Beauty is the internal living flame that illuminates what we belong to.
Remembering the beauty of my mother, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Teseny Rieb, on the occasion of her birth, 78 Septembers ago. Though the hangers in her closet hung bare, disrobed of her flowery pleated dresses and soft cotton cardigans weeks after my 18th birthday, her presence lives inside of my own inner recognition, beaming in the eternal candle’s glow.
the twirling baton on a warm spring day…
the gentle smile that softens troubled hearts…
leaning quietly on the edge of what promises to steady us…
and gracefully shifts within the bright folds, poised above the shadow self, pure grace draped in pearls…
it is the buttery yellow cardigan embracing our curves, inviting us to open only as deep as we’re willing to reveal …
the small treasures we hold too precious to be left behind.
“Beauty is the harvest of presence that lives inside us where the imagination becomes a bridge between the here and the there, between then and now”David Whyte
© Deborah Garcia 2021, All rights reserved
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I sat in my living-room 25-miles west of my Freeport, Long Island home, transfixed to the terrorizing drama unfolding on every television station. My mood was one of disbelief, overwhelming anxiety, and hope, that one of the thousands of people racing through the streets of lower Manhattan and spanning the Brooklyn Bridge, were wearing green khakis and a striped oxford shirt with my husband’s face of determination. At 9:59 AM, as Tower Two imploded in a dust cloud, I fell to my knees screaming into the 32” curved window, “Run David, RUN!
I witnessed New York City drenched in chaos. Camera crews fled up avenues chased by rolling cancerous clouds, with lenses wide-opened to the ghosted individuals caught in the aperture. I witnessed news anchors weeping from their midtown studios, choking for words. All were one masked in white dust, moving in two contrails stretching north and eastward from lower Manhattan, like a long expression of vaporous energy scoring the blue sky. Suddenly, Tower One quaked with a tremulous chill, folding into itself in a total progressive collapse, in 15-seconds. So too did my life. Although the initial shattering can be measured in seconds, the healing stretches over the course of a lifetime.
Waking into September 12th has always felt like the clicking of a refresh wheel, resetting my life into another year, to begin again. Each year, as the summer tilts toward leaving, I lean into the grief, shrinking toward the same horizon of September 11th. There is a rising crescendo of happy memories knotted with an overture of haunting re-played images and bids to memorialize, along the passage moving me toward the day I watched my husband explode into the forget-me-not-sky. When the name David Garcia resounds in the symphony grosso, it’s like releasing a pearl held firm in my lips, and each year as I exit the stage, everything in my life shifts. I am forced to continue into the future of my 9/11 life.
Every year on the 11th of September, my sons and I lean into the reflecting pools, snap a selfie, cross West Street to walk the Esplanade and sit down to lunch. However, this time is different. This year I am mourning one more. Beside my 24-year-old son and I at the great fountain will be an unembodied shadow, the son who 365-days ago, wore a mask as the nation captured our embrace. The tunnel of lasts lengthens—the last Maine vacation, last memorial ceremony, last birthday celebration, without him—from the footprints of shattered dreams to the day my beautiful boy ended his life on October 31st, 2020.
Children raised in the footprints of 9/11 are locked into a continuous discontinuity, with constant reminders to never to forget. A forced vulnerability that ripples in the undercurrent of the war on terrorism and keeps them teetering on the edge of developing strong identities in a fearful world, and not. My children (8- and 4-years-old in 2001) have never known a world without the war and threat of terrorism that was ignited by their father’s murder on the 97th floor of One World Trade Center. It is the ceaseless death.
Over the span of two decades, through fierce love and fervent vigilance, I’ve provided my sons with positive life experiences through maintaining connections with extended family, mentors, education, extracurricular activities, and therapeutic support. The hope was that I had done enough to unravel the darkness so they could restitch their worlds. But the Fates weren’t having it. The pandemic pushed its heel into the tenderness. With the sudden suspension of employment that fueled aspirations, sporting and fitness activities that brought joy, and social engagements that instilled emotional balance, the unceasing life intermission of COVID-19 drew my boys into the maw of anxiety, isolation, and hopelessness. “The world is not a good place, and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better,” are the words my 27-year-old wrote in the letter he left on the hotel room table.
