Friday’s child is Loving and Giving
A nurse, a ballerina, a pirate, an Indian princess, one witch and an assortment of fairy princesses and superheroes assembled in a dark walnut paneled, gold and orange hued kitchen accented with avocado appliances. A harvest yellow enameled casserole pot, filled with water and whole apples is set on a Newsday-lined counter top beside a table-top rotary telephone. A dozen boys and girls spent an afternoon in “make-believe”, wearing Woolworth costumes that came in cardboard boxes with clear plastic windows. I am Pocahontas. Dressed in faux deerskin with a rainbow of feathers reaching up from a headband. As my mother gripped my two blonde braids, I aspired to dunk for the McIntosh holding the prize coin (an unsanitary group activity by today’s standards). Seven months pregnant, she threw me a costume party for my eighth birthday and baked a jack-o-lantern decorated orange chiffon cake surrounded by chocolate cupcakes. I still have an appetence for the orange essence of my youth. “…a good time was had by all dunking for apples.” (Long Island Advance, Nov. 4, 1971)
A nurse, a teacher, a computer programmer, one three year old princess and an assortment of retirees, divorcees and college students assembled in a neo-Mediterranean theme restaurant highlighted in swirls of varying shades of golds and dark wood tones. A paper bag filled with apples from my own apple tree is set upon a shiny lacquered table. Beside it sits three neat rows of quart-size Ball jars containing stewed apple slices adorned in pinking sheared squares of fall-inspired fabrics. An assortment of friends and relatives spend an afternoon in “live reality”, wearing Levi, Ralph Lorene Polo and Vera Wang purchased online and from designer factory outlet malls. I am wearing a “Zaras” costume consisting of a mid-thigh, satin fitted dress, splashed in bright tones resembling blurred computer pixels. Blonde highlights fall freely to my shoulders. I am feeling fabulous at fifty as I stand among the real super heroes in my life. Everyone wins the prize, simply by surviving the decades, showing up and taking home the apples….
…Favor tags: “Thank you for Sharing Debbie’s 50th… October 27, 2013”.
Several people have passed since that photo was taken forty-six years ago, including my mother. Others have moved in different directions as we all became consumed building our lives. Despite my home being vacant of children, this year I brought myself to the occasion of my 54 th, returning to New York to visit family, see a show, eat great food and finding new friendship with a recently discovered DNA cousin.
Fall has always been my favorite time of year. With cooling thermals and foliage alighting the landscape with sunset hues, field mice scramble to warm indoor nooks as growing things relinquish their vigor to long dark days. And I am compelled to feel nostalgic. I reminisce of leaping into crisp leaf piles and licking sticky candy apples on popsicle sticks. Smoky scents of maple and oak fill the evening air and aromas of cinnamon and allspice emanating from bubbling apple crisps and pumpkin custard, spice my Vermont home just the same as the kitchens of my childhood. It is as though the memories that invigorate our senses and make us feel nostalgic, are carried along the generations on a single ethereal stream of fondness. As with the passing of recipes, comforting redolence is carried from the kitchens of the ancestors we’ve never met but have always known. The change of seasons reminds us that nothing remains as it is for too long, all things living must rest. Winter will drape a white coat over the fallen, preserving the seeds underneath until the next change inspires new growth. We are akin to these cycles and also need to allow ourselves to rest, breath steady in the dark, and wait it out. Each one of us is significant in infinite ways. Every birthday is your gift.
David had a running annual riddle he wrote in every birthday card he gave me. Being a numbers person, he’d calculate the shrinking distance between our ages in the form of a fraction. Joking that we were getting closer in age as the years progressed, with the distance between us decreasing, bringing us closer. “When I was 4 and you were 2, you were 2/4 (of ½) of my age. Then when I was 8 and you were 6, you were 6/8 (or ¾) of my age. Then I was 16 and you were 14, you were 14/16 (or 7/8) of my age… See, you are catching up! With Love & getting younger, your Dear.” October 25, 2001, I would have been 38/40 (or 19/20 or .95 = 5% difference) of his age. He was right.
“To everything, there is a season, And a time to every purpose, under Heaven”(Byrds, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, 1965)
The “funk” has begun. It always creeps up on me, disguising itself as a simmering sub-dural hum from the August week we return from Maine until it manifests as an undeniable migraine when I find myself screaming WTF! I return to the realization that I have, once again, lost full control of my emotions and rational reactions to everyday situations and succumbed to the fugacious vices of my private lament amidst the currents of a national remembrance campaign that is becoming as remote a concept to iGen neo-digitals as snapchat would be to the baby boomers who whose lives were vaporized that day. Reflection and journaling become my anodyne. From the weeks marking summer’s end with her long, loose, fair weather sun-lit days and backyard barbecues to autumn’s cool crisp nights and simmering stews, I am reminded of those final blissful days leading up (or is it down) to the end of Eden. September’s mourn is my inescapable truth. That I am another year from “normal”. My solar arc has drifted interminably from my mortal eclipse and I descend into a catabolic reclusion caught in an inverted time frame. I find that there is a natural human tendency to replay the series of moments leading to the final end of a loved-one’s life, whether anticipated or sudden. Below are some of mine.
