To Be Loved Well and To Love Well

27 Memories That Linger On Bringing Joy to My Life

 

  1. Eloping to Reno, NV on 27 November 1988, three days after Thanksgiving. Phil was upset Thanksgiving because of how my father was treating me (I was the first person EVER to get divorced in our family—total ostracization. He didn’t care how people treated him, but it bothered him if people messed with me. As we drove back to MHAFB from Boise, Phil said, “We should get married.” We had already covered that ground…my answer was always yes. This time, he added, “as soon as possible.” He picked me up from work (I worked all night long at the gas station) and he thought that we would drive to Jackpot. Getting married wasn’t that easy. Apparently one needs a wedding license from Wells, NV. We arrived at the courthouse 15 minutes late. WE drove on to Reno. Did I mention that there was a raging snowstorm and that we arrived back in MHAFB one hour before Phil was supposed to start the NCO prep school?

 

  1. The total shock that people expressed and still show over the two of us eloping =’s priceless. People assumed I was pregnant. I was not. I was just knew I was better with Phil than apart and that he made my life exciting and full. For two super traditional reliable people, we did it right.

 

 

  1. Lagoon- Our first real date. He asked me out 19 times before I finally said yes. I wasn’t counting and it had become a game to me, but he was keeping track. It wasn’t until he told me that he wouldn’t ask me out again if I said no that I had a wake up call. Phil was a chicken to touch me. He kept waiting for me to make the first move—as if! I am very old fashioned. After sitting close to each other on all of the rides, he finally kissed me—Fireworks.

 

  1. The first time we ran together was the last time we ran together for 22 years. It crushed Phil’s ego that he couldn’t outdo me here. Laugh.

 

 

  1. Working to have Alex and Tiger. The prayer was for two children, but the chances were 5% for one child in the first year after having major surgery to have them. I had my tubes tied after the oldest three. While we were okay with being mom and dad to Patrick, Josh, and Emily, I looked at what a great father Phil was and knew that I wanted to grow our family. Alex and Tiger made us one big family. I loved the size of our family and the fact that Phil never once referred to any of the children as step anything, nor did they refer to him as step dad. He was dad. I super love that all the kids got angry that the media referred to them as stepchildren. It still makes my heart swell to remember them messaging the media to knock it off because their father had never referred to them that way. My children are brothers and sisters. One for all, and all for one. There is no halfsies.

 

  1. Finally getting orders to leave MHAFB and the gossip mill. We were so excited to be going anywhere—even Holloman AFB!

 

 

  1. The day that we were all a family-Patrick, Josh, Alex, and Emily (before Tiger came along).

 

  1. Driving across the country to move to Germany the first time. We never had money for a vacation. We made it into such an adventure. Gerbert music played non-stop in the car.

 

 

  1. Arriving in DC on the above trip and having everyone get really sick. Tiger threw up in front of the White House.

 

  • Living in billeting for three months until we got our apartment in Landstuhl and then Phil deploying for six months right afterwards. I was living the dream in terms of being close enough to travel to so many countries. Our children toured Europe by scouting, sports, school trips (Paris for a week in the 6th grade, Amsterdam for a week in the 7th, London for a week in the 8th grade…), and Club Beyond. We lived in Europe for 8 years as a family and loved it!

 

 

  • The Landstuhl Allwetterbad. Phil used to bring the boys every night after work. I worked there part time. He would come to all of the baby classes and we would use the boys to demonstrate the skills. Emily was on swim team. WE bonded over smelling like chlorine. Chlorine still makes my heart go pitter patter.

 

  • Reading to the children. We would lay on the king sized bed where I would read for 2 hours every night. Phil would come in and sit or lie next to us and just listen. He always said that he liked the voices I made as I read the different characters.

 

 

  • Meeting Phil in Southern France where he was tdy as an interpreter. WE put the kids in sleeping bags and we toured all of southern France as a family. To this day, none of us can eat chocolate croissants!

 

  • Coaching soccer. Phil and I coached together for many, many years. It started as a way to get free soccer for our youngest two children and our oldest son, but we both learned to love the game.

 

 

  • The day Phil found out that he was selected for OTS. He wanted his commission so badly. He was tired of living in poverty. He was so proud…we were so proud. I was at work in a meeting when I was told I had an important phone call. My staff probably still talk about my reaction. There I was jumping up and down and squealing like a little girl. It meant leaving Europe and the first real job I had since becoming a mother, but it was everything Phil had worked toward.

 

  • Two months after Phil found out about OTS and we found out that our oldest had an AFA appointment. Phil finally felt like people wouldn’t see us as trailer court trash. One of the things about being a staff sergeant select with five children ages ten and under, people assumed they could tell us about birth control, make jokes about getting a television, or make judgments about whether we were on welfare—we were not because Phil didn’t believe in it because he grew up in a country that didn’t have it.

