Memorial Day. I feel obliged. Guilty. I'm a military brat; I'm grateful to the men and women who have done... duty.
My dad was a career military man, in the Air Force for 29 years. He loved it, believed in it, hated it, distrusted it, gave it his all. Believed ridiculous things that had pure truth in his world of absolute values -- like his explanation for having to row the boat across the Delaware for General Washington... that was what he thought I needed to understand about Vietnam.
Talk about a rift.
I am an ungrateful military brat, confused by the world, confused by the military, confused by random violence, confused by organized violence, by terrorism, by conventional and unconventional warfare, by the deaths of men in the name of women, by the abuse of women by men frustrated unto violence, but not conscious of where their resentment originates, by the hypocrisy of all of us. Confused by drones, torture, international law ignored, domestic law ignored, nature's laws ignored. Confused by myself, angered at being compartmentalized, angered that the compartments fit, so cozily.
I merge Memorial Day and Veteran's Day in my head. I'd rather we just have Veteran's Day, as there are so many veterans who return to us dead, and alive, at the same time. They gave their all, too. We're too at ease with the beating of their hearts and the spikes and waves obtained from electroencephalograms as proof enough of their living.
Eleven years ago today -- though not exactly -- so let me restate that. On Memorial Day in 2002, I fell in the St. Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta Intensive Care Unit, and one of the results of that fall was CRPS, which showed up within two hours of the fall and the injuries sustained. The story is told elsewhere on this blog, and if you've been a reader here for even a brief time, you know that my case of CRPS is one of the more severe sort -- a life-ender, in all the ways that matter.
So every Memorial Day since that one in 2002, I have a strange day. All is odd, all is out of sync. I wake with grand plans for celebration, odd, in that I don't celebrate most holidays. So, I wake with odd menus going round the brain, mostly fresh, spicy, creative food dishes, and time set aside to think of those who serve. My mouth moves, larynx and pharynx function, but sound is late or skewed. Thoughts jumble and I'm out of joint, and not just in the usual literal sense. Until it hits me -- Oh yes, I've something else to commemorate.
At least I know enough now to look at each person I see, write to, think of, and know that they, too, have their own private commemorations going on, that they allot time, heart, neurons, photons, and blank eyes to theirs, as I do to mine. I imagine other people are better behaved. You see, until I remember what's wrong, that I am having some kind of minor anniversary-driven PTSD bit of a tantrum, I just feel raw and mean. While I was slaving away in the kitchen, Fred was collapsed under the weight of an undeniable nap attack, and that pissed me off. I did not need him; He wasn't neglecting to do a darned thing, in fact, he was likely worn out from a recent attack on vines. Evil vines.
I put hard-boiled eggs and pickles in the potato salad for him. It's his fault that I am feeling raw, odd, out of sync, and joint, and whatever else I've complained of thus far. No mention of pain, or how hard it was to cut a cooked potato. Definitely not a word about pouring boiling water on my thigh (the same thigh I marinated in salmonella just a few days ago, ginger and soy sauce, chopped chicken parts, a good massage, and spuh-lurt, salmonella lap!). My thighs, recipients of incomplete dishes. At least today's immersion was just hot pepper, highly salinated, starchy water, with some of my oldest brother's last green peppers artistically strewn about.
Better than dropping something heavy and sharp, like a blade, some sort of chopping device, tip down on the second toe of an already amputation-envied right foot. Just joshing! I missed this time! (I'm sorry, that was mean.)
A beautiful dressing was prepared -- of yogurt, fresh garlic, Thai chili and fish sauces, an unbelievable amount of pepper and dill, with oft-adjusted grains of kosher salt. Three mustards. I know it sounds overwhelming, but it wasn't. It was perfect.
Fred "served" in the military, in war time, but drew a map-making mission in Africa. He left much behind but not his life, and gained much as well, and not just in beautiful love-making with beautiful Ethiopian women, not just in falling in love with baboons, and a certain aridity. He discovered aimless freedom. Drank a lot, drove fast in the desert.
Last July, after the Father-Unit just laid down and died, I wrote this:
A scattering of his ashes is planned for Atlantic waters, and there don't seem to be a bunch of laws standing in the way. Not like over at the western end of that state, where some weenies decided to regulate drifting cinders. That was my first choice, somewhere (actually, "somewhere" very specific) along the Blue Ridge. Then a California friend, a busy mother, ceramic artist, perpetual redesigner of kitchens -- but reportedly, by kin, even, a god-awful baker -- someone who eventually went to med school and, I'm willing to wager all my investment income -- income so piled high upon itself that it is seeping out of my Gringotts Wizarding Bank magical money jail cell -- solves more medical mysteries over coffee in her torn-to-pieces kitchen than in some speckled formica-ed San Franciscan examination cubicle...
Anyway, Margaret, this California friend, began sending me a local artist's series of Point Reyes note cards, a national park, a "national seashore." A shore, headlands, grasslands, beaches, a forest, even. [I am notoriously challenged directionally... A trip up the Pacific Coast Highway meant the Pacific was on the left, the forests on the right. The return trip required the PCH to be on the right, the woods to my left. The weeping driver asking for directions, thank God, was *always* to my left, as The Great American Writer Wannabe refused to allow me to drive his Mustang.