From August 18 to 25th, we spent our third year on Great Pond, ME with Dave’s family and our camp friends. We extended our vacation for two more days of fun and adventure in Plymouth Mass, returning home across the Long Island Sound via the New London/Orient Point ferry on a warm sunny morning, then spending a pleasant afternoon among street artists, riding an antique carousel and feasting on a fantastic seafood supper in the North Fork town of Greenport. In the week to follow, David and I returned to our careers. Labor Day weekend offered us one more extended weekend to play, so I packed the gold Chrysler Voyager for a weekend at our favorite place, David’s childhood home with his parents in Wappinger’s Falls, NY. Here he enjoyed his Mom’s Japanese curry, paella and toasted mochi cakes floating in sweet red bean soup and wrapped in toasted nori.
He visited with his childhood friends and took his final ride on the Wellcraft bow rider we kept there, racing up and down the Hudson, visiting our favorite light house and attempting to teach the boys how to water ski.
I have a striking memory of leaning back at the stern, arms outstretched, feeling adrift in a timeless moment of divine awareness. David, strong at the helm, racing against the wind, the blackish water surging with glistening caps and our two little boys bracing the bucking bow with guttural squeals of delight. I thought of my own mother who met an early death at 38 following a lifetime battle with mental illness and cancer, who could never have dreamed of such a moment for herself. I thought; How wonderful it is to be here, in this life we have made. On Monday we were informed that our sick cat had died as we returned to Freeport. The 4th to the 7th was spent working and checking off the class supplies lists for the boy’s start of pre-k and third grade for which they anticipated with great excitement. We met with our financial planner on the 5th to discuss creating our will and tying up IRA and disability insurance investments. We joined the little league teams on the 8th for an awards picnic at Cow Meadow Park, after which we enjoyed a final sunset in the surf and sand at nearby Jones Beach. On Sunday, September 9th, we visited with most of my extended family for a backyard barbecue at my cousin’s home in Shoreham. I was looking forward to a new career move in the coming week which included writing bilingual emerging language children’s books and further building my private practice as a direct provider with the county. We slipped into routine-mode on the tenth, with David returning to work and his job hunt and our 8 year old bounding onto the school bus for third grade. This Monday he was working at GHI in midtown, an unusual switch with his job with Marsh & McLennan at one World Trade Center where he usually worked Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
Since 9/11, a continuous cacophony of media reports, notifications of anniversary event planning and legal updates fill my electronic and postal mail boxes from July through September. Friends and acquaintances inquire of my plans for the anniversary. Strangers who make my introduction cannot resist the opportunity to share their personal “this is what I was doing, or my nephew was going to school in NYC at the time, or my friend volunteered to help in disaster recovery and had to quit their day job to re-invent themselves on a tropical island” stories. Everyone has a story that begs to be told and my disclosure in a classroom, on a ship in the North Sea or on a wooded path in VT, draws them forth.
This sixteenth anniversary year is bookmarked by our annual August pilgrimage to Maine unfolding into my quasi-adult offspring returning to college (at NYU), ripened garden tomatoes dropping underfoot and crafting logistics with family and friends for our remembrance plans. No matter how we choose to honor David in any year, the public events marking the collective anniversary of the murder of my beloved husband, my sons’ father, Richard’s brother, Hiro and Stanley’s son and the loved ones of 2,976 other civilians whose similar fate were live-streamed for the world to gasp (and in some cases cheer) cannot be dismissed.
I was born in October under the seventh zodiac on the cusp of the eighth and fall had always been my renaissance, finding peace and serenity in the cooling thermals, leading me to orange dotted pumpkin fields stretched along a narrow byway parting pebble beaches with long Indian names and New York island farmlands with corn mazes and pie stands. Joan Didion wrote: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live. We also tell ourselves stories in order not to die. And at any moment these stories can change.” In a 1400 sqft house set on a sandy island jutting forth into the Atlantic, twenty-five miles east of New York City, the moment found me.