Seven weeks later, my 24-year-old son, who had believed he had been too young to have suffered from the personal traumatic effects of 9/11, was hospitalized for an emotional breakdown, sending him home to Vermont for a long winter’s rest.
Today, I stand in the interval, of where the tunnel of last family memories lengthens the darkness toward a final passage through death’s days of firsts without our son. As I advance into the 49-days toward October 31st, I feel the life I had fought so hard to re-create, shrinking into the infinite expanse of my beautiful boy’s absence.
During this twentieth year, trembling alone in the dark, I’ve felt myself wavering on the edge of my breath. What evil has taken my lover? What force destroyed my son? Why wasn’t I enough for my second husband? What had I missed? Where am I and where do I go from here? How have I moved forward through the lengthening tunnel? How do I continue without getting lost in the darkness? As reminders of the losses persist through the coming years, I can never expect a smooth sheath to close over the wounds. I can recognize that pain is my constant companion, and I will never let the lives I’ve loved go. Thus, the only way to move forward, is to lean into the tenderness. To mourn, to remain present, to show myself the same compassion I extend to others, and find the courage to share my journey.
At the end of this epoch, the immediate shattering has ended: Bin Laden is dead, the footprints have been memorialized, the families have been compensated, my son’s ashes have been placed beside his father’s pulverized bones, and the author has moved through two decades of her narrative. But the continuous disquietude is interminable. Efforts to identify remains, the cancerous cascade of death, the pursuit of justice and national safety tag 9/11 as a current event.
What I hope is for in my generation and the generations to follow, is that within the interfold of simultaneous human dissonance, there exists a universal sympathy. A sympathy woven so deep in the fabric of our collective substance, that long after the actual witnesses are gone, a common hope threads through our differences, strengthening our resolve, to continue the story.
© Deborah Garcia, 2021 all rights reserved
One single day In the month of September Changed our lives in a way We will always remember, As the bright morning sun Lit Heaven's blue with grace, A mosaic of peple Hustled a Tuesday's pace. With briefcase in hand He bid us good day, He ran for the bus In his usual way, His back the last sight As he raced up the street, He had somewhere to be Someone to meet. One single day Became like no other It shook up our world Stealing my lover, Out of the blue Of the bluest of skies Four missiles plunged forth As planes, their disguise. The brave souls on board Tried to turn them around For they knew in that moment Their fate was profound. He made it so well The trains all on time He was happy, I know He was in before nine. The elevator he boarded Pushing floor ninety-seven, Tunes piped through his earbuds He went straight to heaven. He wasn't a soldier Famous scholar or king, Simply a loving family man Doing the right thing. That one single day A ceaseless search for our missing, The T.V.'s and papers Never a moment dismissing. We could not cry alone Nor could we hide, His leaving this place Was announced world-wide. The evil that took him A force misunderstood, That in spite of their efforts The result would bring good. We banded together We held our heads high, We climbed from our grief New bonds we did tie. Folks don't like to linger Dwell in pain for too long, Put them in crisis' They'll always grow strong. Each day we strive To keep things in place, We stand for our freedom We keep up the race. A brief moment in tme Brought us together to pray For healing and peach On one single day.
© Deborah Garcia 2011, all rights reserved
The 9/11 Community invites all citizens of the world to point their cameras into the September 11th sky, snap a photo and post to your social media by typing #neverforget to share in a collective remembrance of the day that changed all of our lives.
The pressure begins mid-July, with the surge of email, postal letters, and ramped-up 9/11 media aggrandizement. On August 1st, the tunnel of lasts and memorial making opens its dark eye, drawing me into the force that always unfurls my sons and I into the bedrock, with the others, to gather, to mourn, to embrace, to pray. It’s good not be alone.
