, you hear it from the general public. Less frequently, possibly, as the years pass. But you hear it. Such comments were more prominent somewhere in the second half of my 3rd year. Apparently, if one is still grieving in the 3rd year, bells of doubt start ringing in the minds of those around you, whispering words like depression complicated grief not moving on not getting on with it medications therapy etc…
I’m embarrassed to admit that, upon hearing these comments (and let’s be honest, it’s thinly veiled criticism because it comes across exactly as it sounds: a judgement, as if I’m doing something wrong), I initially and inevitably ended up defending myself, and trying to explain myself, even as I knew I had no reason to defend myself. But those words made me feel defensive and attacked. So, I defended.
No longer. No. Longer.
Guess what? I’m perfectly content with my legacy. If I were to die right now, this fucking minute, I’d have zero regrets. None. Nada. Zero.
And I owe my kids nothing, because they already have all the Love in the world from me.
I know exactly how my kids will remember me and I know what my kids will remember about me. Whether I die today, or tomorrow or years from now.
Our mom was THE most kickass mom ever. She and pop had a Love story for the ages. They sold everything and traveled the country together and remember when we’d call them up we’d ask them where are you now? She nursed him with so much Love through his first cancer and they kept on traveling and when the cancer came back, she did it all again, and bigger. She ensured that all of us had one on one time with him in hospice and she honored and supported us through our own grief, even as she grieved. She bought a trailer after he died and painted it and her car pink and she dressed in pink and she drove all over the entire fucking country, honoring him and their Love and connecting with people everywhere. She was a connector. She inspired people. She was colorful and crazy and she was the Love Warrior and a Fucking Warrior Goddess and she did all that while she was grieving because she loved pop so much and her life felt empty without him and she fucking did it all anyways. She left an example to all of us and to her grandkids about determination and grit and Love. She cried and she laughed and none of it meant anything and all of it meant everything and she lived when she didn’t want to live and she talked to us honestly about the impact of his death on her and she loved hard because Love was all that was left amid the ashes of her life when pop died. She was unapologetic about her grief and her Love and she lived in spite of it and with it. And we are proud of who she was and what she was because she was real and being real was all that mattered. She was a Fucking Warrior Goddess.
No. I have no qualms about the memories I’ll leave behind for my kids, or for anyone else who might remember me.
My epitaph will read Here lies a woman who lived the duality of Love and Grief, who made everything around her shimmer and sparkle with Love, with a shattered heart, and she did it all in pink. She was a Fucking Warrior Goddess.

Honor Flight/DC arrival moments~

….As my dad was winging his way to BWI in Maryland, from Colorado, Handsome Husband and I arrived at the Hilton, where we, and the veterans, would stay overnight.  My excitement level was building, the butterflies in my stomach fluttering-I hadn’t seen my dad in three years, so I knew that was going to be emotional and add into the mix all the sights and sounds that would be experienced during this too quick 24 hours, and, well, you catch my drift!

We changed so as to be ready for the banquet that evening, and waited by the huge windows that gave us a view of the road, so that we could see the approaching buses.  I watched as a huge truck backed up and hundreds of overnight bags belonging to the veterans were offloaded.

Several young men and women arrived, smartly turned out in uniforms from each of the military branches.  This would be the Honor Guard for the evenings’ festivities.

I didn’t want to miss anything-the colors, the energy, any part of the arrival, so Handsome Husband and I went outside to the main doors.  Oh, the anticipation was building, as I watched the various hotel employees, dressed out in suits, position themselves outside.  The buses must be close, I thought.  And a thrill just ran through me, folks, at the very idea of being a part of this!  And then, yep!  There was the first bus, rounding the corner!

I had no clue which bus my dad might be on, so I tried to watch closely as the passengers stepped off.  And, as I watched, I had a thought about just what this entire weekend was for-it was the recognition and welcome home that these military people had never gotten.  I wanted to do some gesture to add to that.  But in order to do that, I had to step outside my comfort zone.  Let me pause here to acknowledge that, for those of you who know me, you might be surprised, if not shocked, to find out that I am, in many ways, at heart, a shy person.  My outgoing personality has been hard won, and is authentic now, but even I must push past my fears at times, and this was one of those times, in order to make it the experience I hoped it to be.  I called to mind what Eleanor Roosevelt once said, that “every day, you must confront that one thing that you fear the most”.  So, as the veterans debarked, I went to stand where they would have to pass me,

and as each one passed me by, I made eye contact with them, held out my hand to shake theirs, and said “Welcome home.  I’m so glad you’re here”.  And they smiled so broadly, and I knew that what I was doing was a good thing.

