September Remembering~

My body felt September 11 approaching, even before my mind became aware of it.
This morning, September 11, I woke up and could feel the nerves edging along my skin. The feeling only intensified as I watched snippets of remembrances on TV.
Why, you might ask, would I put myself through watching something more when my heart was already hurting?
To bear witness, quite simply. It’s my tribute to those who died on that day, 17 years ago. If they could bear to go through what they went through, I can bear to watch it and honor them.
This day of remembrance is a day that hits so hard, personally. Nobody I know died that day, but Chuck and I were living in south Jersey, just a little over an hour away from NYC. He was working at McGuire AFB and, as I watched the news, it seemed as if the base might be another target. Nobody was allowed on or off the base and no phone calls, so I couldn’t reach him.
He finally walked in the door around midnight.
My sense of safety in the world, since Chuck died, is gone.
We would speak of that day, often, in the years afterwards, especially when we were flying somewhere to visit family, or when he flew on business.
Chuck was adamant that if terrorists were to take over a flight he was on, he needed me to know that he would fight back. Of course you would, I’d tell him. And if I’m on the flight with you, I’d be right beside you.
He was at my side, and I was at his, through thick and thin. He’d been a safety officer while active duty, and would go over What If scenarios with me regularly. As in…if this bad thing were to happen to you, how would you react? How would you get out of that bad situation? Put a plan in place in your mind. Plant it there, so that you react out of muscle memory, rather than freezing and not responding. Learn how to save your own life. Or, at least, give it your best shot.
I felt so safe with Chuck at my side. Yes, I still go over scenarios in my mind, training my muscle memory. Yes, I keep a go bag at the ready, in case of…I don’t know…all the unexpected shit that can happen in life.
I was as prepared as I could be for his death 5 years ago. Because my career was hospice, death was a familiar topic at our dinner table and anywhere else. We didn’t shy away from it. We’d spoken about our wishes long before his first cancer, and I’d written it all down in a notebook. You know, what kind of service, life insurance, imagined scenarios for me.
Somehow, even as we spoke about the possibility of me surviving him, the word widow never entered the conversation. He’d be dead and I’d be on my own but…widow? It never entered my mind.
With all our conversations about death and dying, with all the responsible shit I wrote down in that notebook, never once could I have imagined the devastation of living without him. Never once could I have envisioned the emptiness of life without him, the sheer agony, the silence.
The silence.
Even though I speak on the phone with family and friends every day, use social media, text, use all the methods of communication that exist in our day and age…the silence is deafening.
The silence is in my heart and soul and it comes from the stark reality of Chuck’s absence. There is no other voice that fills that space, no matter what I do.
And I wonder, on all days, and on special days like this September 11, if I’ll ever feel that sense of safety again. Or a sense of peace. Or lightness.
Yes, I’m a strong woman. Yes, I’m independent. Yes, I can live on my own and be good with that. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
September 11, 2001 took away our sense of safety as a nation.
April 21, 2013 took away my sense of safety, personally.
Chuck was my go to person, at my side on that day, even though he was on base and unreachable. I knew he was there, though, and that comforted me.
There is no comfort to be found in this life without him.
And that’s just the honest truth~

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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.