“We’re preparing for the 20th Anniversary events. If you would like to read names at the ceremony, please respond to the link to enter our lottery.”
“As we approach the 20th Anniversary of September 11th, please join us for a presentation: Ways to cope with and prepare for the commemoration of this important milestone.”
“We are hoping to interview select authors to create content that would be shared by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and other organizations.”
“Your local Public Radio is interested to know how 9/11 has impacted your life…”
“Engrave a brick for our new village memorial.”
“In the aftermath of 9/11, the Office of the NYC Chief Medical Examiner made the long-term commitment to identify the remains of 9/11 victims as new advancements in DNA techniques were available. Please indicate if you would like to continue to be notified of remains identified of your loved one in the future.”
“Please do not sign a statement that President Biden is not welcome at the Ground Zero 20th memorial.”
“Join us for a rally next week in Washington, D.C. to demand transparency of documents detailing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s role in the terrorist attacks.”
After two decades, I’ve had to reconcile with this darkness, my old friend, moving through the endways of an epic life like a Disney coaster through Magic Mountain —the last boat ride, the last Little League pitch, the last kiss. Though each year the course shared with fellow mourners is the same, there is a continuous progression of change in relationship to my late husband, the Fates, and the tasks that I’ve been given, shaped by time into a long poetic composition which is uniquely my own.
However, this time is different. This year flags the punctuate slash in the pre- and post- mortem continuum of mine and David’s relationship—twenty-years together, twenty-years apart. Beginning in 1988, Dave began filling my birthday cards with fractional analysis’ of the narrowing difference between our ages: “When I was 4 and you were 2, you were 2/4 (or 1/2, 50%) my age. Then when I was 8 and you were 6, you were 6/8 (or 3/4, 75%) my age. Now you’re 27/29 (.93%). “you’re catching up!” How did he know?
Because time is a relative concept invented by humans as a measure of our existence, perhaps we cling to the succession from our past experiences to cede to the present in order to move ourselves into the future. However, time is an intangible ruler of life. We can’t touch it, taste it, nor control it. It is unmalleable and irreversible. So, what is the metric of our existence? If Dave and I continued to exist together in this life, if I hadn’t chosen the second Tuesday in September to begin my new work arrangement which altered his schedule on September 11th, how long could we have continued before the figures cancelled us out?
When we met on a college campus twenty-years ago, I thought there was an infinite measure of time ahead of us to create our lives and live out our dreams together, that the hands of time were moving the union of David and Deborah forward into a future expanding toward an unseeable horizon. We hadn’t known that our clock had been wound in elapsed time, shifting the measure of our existence. In September of 1981, we had 100% of our life left together, 20/20 years. When we married in 1987, we had already lived through 30% of our history. In 1993, with the birth of our first child, 60%. In 1997, with the second birth, 80%. August 27th, 2001, on a ferry crossing the Long Island Sound returning from our Maine vacation, 99.33%, fourteen days remained.
In the mad chaos of career building, home restoration, funding IRA’s and 529’s, and piano lessons, we were unaware that we were receding toward the tolling bell, rapidly. On September 11th, 2001, we were startled awake by the morning sun blazing through the bedroom window. We thought our alarm had not gone off.
Beginning September 12, 2001, a clock re-wound, beginning the life of Deborah, without David, single with children, parted by death. The betrayal. The endlessness. This clock also had a specific measure of time, like lemon bars setting in a temperate oven. In 2002, we were 95% together, 5% apart. This somehow seemed like a banner of validation that the lifetime of Deborah and David was so much longer than the contrary. Together more than apart. I somehow felt deeper in the union than not, more wed than unwed. In 2011, we were 50% together and 50% apart. As of August 20th, 2021, we are .66% together, and 99.33% apart. Future and past reconciled. On this important milestone, what remains? A narrowed groove on my ring finger? A familiar wrinkle in my son’s brow? Perhaps what’s most binding is the ceaseless pulse in my core. An energy which flows through everything. A Chi.