It was beautiful.  It was thrilling.  The energy was tangible.  And it was only minutes before I saw my dad.

You know what I find interesting?  I’m pretty much okay with farewells-there might be a few tears, but then I’m up and running with anticipation about what’s around the corner.  Its when I greet people for the first time, after a long absence, that my waterworks get going, and that’s exactly what happened when my dad reached me.  I hugged him, he hugged me, and I burst into tears.  He had tears too, (though he might deny it).  It was so good to see him, and to see him here, participating in this.

My dad’s a West Pointer.  It wasn’t long after he graduated that he was sent over to Korea.  After serving his time over there, he was put aboard a ship that docked in Hawaii, and that was the first time he was able to contact my mom in the US to tell her he was on his way home. It took him thirty days to travel from Korea to San Francisco.  Like so many others in that war, and in WW2, he came home alone, not with his unit.  There was nobody to greet these men and women, nobody to say thank you for serving our country, nobody to acknowledge their life-changing experience.  They got off the plane or the ship, found their way home, found a job, started their families, and went on with their lives.  In their souls, they held the nightmares and pain of what they had seen and done.  Now that the veterans of these wars are aged, and dying, those memories are surfacing.  The words are being spoken.  This is what they had to do.  This is what they saw.  I  believe so strongly that we need to bear witness to them, to their stories.  This Honor Flight weekend with my dad, with Handsome Husband, (himself an Air Force veteran), maybe I could do my part, maybe I could be part, of the healing.  So….I put out my hand to them.  And  started the most beautiful 24 hours of my life~

Meet my dad moments~

Father’s day.  It just doesn’t seem to receive the same massive hallmark outpouring as Mother’s day.  And yet, contrary to what media has tried to tell us these past decades, dad’s can be pretty important to a child’s development.

So, I thought I’d introduce you to my dad, the man who played a very important part of shaping who I am as a woman today. ( And I know you all think I’m pretty damn amazing, so there you go.)

Stuart Livingstone Miller.  There is some disagreement as to whether that  “e” ought to be at the end of his 2nd name.  New Englander born and raised.  Massachusetts born.

                                           Then raised in this house in Portland, Maine

When he grew up, he went to West Point Military Academy, where he met my mom, Betty Catharine, who was a nurse in NYC.   Upon his graduation, they were married at the chapel at West Point, crossed swords and all.

They honeymooned at that most popular destination, Niagara Falls, NY.

  His country called, and he deployed to the war zone in Korea, where, on his first day of duty, taking over command from David Hackworth, he was called upon to negotiate a hostage release with a soldier who just couldn’t deal with the battle stress any longer, and was holding a gun to the head of a fellow GI. My dad traded places with him and talked the guy down.

When he returned from Korea, on a troop ship, he and my mom set to work on growing their family. And, over the span of 18 years, they had, yes, they had EIGHT kids!

He served his country proudly, rotating overseas to Germany to participate in the Berlin air drop, plus two other times there in various locales.  I remember one of our tours in Germany when the 6 Day war happened, between Israel, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.  I’d come home from school never knowing if my dad would be home or be gone.  Tense time, even at my young age.

                                           He spent 6 months over in Turkey, on a solitary tour.

He spent 20 years in the Army, and retired as a Lt Colonel.  At the end of his career, he had the choice of either going to Vietnam or retiring.  You do the math.  Eight dependents, nine counting my mom (though she hated that term, as do I!) Already 24 years of service, constantly traveling with the military-he retired honorably.

My mom and dad divorced-no surprise there.  He lives out west in Colorado now, remarried.  I’ve seen him a couple of times as we’ve traveled as Happily Homeless, and we’ll be visiting him again in the fall on our way out West.  I’m so looking forward to seeing him.  He’s got a great sense of humor, and he passed that along to me.  I have funny memories of childhood Halloweens with him scaring the neighbor kids.  When I was 10 I discovered my Scottish roots and went nuts for it.  My dad was my compatriot throughout my high school years as I attended Scottish festivals to soak in the excitement of bagpipes and dancers.  After my trip to Scotland when I was 16, where I purchased a can of haggis-yes, it comes in cans apparently-I gave it to him as a gift.  My next birthday I got it back from him, wrapped.  And I sent it again to him for Christmas.  We sent it back and forth for years, until one year we didn’t.  Somewhere, that can of haggis still exists.  Probably ready to explode at this point!

