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Warning Signs

7 Sep

When I was a young girl I would often travel with my cousin, aunt and uncle to their cabin on Echo Lake in Northern California. On the winding mountain road there were signs posted that read, “Watch for Falling Rock.” At the time my uncle quelled the inquiries of us two little girls with the following story:

Falling Rock is a little Indian boy who was lost from his tribe. His father put these signs up so people would keep a look out for the young boy in hopes of finding him. So keep your eyes open for little Falling Rock and let me know if you see him.

Needless to say, my cousin and I would keep our eyes glued to the great horizon, through the boundary of trees and cliff sides, through each pane of glass afforded in the Jeep Wagoneer, in hopes of reuniting the little Indian boy to his family. Of course upon our arrival to the cabin the distractions of fun took precedence to the road sign call. However, the search would continue for the duration of the ride down the mountain and would commence again the next trip up.

Here’s the thing, I honestly believed my uncle’s story up until I was in my nineteenth year. At this point I don’t remember where I was headed, but I do remember it was somewhere in Southern California (not northern) and I was in the driver’s seat. I also remember that I was alone at the time for when I passed the “Watch For Falling Rock” sign and had the epiphany that it is actually a roadside warning sign due to the potentiality of loose rocks falling from the cliffs and not anything to do with a little Indian boy, I had to ingest the knowledge of my gullibility and my uncle’s cunning tactics alone. I remember feeling duped, enlightened and dumb all at once.  I remember I was also relieved. Finally I could let go of the concern, genuine concern, I had stored up within me for this little lad–his non-existence lifted the native American plight. And for the first time I interpreted the “Watch For Falling Rock” sign as its placement intended, a warning to driver’s that rocks may fall onto the road.

Warning signs along the way of life are helpful. The yellow road signs are “suggestions” and meant to assist the traveler’s path. And so we become accustomed to looking out for these markers and almost expect they will keep us from dangerous terrain. So is true for emotional warning signs–or so I thought.

In my previous post I shared that this summer I have been purposeful in negating grief’s call. And had you asked me a week ago, I would have felt somewhat successful in the endeavor. But this past week I was tagged, caught in the whirlwind of sorrow and was thrown back into the throngs of pain as if I had never left. It truly was akin to a PTSD experience. Though we (the Bent 3) have not had the formality of the diagnosis (you can imagine that staying out of the doctor’s office is more the goal than in!), even so signs and symptoms have been present since May 17, 2013. Veterans know. In fact we’ve had a few seasoned military men and women ask us (respectively) “what are you doing about YOUR PTSD?” My answer is usually the same, “I’m smoking and drinking and doing drugs,” an answer I borrow from the wit of my deceased son–dry sarcasm at its finest! Of course I am not doing any of those things, my penchant for health has been marking my actions for almost three decades now. But I did get tripped off this past week, Wednesday to be precise, and it came without warning. Where’s Falling Rock when you need him?!

I was at work, a place I am usually disconnected from my personal loss for the work pace is such that one doesn’t really have the time to dwell upon self. It was an “all staff” gathering in which the entirety of the 2 hour block was devoted to rolling out our new health benefits plan. I arrived to the location in normal form, coffee in hand and laptop ready for note taking, but I was also eager to learn more about the new change–I had high hopes of finally being able to afford health coverage for Brian and Esther. So it came as a surprise to me when at about 30 minutes into the presentation my heart began racing and my vision was blurring to the point I couldn’t read the informational paperwork. I began to get nauseous and a headache was creeping in. I left the building to head to the bathroom and get some fresh air, but it didn’t help much. As I tried to stick it out it felt more and more difficult to focus and actually breathe. I had to excuse myself, pack up and leave–if I was going to loose my lunch I wanted to be home sooner than later!

Back at my office to gather my things I contemplated the symptoms upon me and began to point the finger toward my tuna sandwich I ate for lunch. It seemed the most viable culprit due to the fact I purchased it from the 7-11 convenient store.  I thought I was most likely experiencing food poisoning given how quickly the affliction hit. Thankfully my niece was at work with me that day and was available to be the appointed driver. In haste we hit the road in hopes that I could keep my tuna from swimming back up for the duration of the hour long ride home. But as our voyage north inched ever closer to Miramar National Cemetery where Cole is buried (a landmark I pass by twice daily, Monday through Friday), I knew this was not the flu nor was I poisoned by fish. As the guttural cries could be contained no more I realized the topic of healthcare and health insurance was cause for my angst.

I spent the rest of the day in my bed crying. I remained in this condition throughout most of the night. I awoke on Thursday and could not pull myself together enough to make it into work, which thankfully my boss understood. I had been tripped off. For me it was a strange experience for I usually can see the signs coming. The thoughts of Cole in my head and the pangs within my soul typically provide fair warning that I am moving toward unstable ground. The difference with this situation is that the physicality of symptoms hit first and I honestly thought I was coming down with the flu or having a bad reaction to something I ate. My son had PTSD and I learned a lot about it at result, which is how I also recognized the symptoms within the Bent 3 upon our loss. But this being “tripped off” was a new aspect for me, personally, and a bit alarming if I am to be completely transparent. I didn’t like that my body was responding to something my mind hadn’t caught up with yet. A panic attack without knowing yet that panic is present. It is strange indeed.