The tenth anniversary of 9/11 marked a midpoint in this slide rule of time, which expounds the power of something intangible. Perhaps the metric is a shifting of relationship, from the ebbing of an earthbound union of physical bodies to a boundless evolution of souls. That heartbreak is a passageway to what we love and have loved. Even though I had remarried by this time, I relaxed into the solace of self-forgiveness to love and be loved in both my physical and spiritual relationships. I had become comfortable accepting that I could embody both simultaneously—the love that lived beside me and the one tucked deep inside.
Just as this year’s twentieth anniversary marks a significant time-stamp in history that has changed all of our lives over the span of a generation, it also marks the transition unfolding toward another measure of time, the beautiful cadence of David and Deborah. On September 11th, 2021, the metric of our relationship slides beyond the shrinking fraction of our tangible existence toward the inevitable expanding ratio of the intangible. Has the time we were together been cancelled out? Today, the ratio of our ages is 58/40 or 29/20, I am currently 145% of David’s age, and the dimension that divides us is expanding.
I believe that I’m not alone in defining a relationship that is no longer tangible, by articulating the essence of our loss in countable increments. It’s a normal phenomenon of mourning. I recall doing this in August of 2001, feeling a clock was unwinding in the days leading up to my 38th October birthday, the age at which my mother died from breast cancer twenty years past. After receiving a negative mammogram, I exhaled my beastly portents on a lengthened breath and celebrated in David’s arms. My life would not be cut short. I would live beyond my mother’s age!
A deceased loved one can’t be seen, nor heard, nor touched, however maybe, we can conjure a life with a measure of their essence. Assign a #hashtag as a form of user-generated cross-referencing to contextualize our existence, as a meta-expository. David and Deborah from 1981 @WTW #lovestory #911 #timeless #Chi.
© Deborah Garcia 2021, All rights reserved
[Images by Boynton, Deborah Garcia]
Hello, is it me you’re looking for
I can see it in your eyes
I can see it in your smile
You’re all I’ve ever wanted
And my arms are open wide
‘Cause you know just what to say
And you know just what to do
And I want to tell you so much
I love youLionel Richie — 1983
October 10, 1984
Hiya! How are you? I’m fine. Any new women in your life? All of a sudden, I don’t know what to say because I don’t want to get corny. I hope, I LOVE YOU does the trick. That goes for as a friend and a lover.
I thought of buying you a cheer-you-up card but I wasn’t walking in the direction of town, so I went home and made you one. Isn’t it cheery? I can understand what you’re going through. I think that for 60% of the population, it’s difficult to jump successfully into the job market and be happy too. It’s greatly a matter of time. I don’t think you should blame yourself, personally—you’re the “New World Man”!
I really felt I could talk to you as I would a good friend, on the phone Monday night. I continued to tell myself not to be jealous and to be open-minded, listening to you confide in me, as a concerned and empathetic friend, temporarily putting aside the fact that I am emotionally tied to you as a lover also.
It has made me feel good about myself, as well as our relationship, that you expressed that you really don’t need someone else to talk to, sort of as an emotional release, as I did with Mike P. when you and I were not getting along. I also, for at least the past year and a half, have not needed, nor indulged in running to a person of the opposite gender for emotional support, except for you.
I’m a little bit afraid that I may lose you to a new cute, attractive woman—that possibility is always present even in marriage. But it’s heathier and more satisfying for our relationship to be open, honest and trustworthy, rather than close-minded, pessimistic, and jealous. What I said about my feelings towards other men is very true and always will be.
I’ve established, for myself, strong feelings of security, friendship and love in you. There’s never been (In the past year and a half) a thought that crossed my mind that would risk losing those qualities in our relationship. I wish we were together now so we could talk more about it.
Trust and honesty go a long way in the establishment of a truly satisfying and long-lasting friendship.
