Thursday, August 30, 2012

Western North Carolina Veterans' Cemetery

The Western North Carolina Veterans' Cemetery is about a mile and a half from my new front door and something I pass every day on my commute to and from work. Over the three months I've lived here, it had become shocking to me how often I saw a new grave being dug or a funeral being served. But then I watched Ken Burns' documentary, The War last month and heard the statistic, "... one thousand WWII veterans die every day." At that point, all of those new graves made sense since those WWII veterans were probably pretty old by now. Unfortunately, what I was forgetting was that The War was released in 2007.   

Tonight, Alli and I slowly drove into the Veterans' Cemetery. I needed to see this somber place with more deliberate eyes than could be had in a car at 45 MPH. We inched along the concrete lanes that surrounded the rows of uniform white stones aligned in starkly straight lines and stretching much farther than I had originally thought along the base of the large mountain that seemed to be set there to watch over the dead. We read words and phrases like, USAF, Marines, Navy, Army, Beloved Husband & Father, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service, Medal of Honor, and even the much expected, WWII. The thing I was not expecting to see so often was the word, Vietnam.

I've been told more times than I care to hear, that my Dad died young. He was sixty years old when he died, and yes, that was too young. But yet here I stood in this cemetery and with the exception of just a few markers, almost every gravestone I walked amongst read the word, Vietnam, and included ages very close to my own father. What a sad thing to realize that many other families besides my own were losing their Dads and Husbands and Brothers and Sons. And what a sad thing to see it was happening so much and so often.

Some observations from our drive tonight...
  • Since we moved here June 1st, 2012, there have been twenty eight veterans buried in this cemetery.
  • Since January 1st, 2012, seventy nine veterans have died and been buried there.
  •  On August 12th, 2012 (my birthday), a veteran of WWII died and was buried in this cemetery. On August 16th, four days later, his wife who was a nurse in WWII, died and was buried beside her husband.
  • There were two WWII veterans, both 92 years old, who died the same day and were buried one day apart.
  • I found a grave marker for a woman younger than me who was a veteran of the Persian Gulf. That one hit me pretty hard.
  • Except the five I just mentioned, every gravestone of the seventy nine were all from the Vietnam War and almost all of those within a few years of age of my Dad.
  • The 2012 gravestones were spaced across the front lawn that filled the cemetery between the road and concrete single lane. At the curve of that lane stood a solitary tree. Hanging from its branches were an amazing array of windchimes. I tried counting them, but as the twilight slid behind the mountain it became hard to see them all. Despite not being able to verify it, at best I could make out in the fading light, there was a windchime for every 2012 deceased American Veteran.
The whole thing was humbling and awe-inspiring. I am honored to be an American as I pass this cemetery each day, and after tonight will be even more proud of that fact.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I wish there were more writers. Scratch that. I wish more people would write.

(Those of you who use your blog for pictures, feel free to skip this post.)

I jumped into my blogroll this afternoon and dug deep... I mean, really deep. I opened every blog in every blogroll in every blog I clicked onto from my own. And then I clicked on every blog in those blogrolls and then those and then those and then those. Hours. And hours. And hours. I found old friends, friends I never knew had blogs, people I had used to L.O.V.E. reading but who had stopped writing in 2011. 2010. 2009. 2008. I even found a few people who had long ago abandoned blogging but recently found a new voice. It was glorious. And of course, thought inducing.

"Oh great, here goes Sam whining about blogging again." Cue the eye-rolling. Skip to the comments.

I'm done being friendly, i.e. dishonest, about it. I'm pissed people have walked away. That's just how I feel. It really is. I respect family and spouse and harassment reasons. That's it. The rest? Pathetic. Sorry. If blogging isn't detracting from real life or threatening family unity...... and you've had more than a couple people say they enjoy your written thoughts........ and you're still not writing? Annoying. I want to see into your writing soul and I want to see you challenge yourself by writing. Too many people walk away from blogging because they fancy themselves poor writers. Annoying. Truly. Here's your cyber-hug. Get over yourself. Now who is queuing up the eye rolling? 

I would love to say I cared about who and where I find people blogging. As the poster-child for it lately, it would make sense to read another rant like that from me. But... I don't. Sorry. Again. I'm done re-working my blogroll to try and capture active writers and delete missing folks. If I keep that up I'll be down to only a couple names. And I'm done adding great one's I find. No use recommending an inspiring person only to have them exit a few months in.

For a couple years now I've been trying to add a certain aspect to my life. Finding solutions to any and all of my bitching. Not just here but everything in my life. Makes no sense to complain and not at least try to find an answer. Here's my answer. Stop hiding. Stop being lazy. Stop letting your mind shrivel. Explore ideas. Imagine with words. Put yourself out there with written theatrics.