During my son’s two years of struggle post surgery we, collectively, hurt for those veterans who lacked the advantage of an advocate. I was honored to assist Cole and he was grateful to have my voice in his corner. And I have not forgotten those Vets still lingering without assistance. I somehow need to find a way to navigate topics that trigger adverse physical and emotional responses. I do hope to one day be able to advocate for veterans and active military, in honor of Cole and his own soft-spot for helping others, his own understanding of how much red-tape exists for military men and women, young and old, in need of health care. Cole’s story is layers-full and rich with injustices from all sides: US Marine Corps, Army Medical Centers, Department of the Navy and Veterans Affairs. And sadly, his story is everyone’s story, is the majority of circumstances and reform is most definitely needed.

So here I am, trying to gain ground in healing in order to have access to strength for the impending task at hand. I know the call to action is inching ever closer, I can feel it. Most likely as life has proved, I won’t be ready but provisions will be there. Opportunity will call me out before I seek it. And the broken heart I carry will come with me, not hindering but guiding, reminding me of my own vulnerabilities and need of grace.

Without warning we live daily, though not without help.

Psalm 23

November 11

10 Nov

November 11, Veteran’s Day, can be a hard day for many U.S. residents.  It is a day of patriotism and recognition of the men and women who enlist to serve and protect our country.  It is a day of celebration, it is also a day that reminds…

For those who suffer the loss of their veteran, or for those whose veteran is deployed, it is a day of non-avoidance.  As we know, my veteran is no longer with me.  Funny, my dad was also a veteran, and I miss him too.  This past Saturday I opened the door to my son’s bedroom.  I looked around and thought, “ok Cole, enough of this already, it’s time to come home!”  Some would say to me as response, “he is home.”  And you know what?  My spirit agrees, but my maternal heart and mind does not.

Tomorrow when I raise the American flag (U.S.A) I will be moved to a place of non-avoidance.  The “missing” of Cole is hitting pretty hard these days.  Shock has side stepped as time has traipsed upon its reigning hour, and the missing is taking center stage–for us all.

I will share a photo here, only because I intend to honor the many veterans whose bravery is incomprehensible to me.  The picture is of the folded flag our family was presented at Cole’s posthumous honor ceremony, the medals are not his (those are placeholders awaiting his mom, me, to finish the shadow box presentation–a task I do not wish to accomplish as it would imply I am moving into a place of acceptance of my loss, which I am not).  Yet by doing something difficult for me, facing this reality upon the shelf, I hope to honor our men and women veterans and their inspirational tenacity, their example of bravery, and in doing so honor those same qualities once held by my son.

For those reading this post, may you be reminded to extend gratitude tomorrow (and every opportunity henceforth) by saying, “thank you for your service,” to the women and men who willingly stand up and defend our rights and freedom.

Happy Veteran’s Day

honor flag U.S.A.

Cole, thank you for your service.

Note:  The following organizations were instrumental in assisting my son, I also thank them for their service to him and to others.  Their work is a blessing to many:  http://semperfifund.org  —  http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/#

This Side of Crazy

20 May

I don’t mean to be a broken record, or beat a dead horse, or spin my wheels, or as all of the idioms suggest, repeat myself until my listener tires of the message; But–these past several years I have been much occupied with my familial affairs.  First caring for my son, assisting him in his recovery from surgery and all aspects of his militarily connected life, to wading through this past year of grief for myself, my husband and our daughter.  Thus my time, since about March 12, 2011, has been allocated to most things Bent!  As result, I have many friends who endearingly tell me, I am missed.

The problem is, I miss me too.



I feel as if I am in a quasi rendition of a “Where’s Waldo?” book.  Only my title reads, “Where’s Rivka?!”  I vacillate so frequently in my position on things, I hardly recognize my own opinion!  One day I’m aching to have a vacation away, then when the opportunity presents, I have no desire.  I know I love sushi, but when faced with pangs of hunger I cannot decide for what it is I crave.  I used to find a therapeutic remedy in my exploration of culinary arts, now I settle for a bowl of cereal.  I have many friends with whom I would often visit, and now I prefer solitude.  “Where’s Rivka??”  I honestly miss her!!

Not only do I want her back, I need her back.  She has work to do…she has an entire VA system to fight and reform– with veterans in need of compassionate advocacy.  She has friends she loves who were previously surviving on her sloppy seconds.  She has interests left waiting for her return.  “Where’s Rivka?”

Well folks, regardless of where she is (where I am) and whether we shall ever truly see her again, she must resume her place in life.  A year of mourning has, this past weekend, been fulfilled.  The time is upon her to gain ground and “get at it.”  I hope the next series of posts will be reflective of that attempt.  The attempt to find my place within a world that is different, and with a person who is altered–me.

**Note: This post is written with the sole purpose of exposing the melancholy within a grief stricken soul.  It is sometimes helpful for others to know that sentiments of grief manifest within the realm of crazy.  And within that state, a functioning being exists.  

 

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