Hey, I think we’ve come a long way baby! (ha ha), and every step has been worth it, as painful as it may have been at times. The fact is, we can deal with it.
Well, I’ve already said too much.
Did I tell you I Love you yet?
I’ll be looking forward to seeing you again when, where, and however that may be.
See ya’, Deb
David and I were married July 25th, 1987. We celebrated fourteen wedding anniversaries together in life, twenty apart in afterlife. Since I wrote him a letter for his birthday in May, I decided that my gift to him, if we were slicing carrot cake together, would be a letter that I had written to him when we were the tender ages of 21 and 24.
I penned this letter October 10, 1984, tucking it inside of a homemade card, when I was a senior at SUNY, College at Cortland, where we met in 1981. Having already graduated the previous December, Dave was living in his parent’s home in Wappinger’s Falls, NY, a semi-rural hamlet in the mid-Hudson River Valley. Separated by 190 miles, we corresponded in continuous threads of hand-written letters and weekly telephone calls. At this time, Dave, having earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Math and Computer Science, was grappling with feelings of worthlessness in a ten-month post-graduate wake of continuous employment rejections, primarily due to legal blindness and his inability to drive himself to work. There was no public transportation in that area at the time. Despite his visual impairment, Dave was a motocross enthusiast and competitor. Straddling his YZ 250, we often open-throttled over green vales and along the Amtrack rails serging the Hudson, with my hands clutched around his waist, Rocker blond waves flying, racing into the wind.
Dear fairytale, dear long-lost lover, dear spaceman of the night, dear museum hologram,
ten years-after I wrote you last, I think to write you again. A house is a family, a minivan is a family, a beach blanket is a family, a storybook is a family, and the tale was you and me, and two little space cowboys. Dear steel wreckage, dear void, dear files I can’t toss, dear binders filled with love notes, dear home video tapes, dear empty calendar and therapy schedule, dear promise and impossibility.
It’s been twenty years since you blew out your fortieth candle. I was not who I am now.
Life is one thing and then another. If no floods mildew the tales, if no planes tumult to impale, the fairytale is a space odyssey; if impossibility is absolute. Dear disappeared bodies and transitions, dear catastrophe and blessings, dear verge of a tragic story. Before the wreckage, I misunderstood fulfilment.
I fulfill myself now. I coach perseverance. A young woman in a support group told
about how she was unable to converse with her father about a death. When she reaches for his support, he closes up, about the loss. It’s true that this story is tragedy, like all things that
come to life. I thought about this story, what it meant for her to live with the void left by the death of her brother, and the death of this connection with her father—and thought of all the ways she could fill the void, herself. There I was, coaching the structure of a narrative, empathetic author
of written prose and unseen letters, thinking dear brother, dear lover, dear mother,
dear son, dear father, dear stillness in the night, until there is the woman I knew as a wife, whose husband found her in a glance, loved her curves and her edges, and gave her two sons, a blanket in the sand, a home. Before he hurled into the vault, and left me at his desk—
unlike the emptiness of the young woman’s story, this one is real—
you left me full. Filled with the passion of our union, a narrative of our invisible grace that inscribes a continuous sentence of possibility.
Sometimes this man is sitting next to me, sitting here at the desk, watching pages turn as words
fill empty spaces where a family was a home in Long Island. Hoping there is a vehicle moving one way and a story moving another. How much of a word count before something manifests that feels like answers when we write them down—
Like printed scripts full of transitional phrases, inciting incidents, narrative arcs, and reckoning
climaxes, the holding space between scenes that end in joy or sorrow. You keep showing up, my dear husband, peppered and wise now, and transcendent.
Like the northeastern sandbar, shorelines breached.
© Deborah Garcia 2021 All rights reserved
First recorded before 900. From Old English modor (to take care of); Dutch “dregs” (sediment, remains that settle at the bottom); German (swampy land); is prevalent in many cultures. Sense of that which has given birth to anything.
