Sunday, May 25, 2014

Charlie Mike

Let me be completely honest and say that I was trying very earnestly to try and slide by Memorial Day without getting too overwhelmed by it.  I ordered my flowers for the grave at the end of last week.  I was going to be in the area of the grave today, so I just planned on making my visit and taking flowers there today with the girls before heading back home, and we did.  And as for actual Memorial Day, I have made very low-key plans to be with my girls, go to the park and spend time with great friends and their son.  

Please let me explain, why I was trying to have a low-key day tomorrow.  I have had multiple “big” days lately.  They all have just collided together.  My emotions were ungovernable, my thoughts were continually straying, and quite frankly, I was just unsettled.  I have been bouncing back and forth since the middle of April on an emotional pogo stick.  (And for someone who has motion sickness, this seriously needs to stop.)  I literally just rebounded back to a sense of normalcy this week, and BAM! Hello, Memorial Day! 

So, I had this fabulous idea that I would try and coast through Memorial Day.  Don’t think too much about it, don’t over do it, don’t, don’t, don’t.  It’s just too much for me right now.  But, guess what, it doesn’t matter.  I don’t get a say for when these days are going to fall on my schedule.  Yes, it is absolutely too much for my brain, heart, and emotions to take right now after such a terribly sensitive and emotional past few weeks, and yet, it’s still here, and as much as I need a break, it’s just not something that is in the cards right now.  I can’t coast through it, I can’t skip it, I can’t make it lighter.  It is literally all around me, and there’s no hiding from it.  So now what do I do?

Here we are then, Memorial Day.  What is Memorial Day?  According to the Department of Veteran Affairs it states that, “Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday of May, commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service."
Memorial Day is a time to focus on the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.  It is a day to remember, honor, and respect those fallen soldiers.  It is a day specifically given to them. 

I am a member of a couple Military Widows Groups.  I have seen how my fellow widows are dealing with the day.  We all deal with days differently.  Widow Friend #1 visits Arlington every Memorial Day to see her spouse’s grave.  It is quite a trip for her, but she does it without fail.  Widow Friend #2 also goes to Arlington.  She not only visits her husband’s grave, but she also asks other widows, who are unable to go to Arlington, if they would like to share their spouses plot number so she can visit the grave for them, as well.  Widow Friend #3 honors her spouse by eating his favorite foods that day and watching his favorite movie.  Widow Friend #4 signs off of all social media.  After a few years of seeing how Memorial Day was not, by most, being used as a way to honor the fallen, which includes her spouse, she signs off from the world so she can honor him and other fallen without feeling offended by others.  Each widow different, yet each the same.  So where does that leave me, a widow trying to have a low-key day?  I want to honor him and other fallen, and not push myself to a breaking point either.  I don’t want to step over the edge.

I read an article in the Washington Post yesterday by Mike Jason, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, titled “‘Charlie Mike’ on Memorial Day.”   It was a very interesting article from the perspective of a man who served and unfortunately had to see too many of his comrades die.  Feel free to read the article by clicking HERE.  I really enjoyed the article.  Some of the comments below his article are a little hard to swallow, but I know that we all have different opinions on matters, and that’s okay.  My all time favorite part of the article though, is actually the title, ‘Charlie Mike’ on Memorial Day.”     

“Charlie Mike” are actually the code words for C and M in the Military Phonetic Alphabet.  Rhea used to use the Military Phonetic Alphabet ALL THE TIME!  Not just for military stuff, but with me, at work, in regular phone conversations with friends, in emails to me, etc.  It makes me smile now, but it was kind of annoying then  :)  Anyway, as I was saying, “Charlie Mike” are the code words for the letters C and M, and typically “Charlie Mike” when used in the military means to “continue the mission”, or “move forward with the mission as planned.” 

I think Rhea would tell me to “Charlie Mike” my Memorial Day.  I’ll spend it with my girls having a low-key day as planned.  I’ll honor him by finding and being thankful for all the ways that my two little girls remind me of him.  I’ll listen to them laugh at the park and let my heart be warmed by their joy.   I’ll have my moments throughout the day to remember him, and then I'll bring my mind back to my girls.  Really, every day is Memorial Day for us, this is how every single day is for us.   But this day, Memorial Day, was given for him and for the other soldiers that fell before him and after him.  I will remember and think of all who sacrificed their lives for us.  Not just my husband, but Widow #1’s and #2’s and #3’s and #4's…and unfortunately so many more. 

Remember them…Honor them…Respect them…And Charlie Mike!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Let's have a party!

