Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dead Soldier

Gunny Boy,

The emotional chaos that I've been feeling lately has felt like I'm carrying around a 50 pound backpack on my shoulders. My level of anxiety has increased and I wake up every morning feeling sad for no reason. Insomnia is random, but it occurs on the worst nights possible: the ones where I have very little time to get a good amount of sleep. Getting the 8 needed hours of sleep has become like trying to win at 1 vs. 100. I keep trying to outsmart the heat, my racing mind, and all the other things that seem to keep me from sleeping.

Last Friday, I was having a great day and decided to leave work early to do some shopping. I went to the mall to hit the cosmetics counter. As I was walking through the main thoroughfare, deftly weaving between all the muffintop-bearing tweens, I saw the store your mom works at. She was there. I stood outside the store for a few minutes in a fit of panic, aching to go in and talk with her. I found plenty of excuses not to go in, but ignored them.

The last time I saw her was at your funeral. Tiffany stood by her side as they mourned. Friday she was different. The last four months of grief has darkened her hair, and darkened her eyes. She spoke of you with emotions trembling in her voice. I sensed she was screaming inside as she had been from the beginning, "WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?" Only now, I think life is so difficult for her in that she has lost control of everything she once held so tightly.

She said she and Tiffany had been discussing what should happen with you things and Tiffany can't let go. They had a fight and haven't talked in weeks. She said your little girl's mother, Heather, has managed to prevent anyone from getting any of the insurance settlements because she procured a lawyer the day after your death and all the money has gone to pay legal fees. I discovered that we aren't the only ones who've embraced referring to Heather as, "white trash." She said your little bro feels like he is half a person. They celebrated his birthday in Portland. His first birthday without you.

She thanked me. She asked for a hug. I told her how we missed her baby boy and how honored I felt to have been such a huge part of your life for so long. I laugh at my memories of you and all of your antics. I laugh to think about how at night, I would sneak into your space at work when you were at break, and change the music from Tool to Barry Manilow, and then sneak out. One night, you finally caught me. I thought of the emails we'd send on work time. Me saying, "your village called. They need their idiot back," and you responding with, "the lab called. Your brain is ready."

She said there was a marker on your grave finally. On my way home, I parked in an alley and made my way over to the cemetery to see it. "Operation Eduring [sic] Freedom," was printed on the plain stone marker. No eagle, globe and anchor as had been requested. Your mom was upset over the misspelling and the blatant neglect that had gone into the preparation of the headstone and I now feel her anger.

Last night I was having dinner with friends and as I made my way to the bathroom, a new memory of you came to mind that made me laugh. Then in the middle of the night, I woke up trying to remember it but I had lost it. How can something so important be so fleeting?

A few weeks ago I saw your stepmother. I asked her how she was and she was struggling as well. I spent your birthday thinking about you but not talking about it.

Living through this, this strange experience of death, has left me confused and anxious. But it's difficult to talk about it because I can't explain myself. Four months is a long time to feel confused, but I can't make it go away. People say that it's okay to be confused, and that it will go away in its own time. But, I don't feel like I have the right to be confused anymore. For some reason, I think I lost that right when I chose to be private in my grief, and not open up to those that care about me. You would have seen through that and you would have known.

It's in those rare moments of complete, all-consuming confusion, that I slowly begin to realize exactly what it is that I've lost.