1. a female parent, as: a) one’s female role-model, such as: a parent, adoptive mother, foster mother, stepmother, mother-in-law, aunt, female teacher, big sister, neighbor who holds sacred space for your coming, leaves a door open in her heart even if you’ve forgotten to bathe, and simmers lentils when part of you has died. Mother regarded, as: b) having the status, function, or authority of a female parent. A woman exercising control over what nourishes bodies, influences your identity, provides you with place and a sense of belonging; an authority who echoes wisdom, ethos, and pathos that undulates through the liquid ocean of your expanse.
2. to care for or protect like a mother, performing the tasks or duties of a female, sometimes in an excessive (obsessive) way as; It’s in her nature to love and mother those around her. Icing bruised knees, scrubbing vomit from carpeting, duct-taping broken windows. Rising into the continuous discontinuity of ruinous days to fill her son’s bowls with milk and honeyed Oh’s, washing stains from uniforms, tuning instruments, and applauding achievements. Holding her mask up with the right hand while steering with the left, never ceding hope she could sell them the world, even though she knows she is shading a darkness they’d have to uncover themselves.
3. a woman who originates or creates something, as: a) the invention of; manatee tails on Halloween costumes, tennis courts made of lemon cake, and sore throats cured with chicken soup. b) To be the mother of, as; sons without fathers, daughters of other mothers, wives of sons, cats with mice dismembered, a dog who never tires—of you.
4. native, derived from as if from one’s mother, as; a) granddaughter of Anna who left her mother country to birth a daughter into a world that drops A-bombs on a country where another mother takes a granddaughter on a train to take refuge in a mountain—who in a half-century, become mothers of possibility when a son makes a daughter a mother, bearing new hope. And; b) when the daydreams become nightmares, you become your mother, raging at a cloudless sky, weeping under a supermoon, falling to your knees, and righting yourself, again.
5. the qualities characteristic of maternal affection, as; making a home for them to return to when the world has become too heavy to shoulder, serving a warm plate of brownies when their hearts are broken, and choosing them over all others, even if that means you will be alone when they leave again.
6. to acknowledge oneself as author of; a) because motherhood has no perfect analytics, and you love them when they hurt you, taking them into your arms again and again, feeding them the stories of all the mothers who carried forth the seeds to create the miracle of them, us. b) to assume as one’s own; when the world intercedes in your perfect moment in time, your love may not be enough to fix what cannot be unbroken. His hope will wither in the void you cannot see but can taste the bitterness of on your mother tongue, and in times when he shines his beautiful smile, you will forget that he was broken and you’ll believe that your love could heal a wound deeper than your motherly-instincts could have conceived. You will survive to write this story and you will be heartbroken.
Variance: Motherhood: having or relating to an inherent worthiness, justness, or goodness that is obvious or unarguable: origination pushed through on a motherhood basis.
Synonyms: Mom, mommy, mama, parent, ancestor, creator, origin, source, child-bearer, forebearer, procreator, bad person, author, foster, engender, care for, native, Earth, figure, mother tongue, Mother Nature, Mother-of-pearl.
© Deborah Garcia 2021, All Rights Reserved
glides between barrier islands
and mountain flows
the slender keel
carving delicate wakes
gloam-blue and pine-green,
the summer blue
the saffron glow of
and ruddy glow
of red nylon,
Boston, Ravel, Monk,
through your tranquil chamber
floating at the edge
the vibrant hint of something
into the pale haze of night,
all that you’ve hoped for,
until twilight comes
and the paddles lap
in the deep night
and dip beneath Aries,
drifts beyond the composition.
Today, April 8, 2021, is my Son’s 28th Birthday. It is the first birthday his brother and I are observing in his absence. The images and poem came to me as a reflection of Davin’s true spirit in the natural world; his beloved kayak, a rod and reel, the tunes that shaped his life, and the lifetime of scores that he composed. If he were here on this beautiful day, I believe this is how he would choose to celebrate his life. — Davin, my son, I love you forever…
© Deborah Garcia 2021, All rights reserved