Monday, May 28, 2012


He came home in the dead of night, the sound of Velcro ripping and boots dropping and whispering in the dark not to touch them until he could clean the gray matter and the blood. And I thought nothing of the oddity of it all.

A pair of boots.

I searched everywhere for them. For weeks my mind raced frantically, desperate to find the black boots that were as much a symbol of the man as the badge he wore and the gun he carried. I called the ones who had done what I could not, polishing brass and pressing dress blues. I emptied boxes, only to repack them and empty them again. I searched cupboards and closets and car trunks, tears rushing down my face as I tore through what had been left behind. And then I sank into the soft, dark blue pile.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

In that moment when I realized he would walk forever in them, I lost my fight against the pain I had fought to control. For as long as I had known him, he had worn those boots. They rested, weary and strong, on the bottom shelf in our closet, beside utility belts, Kevlar vests and tidy stacks of inky cargo pants.

Molded to his imprint, they grew battered and weary over the years, evidence of the daily hazards that came with the career path he had chosen to tread. He chose resoling over new purchases, a decision of practicality, comfort and security that is an unspoken understanding amongst men and women of service and valor.

Losing his boots was as though I had lost a vital and very real link to the man who had walked into my life unexpectedly and left just as suddenly. His footprints are deeply imprinted on our lives, as are the footprints of any father to a child, any husband to a wife. He was so much more than a pair of boots, but the boots were symbolic of the man he was. Confident. Steady. Strong. Supportive. Loyal. And, each day, after he gave everything to a community that did not know him they carried him home to us.

Each Memorial Day I stare at the pictures – dusty and dirt-worn boots standing weary and proud at an inverted rifle’s base, empty helmet resting softly – and I think of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who wear boots every day for each of us.

I think of the ones sleeping restlessly in them behind cover, and the ones climbing hostile terrain worlds away. I think of the ones standing on street corners, and of the ones riding to the scene.

And I think of the price of a pair of boots.   

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bye, Bye Blues.

I want to roll around on it naked. 

That’s right. Naked.

Because I am that enraptured. And because if I don’t do it now, I will have missed my window of opportunity to truly know what it feels like to own a piece of living room furniture that is not stained and soiled with the remnants of the school day, traces of popcorn and the general wear and tear of life with two children. And as far as I’m concerned, I’ve earned the right to a moment of rolling around in microfiber ecstasy.

It’s been 12 years since a new couch entered our happy little home. And twelve years ago there was a husband but no kids, two mature dogs not yet joined by a third, and an entirely modern home of our own design. The cerulean blue microfiber sectional worked.  

And then life happened.

Two babies. A new dog. A career that went into light speed. A new, not-modern house. Suddenly sticky fruit chews and bowls of ice cream became habits of comfort in the comfort of the big blue couch. Little feet walked along the back and jumped from side to side. Dogs claimed their corners and wine stains left marks from the exhaustion of it all.

And then death happened.

The couch that had played a central role in the laughter and love that filled our lives became an unwelcome symbol of how much had changed. I watched as firemen I did not know sat beside my children and kept them calm as I fell apart, and as the thin blue line joined me on it. I sat on it numb and empty, holding his phone and watching from another place as my fingers dialed the numbers that would force me to say the words out loud.

And with every day and every night I grew to despise the blue couch that had been hard won and that had meant so much more.

Night after night I sat alone late in the night watching life continue on the other side of a computer screen while mine vanished into the big blue yonder. And while I struggled to breathe, the couch captured the traces of a life unhinged. Popcorn and crackers. Wrappers and Lego bricks. Princess shoes and water marks.

And wine stains from the exhaustion of it all.

I loathed it. But letting the couch go was like a marriage slowly unraveling, and I traveled the seven stages on it as I searched for what I wanted. And as my mind and body re-entered the world, I tested relationships with sectionals and sofas, chaise lounges and cozy chairs until I found it.

Solid and strong. Soft and welcoming. And the color of steel.

Just like the will of the naked woman rolling around on it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

40 Days and 40 Nights.

And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. – Genesis 7:12

It is the witching hour, that moment when the house is more an uncomfortable tomb than it is a warm oasis.

Years have passed but the invisible minute hand still ticks time until exhaustion surpasses uncertainty and I drift into temporary oblivion. Night and I have come to an uneven truce, brokered over tears and wine and boredom and fear. The sound of his breathing in the dark has long since faded but the impact of its silence quietly reverberates in ways we feel but cannot see.

And for 40 nights I have listened. Waiting.

I have watched him for almost four years, watching as he processed and readjusted to a different world that was confusing and unfair and empty. I watched as he fought back tears with a little boy’s determination and confusion only for them to be shed years later in uncontrollable waves. I felt his arm encircle us, his mother and his sister, as he draped the heavy mantel of manhood on shoulders that were too young for its weight. I listened to his confusion and hurt, trying to ease his pain through my own confusion and hurt. And we regained our footing together, through tears and laughter and anger and words and silence.

Then without warning the gentle ebb and flow of our daily lives was disrupted, our carefully erected defenses cracked. And the boy that fought so hard to accept the loss of a father and wonders if another will someday accept him as his own, once again woke screaming in the night.

In the dark he came running, searching for comfort against the nightmares. Night after night, cries in the dark that woke us both while tears fell from our hearts like rain on the earth. And I wrapped my arms around the boy that is the image of the man, wiping the tears and pushing away things that come in the night.

Lovely boy, sleep well tonight.