grief


Dandelions and Forget-Me-Nots In a sycamore co...

Dandelions/Forget-Me-Nots (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roger Ebert blogged recently about a streak of loses among his friends and relatives that got him thinking about how and why we remember those who have died. In his musings, he touched on something that rang true for me:

Early one morning, unable to sleep, I roamed my memories of them. Of an endless series of dinners, and brunches, and poker games, and jokes, and gossip. On and on, year after year. I remember them. They exist in my mind–in countless minds. But in a century the human race will have forgotten them, and me as well. Nobody will be able to say how we sounded when we spoke. If they tell our old jokes, they won’t know whose they were.  That is what death means. We exist in the minds of other people, in thousands of memory clusters, and one by one those clusters fade and disappear.

The idea that what constitutes are immortality is as mortal as we are makes a lot of sense. It explains in a small way our fear of dying and our fear of letting go of those who have died. When we can no longer bring them to life in our mind’s eye as clearly as our home movies on the flat screen, they are truly gone. because even the photos and audio-visual facsimiles will eventually belong to those who never knew them in the flesh and to whom they are nothing more than curiosities from someone else’s past.

One of the comments on the Ebert’s post had this to add:

Many Native American peoples had two words to describe the dead. One word for those who had died- but still had someone living who remembered them, and another word for those who have died and no living person was left who remembered them.

Implication being that there is no immortality on this plane anyway.

 


Hypnotically Pink for the Cure (1488505615)

Image via Wikipedia

Last week’s uproar over the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s anti-choice antics led me to want to know more about the young woman for whom the breast cancer awareness behemoth is named. But after  a couple of days of Googling, it became clear that after 32 years, poor Suzy Komen is little more than a name on corporate letterhead. Her story is forever lost, filtered through her sister, Nancy Brinker’s, perceptions of the events and how she has decided that the story of the real Susan Komen should be presented.

If you google Susan G. Komen, you will be rewarded with links that speak only of the foundation. Aside from Brinker’s memoir, which is really more about her than her sister, precious little information on Suzy Komen exists.

The poor thing doesn’t even have her own Wikipedia entry. Her namesake fundraising corportion, however, does and so, unsurprisingly, does her sister, Nancy.

One thing I did find, and it’s also not a shock because the Internet is stuffed with all manner of griefy culture things, was a picture of Suzy’s grave. And it immediately occurred to me after reading the inscription that Suzy isn’t the only one left out in cold as far as her story goes. So was her husband.

She is listed as daughter, mother and sister. Presumably the children had a father so at some point, she was a wife. Why isn’t that mentioned? A quick peek at the “official” Komen Foundation historical record on her mentions a husband, Stan, her high school sweetheart, but then it drones on with barely a mention of him or their two children again. Judging from the Foundation’s biography of Suzy, the only people who truly counted in her life were her parents and, of course, her sister.

Knowing what I do about the widow world and the odd notions that extended family and the non-widowed have about the whole “til do you part” and the general scorn there is for widowed who move on at an “unseemly” pace, I came to three possible conclusions.

Stan Komen, Suzy’s husband:

  1. bailed on her while she was ill and therefore earned his exile.
  2. remarried too soon for her family’s liking
  3. doesn’t care much for the happy, happy, joy, joy Disney Princess pink face that Komen’s spin has slathered all over the disease that killed his wife and so he declines to be a part of it.

Stan Komen owned a wine and spirits store in Peoria, Illinois. He still does. You can google him and it. I even found a few news articles that refer to him as a successful business owner and a person who offers advice to others in his industry. There is no mention of a second marriage, but I would guess he has moved on. He was a young man with young children, and it’s doubtful that he remained single (though I wouldn’t rule it out).

But no explanation of his, or his children’s, absence from the Pink juggernaut’s publicity machine. Cuz, let’s be real, run, walk , jump and knit bras for the cure owes its existence to bereaved spouses, children and extended family and friends.  Widowed who involve themselves in the cause to eliminate what killed their spouses is cliché.

