Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for providing space every Tuesday.
one lifetime ago
your helicopter traveled
into the jungles
inhaled agent orange clouds
now you’ve left this world too soon
2017, jone rush macculloch
A lifetime ago, I was married to a person who served our country as a Warrant Officer, and helicopter pilot in Vietnam. We parted ways after eleven tumultuous years.
At the time, I couldn’t talk with him about our split. Emotions settled and we found different partners and paths. I gained perspective. I regret not reaching out to go for a cup of coffee to talk especially after 25 years to say what I hadn’t been able to say (which over the years of processing, I was willing to see my part of the bargain). I did write him when I found out that he had cancer from Agent Orange.
Yesterday, I received a text from a friend, “Call me when you get home tonight.” For me, my anxiety shot up and finally after three or four texts as to the what, I called.
She told me he’d died. It took a minute to register, what? ___________ died. The service is soon. “Should I go?” I wondered aloud and my friend said, “Yes, and I want to go with you.”
So. Many. Emotions. This was a person among many who returned from a war without the needed emotional and mental help available to him. This was a person who struggled with demons. This was a person who did a lot for his community to bring the miniature Vietnam Wall to his hometown for the public to see when it first began touring. This was a person who suffered from PTSD. This was a person who got a Veteran’s Day parade started in his town (although they no longer have it). This was a person who reached out and worked in the veteran community. This is a person who’s country let him and other vets down.
While so much is surfacing, I am trying to stick with the positive memories. I long buried the negative remembrances. I want to remember the time we sat on Orca Island at Mount Constitution and watched the sunset. I want to remember the camping trips with reading for hours or playing backgammon and bridge. I want to remember the snow camping trip. I want to remember the time I went walked in his grandmother’s blueberry patch and the taste of fresh elk liver from the one he shot. I want to remember him as a person who served his country and continued to advocate for vets. I regret that I didn’t get to tell him those things.
This quote says it all for me today. I will probably be back to revise this but for now, I want to remember the sadness I feel for someone I loved a lifetime ago.