Dammit. I just want to read something else besides my own inner lunacy.

Probably lost a few with this post. *shrugs*

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ugly pride

A man came into my office today and asked to speak to the person in charge. As he walked towards my office he announced loud enough for everyone in the branch to hear, “We have a big problem!” I’ve always found a certain humor in people that act like that due to the fact that in my decade+ career in banking, I’ve found very few actual banking issues but in turn, most problems are caused by individual ineptitude. There are exceptions of course, but a tiny hundredth of one percent of bank fees charged in America are the result of bank error and the other 99.99 percent are client error. So when you announce you have a problem, what you are really saying is, “Hey world, I’m too stupid to figure out my banking and I screwed something up!”

I won’t go into the whole ordeal but a basic recap is that this guy recently acquired a PO Box for his mail but had neglected to inform the bank, causing a new credit card to be returned by the Post Office. We changed his address in our system and ordered him a replacement card. That all happened last week. Today, he received a statement for the card and came in declaring, “How dare you bill me for a card you never sent!” First off, we had sent it but it had been returned due to his negligence. Second, the statement he hadn’t bothered to read had a zero balance; we hadn’t billed him a dime. Third, he seemed to forget the previous week’s interaction and that we’d ordered the new card or that we’d changed his address. More problems spiraled down from there including not understanding that his Savings acct information was included on his Checking acct statement, that his wife also had an account, and that he’d requested we close a dormant acct two weeks ago. Basically, he was forgetful.

The issue that prompts my writing is not the age of this man or his mental well-being (neither of which were indicative of problems) but rather his pride at admitting he was wrong, or at the very least that he had just forgotten some things.

Why do men act this way? Why is it so hard for us to admit we’re wrong? And why can’t we see that our pride is ugly and a by-product of that ugliness is the breeding of dishonesty and distrust?

I work with a predominately aging population which carries with it a certain level of understanding of who they are, the decades in which they grew up, and where they are in the circle of life. As a result of that understanding, I also realize that different generations have different views on the roles of men and women. I certainly don’t agree with many of those views (like the fact that the client in question assumed I was the manager over my peer banker who is a woman), but I have to work within those views if I want to help my clients. Part of that integration involves dealing with the increased pride of older generations of men. But whether or not I get where they’re coming from, and I do get it, I don’t have to think it’s right or think it’s ever beneficial.

Pride is that inner reaction that causes a lump in your throat, a shortness of breath, a quickened heartbeat, a flush of blood to the brain, and more. There is good pride most often associated with the word, PROUD. And then there is the blockade of ugly pride which no one should ever be proud of. That ugly pride is birthed from an honest, natural need to defend one’s honor or reputation, but can quickly turn into not being able to admit weakness, covering up true feelings, and a general aire of dishonesty. To call it anything less than lying would be a lie in itself.

I feel like I could talk about this all day but also see this post is getting too long. I guess I just want to beg men to stop lying when they feel cornered. On many occasions, the lie you use to cover-up your weakness, mistake, or misstep is not veiled heavy enough and everyone around you knows the truth anyway. And FYI, the anger you heap on the mess doesn’t help anything either; that just makes you an ass. Trust me… your family, your friends, your co-workers, everyone in your life will like you better if you let go of your ugly pride. There’s nothing anti-masculine about saying you’re wrong, that you screwed up, that you don’t know, and yes, even that you just plain forgot. We all do it, we’re all human. Admit it and move on.

FWIW, this post is as much for me as it is for anyone else.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What really happened...

This topic wasn't on my list but it's something that's been on my mind all morning.

Music has a powerful influence/effect on me. This morning I've been listening to a CD that I bought right before Ell announced she was leaving me. I bought it for one song which got me pumped up and forced blood through every cell of my body with its beat and energy at being alive with purpose. But the other songs on the album are much more heartfelt and emotionally raw with a tendency towards sadness and anger at losing someone.

The second thing driving this post is the fact that I'm sitting alone in my new home because Alli went back to Ohio to see some college and sorority friends including asking one of them to be in our wedding. I made myself organic pancakes with pure maple syrup, freshly ground organic coffee, and then followed it up washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen; all things I fell into a rhythm of when I was living the bachelor life before Alli came into my world. Doing those repetitive chores made my always-active mind to swirl around with thoughts/questions about where I was in those sometimes dark months after Ell left.  