So, did he piss his in-law’s off while his wife lay dying?

“A lot of guys bugger off when their wives fall ill,” Rob reminded me.

And that is true. Breast cancer victims especially find themselves alone quite often although I bet the reverse isn’t true with men who find themselves physically altered by prostate cancer.

However, I managed to find a preview of Nancy Brinker’s book about … herself mostly … and the origins of the foundation via Google books. According to Nancy, her brother-in-law was pretty much a Hollywood stereotype of devotion and sacrifice during his wife’s illness. He loved her very much and was devastated by her death.

Colour me confused then by his absence from his wife’s final legacy on the place where she rests. Even if he did remarry that doesn’t make her less of a wife to him. That was part of who she was and should be included regardless of what he moved on to.

I found the whole thing rather sad. Suzy asked her sister to “find a cure” for the disease that killed her. Komen donates very little really to research. The bulk of what they collect from the husbands, children, family and friends of women dead or dying is funneled to pay salaries of Komen employees (Nancy herself makes over $400 thousand a year as CEO) or is used to lobby Congress on behalf of insurance pharmaceutical companies or promote Pink ribbon products that often contain chemicals that are thought/known to cause breast cancer and to promote events to promote breast cancer “awareness”.

The last is funny because women in North America are so aware of breast cancer that they don’t know that they are actually more likely to die of cardiovascular disease. Fear-mongering has paid off so well for Komen that the latest research on the  risks of overscreening via mammograms are ignored or treated like junk science.

Suzy would be proud, I am sure, of the fact that 32 years after her sister promised to find a cure for breast cancer, a woman with stage four of the disease has nearly an identical survival rate as she would have had 50 years ago.

I am still left wondering who Suzy and Stan Komen were. Her silence on last week’s events and her sister’s efforts over the last three decades is understandable given that she is dead and all, but his? Telling? Maybe.


Jan van Eyck, "Knights of Christ" (d...

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Stumbled across a book on “closure” not long ago, written by Nancy Berns, a professor at Drake University in my old home of Des Moines, Iowa. She’s a sociologist, attracted to the cherry “death and dying” course work. I have perused her blog but only read the first chapter of her book because it’s essentially a textbook for one of her courses and, therefore, ungodly expensive.*

In Chapter one, Berns basically outlines the progression of the rest of the book in syllabus fashion with brief detours into the history of the etymology, psychology,  cultural and historical evolution of a term that she compares to the equally made up idea of “self-esteem”. It is not, exactly, a grief book. Although since nearly everything in our culture is now subject to the Kübler-Rossification of processing, it is heavy on the idea that humans need to define the death throes of all experiences. Nothing can simply end. It has to be analyzed, processed and brought to “closure”.

The case can be made that because people believe in the idea that all things unsettling, hurtful and traumatic need to be kneaded like dough, punched into submission and baked until closure, it must be real. Of course, Santa Claus is real until you reach a certain age of enlightenment about magic, and God is real until it becomes apparent that he is like Santa Claus and perhaps existence can’t be explained so simplistically.

Toward the end of Chapter One, Berns describes the two types of people who don’t believe in closure – The Walking Wounded, who can’t find it and the Myth Slayers, who simply can’t fathom its existence.

I like the term Myth Slayer, don’t you? It’s fitting. I don’t believe in grief as a process (unless you are willing to admit that life itself is a series of processes of which grief is just one and in that case I will concede). I am suspicious of the idea that everything needs to be analyzed in light of how we feel about it because feelings are often irrelevant. Some things just are. Birth and death are merely the beginning and end points of mortal existence and are viewed through the accepted societal narratives of the culture and times, which vary depending on where in the world Carmen SanDiego happens to be at any given moment.