 

 

  1. Finding our family dog in Bitburg. Tiger had been praying for a dog. We felt that we didn’t need a dog on top of five children at home. I was running in the farm fields of Germany in the pouring rain just after the bases closed to anyone but authorized personnel. I see this dog standing in a cage barking. I ran by wondering about it. A half a mile later, I turned around and picked up the cage. She had been abandoned 8 miles out. I thought I would drag her to the base and give her to the vet clinic. By the time I got back to the base, I had her named. She was my dog.

I remember calling Phil from the Youth Center and asking him to pick up some dog food. He said to me, “Linda, what have you done?” He showed up to get me from work and the dog ran right over to him wagging her tail—smart dog!

 

  1. Mallorca after Phil’s OTS and before his school. He had 9 days off. He flew in and we flew out within hours. Reconnecting on the beach was wonderful. I remember my boss telling me that if the Air Force inspectors walked in, he wouldn’t be able to give me the time off. I remember knowing that I would quit if need be. We spent 15 out of 18 months apart then due to tdy, OTS, and training after OTS. In the end, I didn’t have to quit, but it was the first time I recognized that sometimes people are more important than any job.

 

  1. Ireland-going to Ireland with the youngest three. Even Phil wanted to be Irish when we were done. Emily was cranky because she only saw old people on the trip. We made jokes about leaving her at the nunnery. We were on a bus tour and we were the only Americans. We had so much time together.

 

 

  1. Our first cruise. Phil loved that he could eat as much as he wanted at every meal. What most people didn’t know is that he always overate on cruises and gain 10-15 pounds, but then he would work out like a fiend.

 

  1. Phil was on a classic reading phase when he died. Phil was never much of a reader, but he made it through Wuthering Heights, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Hunger Game Series, and he was starting Sense and Sensibility (his choice).

 

 

  1. The day that we went to Parent Weekend for Patrick and someone called to ask if Phil could come and talk to the department chair. Phil thought he was in trouble because he had showed up to the Parent Weekend in his only pair of jeans. We didn’t realize what a big deal it was. Every other person was in uniform. When the department chair tapped his shoulder and asked to speak with him, he went white with fear. Next thing we knew, Phil was selected for an AFIT sponsored master’s degree. Eventually he got an AFIT sponsored PhD. I am so thankful for that extra time that he had with us and that we were in Colorado Springs for 9 years.

 

  1. Buying our first house-Phil felt like we had finally made it when we got our first house and we moved off base. We had the house in the right neighborhood and it was big. Phil was so proud. He wanted this house. I caved in even though it wasn’t my dream house.

 

 

  1. Phil’s one and only marathon. I goaded him into running the Mesa Falls Marathon. He swore he would never again run another unless it was the Paris Marathon. I guess he will always have Mesa Falls.

 

  1. Family Holiday Meals-Phil loved the traditional family meals and rituals. He would never stop eating or talking about them (maybe because once I started back to work this didn’t happen every night?)

 

 

  1. Planning for the Venice Cruise-We had never been away from our children since day 1. When Phil got to Afghanistan, he wanted that romantic trip. He wanted to talk about this trip every phone call. One thing that I am thankful for is that he died still having that dream vacation he hoped for.

 

  1. The white hankie-Phil made me laugh a lot. When he would mess up, and he would say that it was often (not really), Phil would wave a white hankie, Kleenex, tee shirt, etc. or he would tie it to the antenna of the car. It worked each and every time. I laughed and all was forgiven. He was funny and few knew it. He would use all of his languages to chase me all over the house. He could make me laugh no matter what else was going on in our lives. I think that the laughter is one of the things I miss the most.

 

I am thankful that Phil taught me what it was to be loved well and how to love well. Our last face to face conversation is a testament to being loved well. Phil was supposed to deploy 24 Dec, but a freak blizzard shut down all of the major airports in Europe for almost a week. This allowed him to spend Christmas with his family and it delayed his reporting to 11 Jan. Phil’s last Christmas gift to me was the Goofy Challenge at Disney World. It was supposed to be to get through the first few days, but it ended up with me missing his last weekend at home. I offered to defer, skip, or for him to come with me. He insisted that I go so he could spend one last weekend with our baby.

 

I came home about midnight. The cab was set to pick him up at 0330. We spent those hours just being together and talking. As the time drew near for him to leave, he insisted on the what if conversation. I wanted nothing to do with it. I made jokes about Raul the Pool Boy. We did not have a pool, nor did I know any Raul’s. He got exasperated and stopped me with one question—“Linda, if you die first, would you want me to be happy again?” Well—duh. He loved me enough to give me the gift of knowing that no matter what that in life and in death that what we had was pretty darn special. I am thankful for the man who loved be well for what would have been 27 years on the 27th.

