We’re back from Hawaii and we had a blast even though Anna Mae passed away the day that we left.  We hope our family knows how much we longed to be with them, and we hope that Anna Mae feels that we honored her by cherishing one another and our time there.

Me and the girls are sick.

Writing coming soon.  Really.


*sigh* Broken hearts and Selfish Whines

First the important stuff:

Our hearts are breaking again.  Husband’s Grandma, Anna Mae broke her leg very badly yesterday.  Rather than undergo surgery to repair the breaks, she opted to be kept comfortable and to stop taking her dialysis treatments.  She is quickly slipping away from us.

Husband wasn’t able to be with his grandfather before he died, or able to attend the funeral afterward.  He was stuck in Iraq.  We briefly considered doing an emergency leave thing and trying to get him back, but quickly realized that likely would have resulted in him hopping planes all over Europe at Christmastime with little possibility of him making it back to the states and then back to his job in the time span allowed.  C and I were able to join his family to convey Husband’s love and to be his ‘stand in’ of sorts.  And it was a blessing.  I am thankful that we could.  But my heart broke for my husband’s helplessness a world away unable to be with his grandfather or his family.  Weathering the storm of grief in a war zone instead of in the circle of his wife and family’s arms.

As mentioned, we fly out for Hawaii on Friday.  Hawaii doesn’t have nothing on going to be with Anna Mae…  But we didn’t purchase the tickets.  They are nonrefundable.  And to cancel those plans would feel like spitting in the face of Husband’s folks’ amazing generosity.  We looked at Husband flying out today to see his Gramma briefly.  Long enough to squeeze her hand and say I love you, and then to fly back in time to be at the airport to fly to Hawaii.  

Added to the fact that Anna Mae is already nonresponsive, and there are enough folks coming in to give Anna Mae’s daughter and Husband’s Uncle more than enough to deal with on top of losing this incredible woman, we just couldn’t justify it.  They’ve even asked family members to think of not coming so as not to overwhelm Anna Mae, and so as not to wear them to a nub with the extra people around to worry about.  Having been through losing my Mom, I understand all of these variables fully.

We’re just sick about it all.  Truly heart-broken.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  It seems that every time something major happens to someone we love we have to fight a million battles to be there with them.  And sometimes, it’s a fight we can’t win.

Our hearts are in Kansas.  They just are.  We will go to Hawaii and enjoy it, because we know Anna Mae would tell us to do so.  Also because we love Husband’s folks and don’t want to miss this opportunity to draw near to THEM in this life that is all too brief.  But the ache of this helplessness that is all too familiar is just astounding.  And it is hard to not feel like we are ditching our family in a time of need to go play in Hawaii. 

For the record, Anna Mae felt like MY Gramma from the instant I met her.  She and Husband’s grandpa just had a way of welcoming you into the circle of their love and making you know without a doubt that you belonged there.

So that’s the important part.  We’re losing Anna Mae and it hurts so badly….  And we hurt for the pain she is in.  We hurt that she must slip away from us.  We hurt that we can’t be there.

Selfish me has a few things to say too.

Selfish me wants to be like Other people. 

Other people can get married without their grandfathers dying a month to the day before.  Other people can spend all of their first year of marriage with their new spouses, rather than saying good-bye for boot-camp.  Other people can get pregnant without finding out six months in that their mothers have terminal cancer.  Other people can deliver said babies without their grandmothers dying two weeks to the day before having the baby leaving pregnant huge them unable to get to her side in time to say goodbye, or to feel free to fly back for services with their families.  Other people can enjoy those first few precious months of having a baby without having their mothers die.  Other people don’t spend the remainder of that first precious year with baby saying goodbye to other family members and friends who also slip away (we lost 7 people very dear to us all in the year that Mom died), and being separated from their husbands.  Other people don’t spend their first childrens’ first Christmas Eve’s at funerals.     Other people can have babies without having postpartum depression or regular old depression.

And other people can plan a family vacation–one of the first times more than a few days of leave was taken to go somewhere not because someone was sick or dying as in all the other aforementioned circumstances, but because we selfishly wanted to go get a little sunshine, play in the sand and surf and have fun as a family.  Other people can go on such vacations.

Apparently we will never be other people.

I know it is selfish to feel this way.  I know none of these situations were about me.  There is never a good time to lose a loved one or to have a family crisis.  I know it is out of everyone’s control.  It’s just that the timing of our losses always seems to double and triple the feeling that we are being profusely shat upon.  The helpless ‘how do we make this work?  We can’t make this work…..’ feelings feel too much to bear, and the feeling that no matter what we choose, we are choosing wrong is so wearying.  We’re exhausted of it. 

I’ve been told several times that most people don’t go through all that we’ve been through in the last five years in the span of twenty or thirty.  I sure hope our span of twenty or thirty years without life-shaking heart-breaking events happening is coming.

I don’t understand why, when truly joyful things happen we can’t just experience the joy.  I don’t understand why when truly joyful things happen, tragedy or struggle inevitably come to bite us in the ass.