One of the reasons I rail against the grief process whose end goal is closure so that people can move on, is that I think it sets up false expectations, hopes and even inspires fear and feelings of inadequacy in those who buy in only to discover that what is promised isn’t going to materialize. It’s not okay to sell grief á la Weight Watchers or peddle it as a life-long chronic emotional illness. Grief culture is just a mythology that our death fearing, but equally obsessed with, society has created to explain the seemingly unexplainable. Just like the Greeks and the Norse invented the gods and goddesses to explain and teach, we have the five stages of grief and closure to weave through the narrative of life’s rather ordinary processes. In this way, we can avoid the fact that life is full of beginnings, middles and endings where just about everything is concerned and we can avoid the reality that nothing much happens on any front without effort on our part. There is no magic.

No magic. It’s a letdown day when we first realize this as children and it continues to bum us out until someone has to bury us and search for closure of his or her own.

One thing that resonated was Bern’s belief that people don’t need closure to heal**, which runs contrary to what the grief industry would like us to believe. Unsurprisingly, I agree with this premise. The falsehood of promoting this has led many a person to sit back, wallow and wait instead of putting one foot in front of the other and moving on. Grief lessens until it reaches a point where it is so muted as to not really be grief as it is portrayed today. There is lingering regret, longing, and sadness attached to nearly anything that ended without our permission. Death is not special in that respect. Closure promotes clinging and this leads to wallowing, sympathy seeking and inertia in terms of moving on. It gives people permission to define themselves in terms of what life has done to them instead of defining themselves by what they do in life. Bonanno would say that this is tied to resiliency, which some of us have in abundance and others of us lack or don’t have the inner resources to access or use if we did. Some social Darwinism in play here too, I suspect.

Closure is hardly a grief thing. We are encouraged to look for it when we lose jobs, lovers, friends and when bad things happen to us good people. We are a 12-step culture and I blame the Baby Boomers, but I blame them for most things about society that drip with self-absorption and keen like a child denied.

Everyone should don a cape, pick up a bludgeon and play “whack a mole” with cultural foolishness now and again.  It’s liberating to discard made up notions superimposed on normal feelings and milestones.

*At $75 for a hardback and $25 for paper, I won’t be purchasing it anytime soon. College students, it seems, are still viewed as a cash cow captive audience. In the age of e-readers and smart-phones, it astounds me that they haven’t risen up and demanded downloadable e-texts at affordable prices, but that’s a post for another day.

**However, she seems to adhere to the same idea that society pushed people through grief – as if this was actually possible – and that grief, like a fine wine, should be savored. I have to chuckle a bit because by and large people move on at a pace dictated by their personalities and needs in spite of society’s best efforts to school them.


Little Girl

Image by Mr Bultitude via Flickr

A friend of the older girls disappeared earlier this week setting off a fast, frantic furious search launched by concerned friends via social media and flyers plastered on buildings in an ever-widening circle.

She hadn’t shown up for work. Her car was missing but her cell phone was not.

I didn’t know her but for a handful of encounters at the house she shared for a time with Edie. She smiled but looked away or down more than she looked at you. I chalked it up to shyness or the awkwardness of your roommate’s  parents descending and upsetting the singular atmosphere of house-sharing as it exists among the young today.

Twenty  and employment challenged, she’d settled into work at a nearby youth hostel. You would have noticed her had you seen her, long wild red locks, round cheeks and ethereal in a Renaissance Fair kind of way. She was beautiful in that fleeting way that we women never appreciate about ourselves until decades later when we run across old photographs and wonder why we didn’t see it when we looked in the mirror then.

She wasn’t missing long.

And when they found her, she was already gone.

She driven to mountains. It’s a city we always pass through on our way to the Okanagan. A destination whose significance was known only to her and it’s where she died.

Edie and Mick were postering at a local park when they heard the news. Friends were already gathering for a candlelight vigil. Edie posted it to her status on Facebook, the town crier of our modern life.

Rob was still out, driving the babysitter home. We’d been out to formal work function earlier.

I greeted Rob on the back porch with the news.

“How’s Edie taking it,” he asked.

“You should call her, ” I said.

I listened as she told him the news through choked sobs and sniffles. Worry on his face mixed with the urge to do and knowledge that “listening” was all he had to offer at the moment.

Mick has lost friends to suicide. He asked if she was okay. Edie said they were together. Dare was there and Silver was on his way. They would not be alone.

She noted that this would be her third funeral this year. She still is surprised by death. It didn’t strike close until she was an adult. That lulls some people I suppose. I was eight the first time, and it doesn’t surprise me anymore. The way it can come in waves, taking without regard to age and leaves you grappling with feelings and thoughts you try to avoid most times.

Edie told Rob that she’d just seen her friend a week ago.

“I didn’t see this coming,” it was hard to tell if that was surprise or self-recrimination.

“It’s so hard to understand,” he said.

It is. In cases when there are mental health issues evident, serious mental illness, there is at least something concrete. I taught in an at-risk program at my first middle school, and one of my favorite students lost his father to suicide.  The group’s counselor and I took all his classmates to the funeral. The man had thrown himself in front of  a train. I’d met him maybe just the once. Jon lived with his mother. His dad’s mother and sisters made sure he had plenty of supportive family around, but his father’s mental illness hung over him. He was afraid he’d end up like his dad, hearing voices and trying not to listen or do what they told him too.

At the funeral, the grandmother told the counselor and I that she was glad her son was at peace. The voices, she said, had plagued him since he was a small boy. He was just too tired to ignore them anymore.

But some people’s deaths can’t be pinned to obvious causes. They hide them in plain sight secure that their game faces are just like ours, or  – perhaps – they just don’t have the strength to live in the world. It’s not really Eden after all or even property east of it. Some people just can’t imagine themselves far enough in the future to wade through the now. They tire. They slowly stop treading and go under, and we are too busy swimming ourselves to notice.

My late husband lost two friends to their own hands when he was in college. After the second, he was so distraught he thought about it himself. Loaded the shotgun even. What made him pick up the phone and call his best friend that night, he really didn’t know he said when he told me about this years later.

“If anyone knew what there was to live for, it was Wally,” he said.

He could have just as easily not called though and I would be somewhere else today. And it wasn’t as if anyone had an inkling of how he felt or what he planned to do. It was just … one of those fateful things that can’t be explained even in retrospect.

Edie’s friend left behind a mother, who’s devastation I could not bear to imagine, a boyfriend, a few extended family members and many, many friends who loved her and searched fervently for her – if only she had known, and maybe she didn’t take her phone because she couldn’t carry that knowledge with her where she needed to go.

Rest in peace, Kylen.


Terry Fox statue in Ottawa

Image via Wikipedia

Terry Fox Day, week, month, millennium – take your pick – is upon us again. Being a Canadian hero/icon, it’s hard to get away from the fundraising done in his honor/memory during the month of September, but Dee continues to be unsettled by the nation’s adoration and determination to carry on the fight against cancer – via money – in his name.

As I do every fall, I sent numerous email reminders to the school asking that Dee be allowed to opt out of all the assemblies and/or information sessions about Terry. They nearly all include some sort of visual representation of Terry, and she simply can’t see the guy without it conjuring up negative emotions. I have told her that someday it won’t bother her as much to which she replied,

“It will always bother me.”

Perhaps this is due to the fact that her first encounter with him occurred shortly after our moving up to Canada from the U.S. when she was dealing with all sorts of adjustments and readjustments, and poor Terry was swept up into the emotional stew never to be released. Whatever the reason, neither Rob nor I feel that Dee’s participation in Terry Fox Day is important enough to force it on her. It’s just another made up holy day. She is happy to take her toonie and walk with the other kids during the walk/run in his name and that’s fine with us.

Inadvertently, however, one of the staff showed her class a video about Terry last Friday. When she informed me, all I could do was sigh. I can’t run interference 24/7 and I told her that. Sometimes these things will happen and she is going to have to open her mouth to object herself or suck it up and deal.

“It couldn’t have been that upsetting,” I told her.

“It was,” she insisted. “It makes my tummy feel uncomfortable.”

“Not that much,” I countered, “or you would have spoken up, and you would have said something as soon as you got home from school.”

She couldn’t refute that because she didn’t mention it until later that evening as we were on our way to shop for birthday presents for upcoming parties to which she has been invited.

“I still didn’t like it,” she replied.

And I don’t imagine she did. I can’t stand watching movies or television shows that depict death or grieving. It’s just not entertaining.When you haven’t experienced something, seeing it is enlightening and gives you a chance to mentally try it on and live it, but once you can call an event your own through first hand experience, the vicarious thrill isn’t so thrilling anymore.

Terry Fox reminded me though that although Dee is a bit over experienced in the dealing with death department for someone her age. She still needs to be prepped in advance of  incoming where death is concerned.

Rob and the older girls have another funeral up north to attend, and as I was explaining to Dee why were weren’t going (Rob and I are agreed on no more funerals for Dee unless she had a relationship with the deceased), she inquired as to whether or not she and I would be taking care of Edie’s dog, Loki.

The dog is getting on in years and has been suffering with diminished mobility that’s gotten worse over the past year. He can’t be left home alone even if it’s just overnight, and he is getting to be too much work to ask someone to take him in for a couple of days here or there. Still, we’ve taken Loki before, soDee’s question was a logical one.

“No, honey, ” I said, “Loki is a lot of work now, and he is more comfortable being with Edie anyway.”

“Because of his legs?” Dee said.

“Yes, his legs aren’t getting better, and Edie knows best what to do for him.”

“They aren’t getting better?” the tone and not the words contained the actual question.

“No,” I said, choosing my words very carefully. “Sometimes, doctors can’t do anything, and they can’t do anything for Loki. His legs will get worse, and then he will not be able to use them.”

She nodded thoughtfully and said, “That’s why Edie is getting the wheelchair thing.”

I nodded, “But that’s just to make things a bit easier. Loki isn’t going to get well.”

“Animals don’t live forever,” she agreed, “and neither do humans.”

And that’s where the conversation was left. Later on, as I retold it to Rob, I pointed out that it was only in the moment I realized that Dee needed advance preparation for the inevitable where her sister’s dog is concerned.

The dog, in a twist of ironic fate that makes me dislike the universe’s odd sense of interconnectedness, is suffering from a demyelinating illness that is slowly paralyzing him. Once it’s done its dirty work on his lower half, it will travel up the spine and leave him essentially trapped in a useless body. It’s very similar in effect to the disease that killed my late husband, Will. It’s not consciously painful, but the collateral issues can cause discomfort and anxiety. There isn’t much that can be done because science just hasn’t found a way to replace the damaged myelin sheath that covers nerves in people or animals. Once the protective covering is gone that’s it. What’s left is no more or less than a prison made of flesh. To say that I am not eager to bear witness to that, or to the pain it will cause Edie, is understating and understatement.

Though Loki’s issues are not new, the diagnosis is and the game plan is in early days. Progressive degenerative illnesses vary from according to the individual, and so everyone waits, watches and hopes – but it’s never to early to begin to prepare. I am a Boy Scout in this matters, and so I laid a bit of the groundwork for Dee.

Tomorrow, she will hang out in the library while her classmates watch yet another inspirational video about Terry Fox, and then she will join them as they run or walk to raise money to beat a disease that will never be beaten. Death comes to all things and cancer or degenerative illness are but two of its avenues.

I wonder if the organizers picked the last month of summer on purpose? With its fading, falling retreat to pre-winter here, it’s a fitting season for such an event.

 


Hamlet, I, 5 - Hamlet and the ghost.

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Can’t remember whose theory on dreams and the subconscious gave the most weight to the symbolic nature of the people, objects and situations that make up the scenery of our nightly home movies.

I blame Pat Robertson and the Progressive Left in any case for last night’s visitation regardless.

Normally, my dreams are populated only with people I know and the setting is most often a variation of the town where I attended university or a school building I once worked in. I don’t know why and I haven’t bothered to research what it means or doesn’t.

Dead people seldom have starring roles in my dreams. If the departed do appear, they have cameos at best. But last night, Will showed up, which shouldn’t come as a surprise thanks to the Robertson faux uproar, but I have to be honest – I was surprised because he has only deigned to grace my dreams a handful of times in the past five plus years and never as more than a walk on. Ever.

I was back in school. It was – god help me – the 80’s with  clothing and the hair styles so jarring that I actually commented on it to another character completely out of context to the situation.

I found myself back on Currier E2 in my old corner room (minus the high-strung room-mate) and Will shows up to visit me for the weekend. And you could have knocked me over with a feather when I opened the door and it was him. Normally, it’s Rob who rides shot-gun in my dreams. Very seldom do I dream that Rob doesn’t figure at some or all points.

Here’s the odd thing – as if dreams with dead husbands stopping in for visit aren’t odd enough – he was not young. His hair was longer, curled like Dee’s does at the nape, around the ears and that same cowlick that drives her to distraction and salted with gray. His face was lined a bit and his goatee salted as well.

This has happened once before where someone who’s been gone a while showing up in a dream looking his real age. My Uncle Jim popped into a dream not long before Will and I married, looking very much like the 65-year-old man he would have been and not the 39-year-old man he was when he died.

When I asked him what he was doing there, he said,

“I thought I should visit now.”

I had been on my way out to meet friends, but his arrival prompted me to suggest we stay in. He didn’t want me to change plans. He would come along after he changed into a clean shirt.

He was not the 30-year-old I remembered from before the ravages of illness. More solid. A bit thicker and hairy, but not on the order of a grizzly.

Throughout I was aware that he shouldn’t have been there but I got no further explanation from him about why other than he deemed the visit “necessary”. I sorta felt like he was less happy to see me than I was to see him and that the visit wasn’t for pleasure but one of those dutiful things a person does.

He watched me with an appraising sort of look. He seemed tired as though he’d come a long distance to spend time with me, but whatever he’d left behind him was still on his mind. He mentioned at one point that he wouldn’t be able to stay for more than the night. He had to get back. I didn’t ask where or why, and he didn’t volunteer any more information.

I’ve thought about it all day and I can’t figure out why – after all these years – he put in an actual appearance in my dreams. He has never felt the need before. It has a ghost of Hamlet’s father feel to it. Blunted purpose chiding? Perhaps.


September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

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It’s t-minus two and counting until the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which have – mostly for the worse – reshaped the United States, its people and by virtue of its over-reaching influence, the world at large.

Given the amount of fallout, it’s fitting that we stop and reflect. A lot of people died. People who had wives, partners, children, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers. The collateral damage of just the destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center alone is a sorry thing to contemplate. The two wars that have mushroomed into a near economic collapse of the entire world and the paranoia that has nearly wiped up the little bit of freedom the average citizen could rightfully call their own has just compounded the tragedy exponentially.

So, I guess, it’s not out of line for even those who have never been directly in the line of the emotional blast to look back at that day and remember where they were.

We are such melodramatic creatures that the hysteria I remember from that day and the near-hysterics people are feeling at ten years out shouldn’t surprise me. Emotional drama is as contagious as any infectious disease and the number of people immune to its effects are few.

I was teaching that day. It was second period, and Becca, the teacher across the hall came up from the library and pulled me out into the hall. She was on planning period and had been chatting downstairs with the librarian, while they set up the television to record something on PBS later that day. They’d stumbled across a morning news show – I don’t remember which one – and had seen the aftermath of the first tower.

“I’ll watch your class,” she told me. “You need to go downstairs and see this.”

I left. There was just something about the look on her face that made me feel I should just do as she asked.

Downstairs the librarian was rushing about to get set up for her home room next period, but she pointed me to the television.

“You just won’t believe this,” she said. “Another plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.”

We just watched. There was nothing to say, and I saw the tower fall. The bell rang and I raced back upstairs but not before saying, “You should push the tv into your office. I don’t think the kids should see this.”

Upstairs Becca and I spoke in whispers as the kids passed between 2nd hour to home room. We filled in the other two teachers on the hall. We all agreed not to let the students know what was happening.

Within the next half hour or so, the administration in the main office had found out what was going on and discreetly instructed the staff not to let the students know what was going on. We were a neighborhood school and our kids came from working class families. Many of them had National Guardsmen in their families. It was hard not to think about what might be coming down the pipeline at them.

Throughout the day, we kept ourselves updated via the Internet and someone was always monitoring the lone television we had in the library. To my knowledge, not a single student knew about what happened until they left the building that afternoon.

I talked to my late husband at lunch. He’d heard and was worried. What if we went to war? He was young – just past draft age but that means nothing really in an emergency. The government fiddled with the draft ages during both the world wars. They can do anything they like in times of war.

I checked in with virtual friends to see if they were okay. I knew a few women living in and near Manhattan at the time. An old high school friend had in-laws in NYC. Sis’s niece lived there. Ultimately though, I knew no one who died or who knew someone who died. Aside from the run on the gas stations that evening, which I got caught up in because I was literally near empty that day and had no choice but to fill up, 9/11 didn’t affect me.

The insane aftermath did. There was so much rah-rah “we are Americans hear us roar” as the middle school where I worked collected cash and goods* for those most affected. We had assemblies up the ying-yang and ribbons and bows and flags dangled off vehicles to the point where the world seemed to be stuck in a Groundhog’s Day version of the Fourth of July.

I got tired of watching the towers fall on television. I disagreed vehemently about the invasion of Afghanistan and again about Iraq, but after a while, I stopped arguing with people about it except to say, “Someday, I will be proved right about what a bad idea these wars were.”

Mostly, I quickly got back to my life. I was still a newlywed. We were trying to have a baby. 9/11 was not my tragedy then and it still isn’t today unless one takes into account that I don’t fly anymore or that I’ve left the United States to live in Canada and feel more free here than I have at “home” for nearly a decade.

The economic crisis that stemmed in a large part from the nation’s war debts only marginally touched me when the housing bubble collapsed.** But, I would have to say that the bottom of the most bottomest lines has found me pretty much unscathed in a 9/11ish way. The decade had other tragedies in store for me. The initial shock of the event wore off quickly and I have never co-opted it as something personal because it isn’t.

There are people who have. I read a blog post last week that was written by a woman who was near hysterical about the news and media anniversary stuff. A person would have thought she was a 9/11 widow, but she’s not. She didn’t know a single person touched by the tragedy at the time and she herself was a thousand miles or more away from NYC that day. But that’s the power of melodrama and the drumbeat that was hammered into us all at the time. “This is a nation’s tragedy.” and while it’s been tragic for those who actually lost people in the Towers or the aftermath, it’s not everyone’s personal tragedy. It’s a bit nauseating when some try to glom on a bit and shake the pity tree for themselves.

Everyone has a 9/11 story but not everyone was its victim and it’s not everyone’s true tragedy. I think that might be a better way to remember it. That if it wasn’t about you, don’t make it about you in retrospect.

*So much of the money the Red Cross collected was specifically earmarked for 9/11 only that they began begging people not to specify where their donations should be spent. The Federal government covered a lot of the costs and The Red Cross really needed donations for other things more desperately. And, of course, much of the “stuff” that was collected wound up in the New York landfills. All in all so very typically American.

**I sold my house when I moved up North and lost money thanks to the housing bust.