Margaret wasn't campaigning that I scatter my ashes anywhere in our nationally shared Point Reyes park. It just came to bright me, it came as a longing, as a fulfillment. And it turned out to be a pain in the caboose:
• A permit is required for all areas. • Remains to be scattered must have been cremated and pulverized. • Scattering by persons on the ground is to be performed at least 100 yards from any trail, road, developed facility or body of water, and 440 yards seaward from the shoreline on the Pacific Ocean. • Scattering from the air will not be performed over developed areas, facilities or bodies of water and will be performed at a minimum altitude of 2000 feet above the ground.
Just at that point in your After-Existence when you're looking for the few people left who love you to have a freeing moment, a laugh in the wind? Bullet points. And I gotta say, "pulverized" kinda kills the good mood. Of course, I suppose that if my already cindered remains were not put through some huge spice grinder, I'd shift from a figurative to a literal portion of the Giant Floating Garbage Patch.
I do appreciate, though, the posting of allowable driving speeds. It reads like a marvelous poem:
15 MPH: • The unpaved section of Mesa Road • Oyster Farm Access Road • Mount Vision Road • Estero Trail Access Road • Marshall Beach Road • Sacramento Landing Road • Chimney Rock Road
The following sections of trails open for administrative vehicle use: • Sky Trail (from Limantour Road to Sky Camp) • Bear Valley Trail (Bear Valley Trailhead to Glen Junction) • Coast Trail (Limantour Road to Coast Camp) • Drivable sections of the Inverness Ridge Trail (Limantour Road to the Mt. Vision Road) • Marshall Beach Trail • Stewart Trail (including Glen Camp Spur Trail from Stewart Trail to Glen Camp) • Lighthouse Road from the parking lot to the Lighthouse Visitor Center • Bolinas Ridge Trail • Randall Trail
25 MPH: • Limantour Road (Sky Trail to Limantour Parking Lot, including the road to the southern parking lot)
Yeah, so now? Just put me in a cardboard box, mix with some perlite -- me and some Home Depot volcanic glass -- and plant something that you don't think I'd kill.
Ayer como hoy.
I remember, not just today, but every day -- too much memorializing, too much memory. Not enough now, not enough sloughing it off, saying: "Who knows? I sure don't." Saying, yes, I know, a woman soldier has just been blown sky high by an IED; a young man has lost his life in jihad. A child has curled up like a sea shell, dead of simple starvation, food withheld by a brilliant blockade. A shaman dies in the wilderness, or trips, and tumbles down a crevasse, smiling. Cheney and other war mongers count their money, and regret getting a human heart.
I've always wanted to understand, as a Jew must understand, the meaning of mitzvah/mitzvot
Literally: commandment. Any of the 613 commandments that Jews are obligated to observe. It can also refer to any Jewish religious obligation, or more generally to any good deed.Not having anything left to accomplish on my Memorial Day 2013 list, I thought I would actually read the 613 commandments, as sorted out for my lame brain by a website called Judaism 101. Numbers 598 through the end of the list, at 613, deal with... war. I knew the random firings of my neurons would come through once again, that being all that I am at the moment.
598. That those engaged in warfare shall not fear their enemies nor be panic-stricken by them during battle (Deut. 3:22, 7:21, 20:3)
599: To anoint a special kohein (to speak to the soldiers) in a war (Deut. 20:2)
600: In a permissive war (as distinguished from obligatory ones), to observe the procedure prescribed in the Torah (Deut. 20:10)
601: Not to keep alive any individual of the seven Canaanite nations (Deut. 20:16)
602: To exterminate the seven Canaanite nations from the land of Israel (Deut. 20:17)
603: Not to destroy fruit trees (wantonly or in warfare) (Deut. 20:19-20)
604. To deal with a beautiful woman taken captive in war in the manner prescribed in the Torah (Deut. 21:10-14)
605: Not to sell a beautiful woman, (taken captive in war) (Deut. 21:14)
606: Not to degrade a beautiful woman (taken captive in war) to the condition of a bondwoman (Deut. 21:14)
607: Not to offer peace to the Ammonites and the Moabites before waging war on them, as should be done to other nations (Deut. 23:7)
608: That anyone who is unclean shall not enter the Camp of the Levites (Deut. 23:11)
609: To have a place outside the camp for sanitary purposes (Deut. 23:13)
610: To keep that place sanitary (Deut. 23:14-15)
611: Always to remember what Amalek did (Deut. 25:17)
612: That the evil done to us by Amalek shall not be forgotten (Deut. 25:19)
613. To destroy the seed of Amalek (Deut. 25:19)
That clears everything up.
I guess this is another post you will have to forgive me.
It doesn't fit tightly with my theme, nor follow the narrow limits of my text, but I discovered that my favorite of the 613 mitzvot is #578:
That the procedure of cleansing leprosy, whether of a man or of a house, takes place with cedar-wood, hyssop, scarlet thread, two birds, and running water (Lev. 14:1-7)Let's just think on that for a year, shall we?