I sure wish we could be like other people.

Most of all, I hope Anna Mae knows how much we love her….  And how much we wish we could be there.  How much we wish that we hadn’t been 2000 miles away for so long and could have come to visit every weekend. I just hope she knows how special to us she is….  and how we are sending our love to wrap itself around her even across all these miles.  And I hope she will forgive me for my selfishness.

Randomness and Feelings

Aside from burying myself in the biographies of hometown heroes, there’s not a lot doing around her.

Oh, except, we leave for Hawaii on Friday. 

Yes of course we’re excited!!!!

I find myself steadily processing a lot right now…  But not much of it is bloggable.  I guess I’m learning that I have to feel my feelings and deal with them.  All of them.  I’m realizing how much I hide from that and how much of my time I spend trying to escape really feeling things.  Kind of funny since I write about feelingsish things a lot.  But I am realizing the ways in which I am a big ball of self-protection.

Husband has begun working nights, which is fine, but is also an adjustment.  At the moment, I seem to be quite an example of chaos theory.  The system of Val perks along just fine with things happening in some semblance of ‘normal’….  Add in a new element and I spin into feeling crazy again.  It’s just a matter of feeling out the schedule and rediscovering how it works for us, right now.  But it’s frustrating too.

We’re also in a state of limbo about where in the heck we’re going to be by this time next year.  The beginnings of haggling over orders are happening.  We’re not sure if we’re even wanting to continue on with the Navy life idea.  If we do, we will be picky about orders.  As it stands now anything could happen this next year including getting out, facing another deployment, moving to a new duty station, or any combination of those possibilities.  It’s overwhelming and hard not to obsess over.  When it began to occur to me that we could (likely will) be moving  before the year is out, I freaked out a little and started feeling sad.  Then I realized all of our closest friends will be leaving at the same time…..  We’d be ‘starting over’ in a lot of ways anyway.   Then I started to itch for a new adventure.  It’s all such an overwhelming jumble of excitement and anxiety and worry and wonder and loss and possibility.

So in short….  Lots of thinking happening, but not a lot going on…  (Aside from a much anticipated trip to paradise!)

Hickville and Heroes

I grew up in Hickville, USA.  Literally.

Growing up, my hometown had about 3,000 people in it.  It’s long been a community of farmers and factory workers.  Tractors drive on the road almost as much as regular vehicles. 

I grew up with the normal amount of sports rivalry between us and other towns, but I never got the sense that many of us had a whole lot of pride in our little town itself.  Most of us just had lots of plans to get of it (though I always figured I’d stay close and here I am on the other side of the country!).

I always had the feeling that no one expected much to come out of our little town.

But something did.  Someone did.  And I spent the last three days reading about him.

James Stockdale was also born and raised in my home town.  I sort of knew who he was because our auditorium was named after him.  I had a vague sense that he was someone important in a military sort of way.  When I got older, I understood that he’d been a POW.  But that’s really all I could have told you.  I stowed all this away just loosely enough to think it fun to name our new cat “Stockdale.”  Now, I feel pretty silly for having done so.

On a whim the other day I ordered a copy of the book In Love and War written by James Stockdale and his wife, Sybil.  The book chronicles their journey during the Vietnam War beginning with Stockdale’s leading the air-strike in the Gulf of Tonkin and ending with his release from the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” after 8 years of being a prisoner there.

I related to their story on so many levels, first of all, because I grew up in the same podunk little town as Admiral Stockdale.  It was a trip to know the places he spoke of and to be acquainted with families he mentioned who still reside in that little town.

But I was equally swept away with Sybil’s story.  Here was a Navy wife who not only endured the difficult life of frequent deployments with her husband often in harms way as a fighter pilot, but she also faced the news that her husband was missing….  later discovered that he was a prisoner, and quickly realized that the treatment he was receiving at the hands of the North Vietnamese was far less than the ‘compassionate and humane’ relations that they claimed.

On top of that, she created a national league networking the spouses and family members of servicemembers who were missing in action or prisoners of war.  She fought tenaciously for the country to realize that the men in these prisons were being brutally tortured and did all that she could to bring awareness to their plight and to force the government to make them a national priority.  She fought the typical red-tape of the military in heart-breaking ways.  And she did it all while raising four kids.

I could only hope to have such steely strength.  Sybil is my new hero.

Admiral Stockdale was nothing short of phenomenal…  What a wise man, and what an amazing leader.  As the senior officer in prison, he organized the men around him, communicating mostly with taps on the walls.  He established a system of rules to structure adherence to the code of conduct established by the US military.  He resisted his captors to the point of self-mutilation. 

He survived 8 years of torture, of isolation, of years of accumulated time spent in leg irons, and came out of the experience still having hope and still believing in humanity.

It makes me stand taller when I think of where I grew up.  It makes me realize that humble roots can produce amazing men and women.  It makes me want to go back to my hometown and demand that everyone learn about how incredible this man who walked the same streets really was. 

I may have from Hickville, but I’m also from a place of real heroes.