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In front of me as I write is a photograph, snapped July 25, 2001 on a Kodak Advantix by our eight year old. It was taken on the cedar deck we had just built in the backyard of where we lived in Freeport, NY. In this photo, Dave and I are retiring on our newly purchased picnic set on a sweltering mid-summer evening following a vigorous day of domestic beautification. Dylan, our four year old, naps in a chair beside us. There is a slightly scuffed carrot cake on the table that despite its appearance, promises the divinity reminiscent of the day we lit the unity candle fourteen years ago. I don’t recall what bauble was contained in the little box as much as the scent of his bare chest, glistening with July humidity, and the smile reserved only for me that said, “thank you dear for giving me this moment.” We were backyard casual, keeping it low key because having the boys celebrate the sacrament and joy of our union, that began six and ten years before their conception, was where we wanted to be. We were the future we wanted them to see. There were still many five-star anniversaries ahead once the boys tired of us in their teens. And fifteen felt more significant for a grander affair. We were grateful. We were proud. We were home.
Next to that photo I have queued another one snapped from the same deck, one year later, the morning of July 25th . A vaporous “X” marked the cloudless cerulean sky and a single red rose bloomed at the edge of the cedar where we once ate cake. We can sense that outside the frame, beyond where the jets fly off the page, there is a void. An infinite vastness that recedes to the heavens, undefined.
When we mourn the loss of someone we love, there is a human tendency to see beyond the mortal margins for less tangible, yet personal signs of spiritual affirmations. In order to validate our existence to prove to ourselves that we are more than just a shaky leaf in the fugacious tree of life, we innervate a path of synapses in our emotional cortex where only the bereft go. Seeing beyond where others see to appease the pain and say “yes, I am here, you are aware of me and we are connected in this moment. It is a hyper-awareness, or a sixth sense to what is otherwise dismissible in the ordinary. A phone that rings without offering a voice or dial tone, always at the time you are preparing supper. A doorbell that chimes precisely at 6:45 PM, and no one is hiding in the bushes. An orb beside you in a photograph in the absence of his presence. Or a kiss in the sky on the day you were wed. I say, he is here, in this moment to re-affirm our connection, beyond flesh and earth, there are souls and love that remain in a spiritual phase. The intangible becomes tangible. The heart and our spirit are re-innervated with a new sense of hope that we are more than just atomic matter. A hope that whispers we are significant, we are not alone and we can embrace another dawn.
Like I’ve stated before, none of us need anniversaries to remind us of what we cannot forget. Especially when similar “celebrations” are happening simultaneously all around us. This year, my father who married two weeks after Dave and I, are celebrating, as are our our good friends who married two weeks before us. Another friend just returned from Tahiti for their thirtieth. He’ll give her roses and she’ll carefully trim the stems and place them in water. They’ll embrace the night together and add a new pearl to their thread of life.
So today I will embrace myself, cherish my rose and find my pearl. I am so grateful to have shared a life with you dear, to be the mother of your sons and I would do it over again. I loved you in life, never dismissing a moment. No foreign act of hate can erase what remains in my heart. Our love lives on in the positive engagements I have with other selfless humans and in the pages that your sons will turn.
Happy 30th Anniversary! I love you forever Dear…
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No one needs bumper stickers or museum kiosks to remind them of what they cannot forget. Most kids aren’t reminded of their parent’s date of death by the vehicle ahead, when heading to the Little League field. Lunch out with a friend isn’t usually jolted by political debates over the circumstances of your spouse’s death, leaking over from the neighboring table. And strangers don’t typically run up to snap your photo while posing in front of your loved-one’s memorial.
I am Deborah Garcia and I belong to the 9/11 widow’s club. My sons, the 9/11 orphan’s club. My circumstance is not like most widows and widowers who lay their loved ones to rest and mourn within the confines of family and friends. I lost my husband, instantly, in a national tragedy, along with 1,609 other spouse’s and sixteen years later, most Americans share my grief. What’s on everyone’s mind every September in the developed media-driven world, is the modern day tragedy that has come to be known as 9/11. 2,977 civilians were murdered in the largest attack on American soil since December 7, 1941, and my husband, David Garcia was among them. The grief still resonates deep in the memories of those old enough to have known, those of us who were close enough to have been directly impacted, and those who fight to protect our nation’s borders.
How do we move through this? How do people adapt to a new normal while living in a continuous thread of multiple simultaneous messages from multiple directions? How do we nurture our children of public tragedy, in a world where there are no privacy settings?
This is my endeavor to share my experience of moving from surviving sudden life interruptions in a national crisis that is personal and persistent, while composing a new life. To find healing and peace in one single day.
I am interested in learning how others move from similar circumstances to reinvent their lives and raise a new, productive generation with hope and joy. If you like my content, I invite you to comment. If you have a story related to 9/11/01, or any global tragedy, I invite you to share and engage in my blog form.
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