“It’s teddy’s birthday, it’s teddy’s birthday!” bounced my four-year-old onto my bed.
“What, Abigail?” I manage to say through my sleep mustered daze that 6:50 in the morning brings.
“It’s Cinderella teddy’s birthday, Mama! Cinderella teddy’s birthday!”
Sitting up in bed, I look into those intensely blue eyes that sparkle even at 6:50 a.m. and try to assess the situation. “It’s Cinderella teddy’s birthday, you say?”
“Yes, mama, it’s her birthday, and we have to have a party for her! Maybe a tea party…or cupcakes….or we could…”

Within this short little conversation, my mind is spinning, processing about a million miles a second, or as fast as it can at 6:50 in the morning.  My normal mom thoughts would be, “Absolutely, no way, are we having a birthday party for your stuffed animal.   I’m not falling for this trap.  You literally have about a hundred stuffed animals.  Next thing I know, we would be having a birthday party every day of the week for your animals,” But, something stopped me from my typical practical Mom response.  Some call it Mother’s Intuition.  I don’t know if it was all that, but I do know that something in my gut said that this was something she needed.  For some reason this is important to her.  So, throwing all things practical aside, I went with my gut and responded to that crazy morning bed-head little girl staring up at me with,

“Well, you are absolutely right!  It is her birthday.  Of course we can have a party for Cinderella teddy.  Right after Ms. Sonya’s today, we will go get cupcakes so we can celebrate.” 

Mom’s of the world out there could be shaking their heads at me right now saying, “Well, you’ve done it now! You’ve set yourself up for daily birthday parties.”  But, there are parts to my processing and to this little girl that you don’t know.  Yes, my Abigail has probably a hundred stuffed animals.  However, this particular stuffed animal, Cinderella teddy, is a very special one.  She even refers to her as “Daddy’s teddy” often.  This teddy bear was a gift from a very special friend of mine who had Build-a-Bear teddies made for both of my girls before Trent’s last deployment.  These bears have a message with his voice in them, and he gave them to the girls the night before he left, the last night they ever spent together.  Cinderella teddy is not an ordinary stuffed animal…she is special. 

Along with the specialness of the bear, I know that the 1 year mark is literally days away.  Other military widows call this day their spouses “Angelversary.”  Abigail doesn’t have the concept of dates and times, like I do, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t “feel” it.   And, that is exactly what Ms. Sonya, the girls and my counselor, told me yesterday afternoon as I discussed “teddy’s birthday party” with her.  She absolutely agreed with me 100% about the party.  She reiterated some things that I already know from my past year’s work with her.  Abigail is processing big, big things, and she’s doing so in ways that a four-year-old would. 

When a major, important person of your life is no longer with you, your brain will trigger you to think of them.  This happens to me all the time, but I don’t always pick up on my girls’ triggers, because they are different than mine, most of the time.  Right now, Abigail’s brain is triggering her to know it’s getting close to the year mark.  She knows it’s warm again, like it was then.  Flowers are everywhere, like they were then.  She get’s to wear summer clothes, like she did then.  Birds chirp and wake her up in the morning, like they did then.  Typical everyday May things, are stirring things up for her, but she has the right idea....let’s celebrate!  Why not?  Let’s have a party, get cupcakes, and smile.  We don’t have to spend the year mark in a desolate stupor.  It’s his “Angelversary!” If that isn’t something to celebrate, then I don’t know what is. 

I can’t explain it very well, but this “first” is different for me.  I’ve talked about it in my own counseling sessions.  I spend weeks, with my counselor, preparing for “scheduled” hard days.  These are days that you know are going to trigger you like crazy, due to the type of day it is.  Such as; Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, Father’s Day, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.  I cannot begin to tell you the anxiety I have when approaching these days.  Sometimes, I do really very well on these days.  Other times, my preparation falters and I’m taken off guard when my plan of how to handle things is skewed, and I’m hit in the gut the day before or the day after the scheduled day, like my anniversary.  I was prepared for the day.  But, what I didn’t know is at 8:15 the morning before my anniversary, something would trigger me (I’m still not sure what it was), and my whole world would collapse around me, as all of my emotions came slamming into my gut at once.  I was down for three days, as distant and as far away mentally and emotionally as I have been in a very long time.  So, it would make sense that this “first,” his “Angelversary” would carry the same anxiety.  But, for some reason, as of right now, it hasn’t.  I’m okay.  That doesn’t mean it won’t change, but as of now, let’s go with it.  I seem to have a peace about it, and it makes me smile.  It’s going to be his first “Angelversary!”  The day he saw Jesus for the very first time! How can we not smile about that? I think that they probably celebrate up in heaven, so we should do the same here.  And Rhea would NEVER pass up an opportunity to have cake, so neither should we.

Abigail has it right.  Let’s have a party!  We can have a tea party…or cupcakes…or…you name it, whatever makes you happy! It's a much healthier way to handle the day.  We miss him like crazy, but heaven, with Jesus, is a way better place than here.   

I’m glad I listened to my gut this time.  It not only helped her continue to process, but it made me think, too.  A lot actually, hence why I woke at 4:30 in the morning processing myself and writing this.  Oh, triggers, we have got to have a talk about timing.  :)

So, what DO you do, when your four-year-old tells you that it’s her Cinderella teddy’s birthday?  You take the time, and $10 for Smallcakes cupcakes, and you give Cinderella teddy a birthday party she’ll never forget.