My dad is a decent man.  He doesn’t think his life has amounted to much.  I disagree.  Yeah, he isn’t famous, but he matters.   My siblings and I aren’t particularly close, some of us, and we’ve had to do some healing work along the way, but we’re all strong, intelligent adults, and we’re raising strong kids.  He’s a good man, and I called him today to make sure he knows I think so.   And that I love him.  He’s my dad.

Back in the saddle moments..

Yippee-ki-yay and all that-we’re back in the saddle again, which is to say Happily Homeless is on the road again!! Can you tell I’m excited?  Its been a couple weeks now-we hightailed it out of NJ as expected-dr appt in Philly, and awaaaay we, well, a week or so has passed, so, away we went!  Being on the PA turnpike doesn’t truly qualify as traveling for me-the road has ruts in it from the numerous times we’ve trekked our way out to Indiana.  But what did give me the possibility of a thrill was that we were going to continue west as soon as we did our time there!  We spent the first night on the road in Pittsburgh, at an Air Reserve Base-how beyond lovely to have a comfy bed again (as opposed to a 50+ year old fold out sofa…) Our week in Indiana is a posting all by itself, which I assure you will be written forthwith, and then it was nothing but road as our Ford Escape made tracks to Springfield Illinois and Lincoln country.

What an experience it was, visiting Abe Lincoln’s tomb-my reaction took me unawares.  His tomb lies at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, which is a beautiful place in its’ own right.  The outside of the tomb-impressive.  Walk inside-gorgeous marble walls, and be greeted by a smaller version of the statue that graces our capitol in DC.  Start your walk through a circular corridor, marveling at sculptures depicting Lincoln at various stages of his life, and then, step into the quiet of the room and be confronted with a crypt bearing his name.  I felt like I’d been sucker punched, and the tears were immediate.  I’m not sure why.  Yes, I’ve read about him in history, yes, I admire him, but, wow, being in the presence of his tomb, making him so very real…it was an awesome moment, as so many of my moments have been in the last two years.   It made him seem so real all of a sudden.  If you’re ever in the area, go there.
     From Abe country, we really, really started heading west, as we traveled through Missouri and passed through Mark Twain country.  We didn’t stop, though I’d like to return at a future time.  Always have loved Twain’s humor!  This is Pony Express country-where those brave (or nuts) young men of old spurred  their ponies to deliver the mail throughout the West, and there are statues aplenty to remind you that, at an early point in our history, sleet and rain and snow were the least of their problems in delivering the mail!  Can you imagine being on a horse, a galloping horse, for the hours they had to pull? (10 hours in the saddle, day and night, for $25.00/week).  No unions then for protection and workers’ rights!  Weather, hostiles, unmapped territories-we had some tough people back then!
We’ve stayed off the beaten track as often as we could, as usual-that’s what allows us to really see this country.  As we were moseying along, we opened up the sunroof and overhead was the sight I’ve been dreaming of since last January when the fucking cancer made itself known-nothing but blue, blue,  puffy clouded, wide-open skies of the West! Oh, the joy, joy, joy!!!

Over the high plains of Kansas we meandered, seeing nothing but the amber waves of grain we sing about, standing in appreciation but not a lot of awe at the highest point in Kansas (4,039 feet). The owners approach the entire idea with a great sense of humor-fun to visit!  And, when you’re making hotel reservations on the internet, you never really can tell how honest they’re being with their pictures, so let’s just leave it at that as far as our stay at the Days Inn in Goodland, Kansas.  Bad review on their site upcoming…

And then onward wagons! to Colorado-past the stinking to high heavens (as my mom would say) stockyards of the eastern part of that state, to the beauty of Rocky Nat’l Park and Estes Park near Ft Collins and a visit with my dad (who has a really good, if cheesy, sense of humor), and a drive south that brought us to Pueblo, CO (no need to stay here, though I did see a magazine that says 4 medal of honor awardees are from here).  Today, we’re pointing our car in the direction of Alamosa, and the Great Sand Dunes tomorrow.  We were there last year, and it ranks as one of our favorite places.  It is also the place that brings my brother Kysa to mind, and I’ll be scattering the “remains of his cremains” while there.  He’s been a very quiet passenger in the side compartment of the door, but I think he’s ready, and I am too…

Handsome Husband continues to heal.  He has been using frankincense oil on the surgical site on his upper thigh, and it has helped tremendously-hooray for natural remedies! And I haven’t had to employ any Rescue Remedy since NJ-no more anxiety attacks, blah, blah, blah-now that Cancer Boy is cancer-free!  And he’s just back to being plain ol’ D-and I love that!! So, all you peeps out there in America, keep your eyes peeled to the road-Happily Homeless may just show up where you are!!