They say hindsight is 20-20, and it's amazing how much clearer I see things now. Ell and I never had a richly fulfilled relationship. To put it bluntly, we were much better friends than we were ever husband and wife. In fact, as I look back at those painful months and even when I read all the stuff I wrote during the same time, I see that much of my sense of loss was more about losing my marriage and living alone than it ever was about losing my love with Ell. She was the best friend I ever had but unfortunately most of my feelings for her ended there.

Ell and I were rarely physical, a lot of which came from my own self-esteem issues but also rooted in a blase attraction to one another. We found more joy in the presence of others than individually and outside of generally enjoying the compatibility and familiarity that time breeds, we were never on the same track in life. Were none of those things ever there? To some point, of course they were. But looking back it's plain to see they were rooted in immature reactions to life and to familial, church, and societal pressure. To say we never loved each other wouldn't be true, but it obviously was never a deep enough marital love that is defined by being able to work through anything and everything. In fact, in her speech to me the night she told me she was leaving me, she defined our love as more like a brother and sister than husband and wife. It was only a deep enough love to keep us together until something better came along. But losing your best friend still hurts... hurts like hell. And that's where I was in the months after she left.

Believe me, admitting my love for Ell was more one of friendship and not one born in complete & utter fascination with her is hard to admit and understandably may shock many who are hearing it for the first time. If you ever saw us together you would never think we had problems. The reason is, we didn't. We had a blast together. We travelled, went to concerts, partied, laughed, and so much more. Like I said, she was my best friend in the world. But friendships have limitations. My dearest friends in the world, Mike and Ginny, didn't move with me to North Carolina. Why? Because we're friends and they weren't willing to uproot their lives just because I was, and likewise, I would never ask that of them. The same thing was a big part of my life with Ell. I can't begin to list the things I gave up because she wouldn't go along with it; the same can be said of her. Neither of us were willing to support each other in all of the other's dreams. We tried, her more than me sometimes, but neither completely gave up our own selfishness. 

Despite being lonely, I never really missed Ell in the way someone should miss their spouse. I wanted her attention, I wanted her laughter, I wanted her presence. I never missed kissing her, or holding her, or having sex with her; I just didn't miss those things. I'm sorry if that makes you reading this to think less of me, but it's long past due being honest about it. I guess I didn't see it then, or maybe I did but couldn't bring myself to the point of allowing myself to see what was really happening. If I ever said those things, it was more out of vocalizing the things I saw as the right things to say to save a marriage. Many, many times Ell has asked that we retain our friendship which I believe to signify her resolve that she still feels much the same way as she stated that dreadful evening.

The final point in this full-exposure, is that I place much of the blame for the demise of my marriage on myself and not Ell. It's easy to blame the person that met a guy on the Internet, ran up our cellphone bill talking to him behind my back, drove five hundred miles to meet him, and then eventually moved in with him long before we were divorced. But none of those would have happened if I had tried to make our marriage an actual marriage versus a roommate arrangement. Is she faultless? Of course not. But please don't ever think she was the only problem just because I was the one trying to save the relationship. That's just not true. I had grown fat and lazy, felt left behind by her schooling and future plans, and was collapsing into myself long before she left. Those are my things and I have to live with them now.

I had someone ask me the other day if I was really over Ell. Again sorry if I offend, but I couldn't be more done with her than I am. She is not the same person who was my wife and friend, and as much as it is going to sound mean, I would never be attracted to the person she is now on either of those relationship levels. Unfortunately I say that not knowing who she really is anymore, and I'm afraid that can be said for more than just the last two+ years. She was gone long before she left, and I'm not sure I knew her even then, or would want to. I wish her all the happiness in the world, but I don't want to be in any of it.  

So that's what really happened.

Friday, August 17, 2012

So much to say but where to start

For a couple weeks now I've had multiple ideas for blog posts pop into my head. So many in fact, I'm not sure what to write about first. I figure the best way to solve that problem is to just make a list. Here's some of the ideas I've had:
  • Thoughts about my Mom
  • Reflections on the local veterans' cemetery
  • More sharing about my new home, job, town, and state
  • Concerns about the statistics of second marriages
  • Answering the requests for my engagement story
  • The recent visit from our dear friends, the Phillips
  • My new car
  • The projects I've completed on my new house
  • Honoring the requests of the deceased, and if I agree with that idea
  • Changes in my view of adulthood
  • Art
  • Plans for our wedding
  • Something simple yet profound I've learned from Alli
Okay, that's a good beginning. Whoever still clicks on ELEVEN, feel free to comment your choice of topics and I'll start there.

I'll leave you with a picture of an amazing birthday present Alli spent days making for me: