And there’s so very much to do.
I’m wildly, improbably behind at that online probs and stats course, in consequence of the fact that the whole of it is, as I have remarked before, filthily written and that the sitting in front of the monitor being forced to read it puts me in the spirit of shooting myself in the teeth. And yet it’s not going anywhere, is it, and the new quarter starts on the 4th of January 2006, which is not so very far away once we’ve said good-bye to 2005 which is something we are very keen to have done, it being probably our least favorite year in the last twenty or so by a long chalk.
And there’s a Sailor at my last command, a good man he is, and getting commissioned to Ensign, United States Navy who has asked me not only to read him the oath but also to say a few words, and that’s on the 4th too and it’s not the kind of thing you can do on the wing because of the significance of the thing to the man who’s asked for it and he was a shipmate, wasn’t he, so I’ve got a speech to write and not so very much time within which to write it.
There is also a day job.
She never weighed but a bit, being a mere slip of a girl so it was no great effort for your humble scribe and his number one son and four others who loved her to carry her into the church in spite of the fact that a chill wind was blowing making it hard for us to see at times for the water which sprang into our eyes, the chill breezes having brought it forth. There a mass was said in her honor, that being the custom of our faith, in a lovely church in Old Town Alexandria. The priest did a brave job and my son read one of the lessons because he volunteered to, and if you’d seen him strain under the burden of it with her coffin laying there just beside us you’d have been as proud of him maybe as his very own father was with my heart about to burst from everything, from all of it. This we couldn’t allow though because all of it suddenly became real to the youngest of us whom we’d shielded a bit from the worst of it and they were dashed to tears the lot of them which I believe speaks as well of them as it speaks to she whom they mourned. Our mother’s brother came with his wife, he is 81 years old and a veteran of Patton’s 3rd Army, a witness to the Camps and a man that my son who has a keen interest in the history of that time would have liked to know better. Why have we never seen this part of the family before he asked, and the only answer that came to mind was one I could not say aloud: He reminds all of us too much of his sister, and that hurt has never truly healed. He did thirty years in the government service, did Uncle Jim, after he’d come back from that war in Europe. Retired and never looked back. Lived simply, played tennis and went to the gym. So now he’s 81, hale and vigorous, still driving the car down from Maryland to see his niece laid low at only 62. He’s still passionately in love with his wife Mary who’s nothing but a hobbit herself, a wee, little lady who used to plant big red lipstick splotches on the youthful cheek of your scribe before a-pinching it and asking me how was I doing, lover. She loves him right back and there’s a lesson somewhere in that for all of us if only we were wise enough to see it.
After we went back to her house, a five-story town home on the Potomac River which we’ll never see again, the intention being to sell it just as soon as possible, none of us being able to cover the expenses of the thing. This she had made not only into her place of work and respite but also into a kind of family shrine, with pictures on every level cleverly arrayed, photographs of all of us from the time when we were nobbut little things ourselves unto the present day, with all of the issue that we had made of ourselves along the way. It has long been the custom of our little clan to go to this place and see and say, “There was your father at age 8 with his parents whom you’ve never met God rest their souls, and there’s yourself back when we lived in Key West and look how tanned you were. This is your sister when we brought her home and remember how happy that made you?” And so on.
There were things to be said that none of us had the heart to say, it still being all too raw inside of us and the time not yet being right. But the little ones must hear. They must know.
We flew home today on a United flight from Dulles that was delayed two hours on the tarmac before departure because they hadn’t figured out the weight and balance right and the jet had to be re-stowed and then subsequently refueled. And then sent over to the run-up area for a half an hour to burn a few hundred pounds off of her, the jet itself having been over-serviced.
It’s been that kind of year.