 

 

 

How Proud You Were to Fight for Freedoms in This Land

Source: How Proud You Were to Fight for Freedoms in This Land

Source: How Proud You Were to Fight for Freedoms in This Land

How Proud You Were to Fight for Freedoms in This Land

Source: How Proud You Were to Fight for Freedoms in This Land

How Proud You Were to Fight for Freedoms in This Land

How Proud You Were to Fight for Freedoms in This Land

As I ran yesterday morning, as song that I often affiliated with my Phil began to waft through my head phones. “I could see it in your eyes how proud you were to fight for freedom in our land.” Phil never took for granted the freedoms afforded to him by the citizenship he received to our country a week shy of his 18th birthday. He felt civic duty to serve and to vote. While he was not a combatant in any sense of the word, he proudly donned the United States Air Force uniform every day of his working adult life (he enlisted when he was 18). Many others have worn the uniform or are wearing the uniform because they feel a sense of duty, loyalty, and love for all that this country offers. They simply stand for something beyond themselves.

As a nation, we have grown complacent in our freedoms and the responsibilities we carry to maintain those freedoms. We fail to feel a sense of compassion, empathy, or responsibility to our fellow world travelers. We look only to our needs. We forget the oppressed or the people who can’t give us something in return for our actions. Would we even recognize the hurting person standing next to us? The want or need of another human. Sometimes that need is to be touched. To be talked to. To be heard.

When I hear our country’s national anthem, I picture a dirty and spent Francis Scott Key sitting in a boat buffeted by the crashing waves. I hear the loud cannons and the pops of guns around him. I smell the acrid gunpowder as it lingers in the fray of the midnight sky. I see men in tattered rags holding weapons and pressing on for the freedoms that they believed in. A society they coveted.
While the war raged on and the skies filled with the smoke of the fight, Francis could not see who was winning, but he believed. He believed and had faith that all would be for what was good, true, and right. All he could do in the moment was to have faith and to pen his thoughts. I understand this total sense of lack of control and of not being able to see ahead. I understand being buffeted by the tumultuous waves as I sit in my boat. I cling to the desperation of hope and I have faith that my Phil’s death mattered to others besides myself.

While this war was not on our American soil, and my Phil was in Afghanistan as a teacher…a trainer…my Phil stood for what he believed was honorable. He stood for our battered flag being raised in the sky. He stood for the piece of cloth still waving after the attacks on the World Towers on 9/11. He stood for people who had no skills or abilities to change their own infrastructure. He chose to volunteer to go to Afghanistan for a year to effect the change that he felt would bring that oppressed region hope for a better future without the violence it knows now. He stood as a man of faith willing to commit to actions. Yes, like other veterans and military members serving, he recognized the inherent risk of wearing a uniform, but he stepped up knowing that someone had to stand up.

To understand what motivated Phil, one must understand a twelve year old coming to the states speaking two words of English–ewsa for USA and sum-a-team-us for sometimes. He arrived from Venezuela after a six year separation from his mother, father, and half sister. He arrived to a father that was beaten by life. Phil struggled to fit into a mainstream school. He and I often laughed over his mastering English by watching soap operas–something I never watched. To meet my Phil, a person never would have guessed his Venezuelan/French roots (maybe with the word Frito). He had become an American through and through. When the time came to retire, he just couldn’t see it. He felt that he finally was in a position to give back to the military and to the country that had given him so much. After 26 years of Air Force service, he intended to stay until he was forced out. He loved it that much.

Part of what made the events of 27 April so egregious is that he trusted his assassin. He enjoyed practicing his languages with this man and talking about a new day dawning for the Afghan people. He believed enough that he had me send things for the schools and for the military men he worked with. Yet, this man knew and plotted an act that can never be explained. While it is possible that he was the sole person perpetuating this vile act, it is doubtful. Does it matter at this point? Would it change the outcome? I suppose that is the area that I have moved the furthest in the past four years. It really doesn’t matter. Phil is still gone. Nine people lost their lives in an act that we will never know the full details to. My shift has come in recognizing what it cost to give me, give other citizens, basic rights and freedoms. There is and there was a cost to all that I value.

On Veteran’s Day, I remember the patriots that have given everything there is to give and I honor all those who have been willing to stand up to the bullies of this world. I am humbled by their courage to face harm and their sacrifices. What sacrifice am I able to give to change the world for others? What am I willing to give up or to do for our country in gratitude for the freedoms and opportunities that I have every day? While I do not carry a gun or go to Afghanistan, I can reach out to people here. I can see people. I can hear people. I can finally feel the pain of others. I can stand for something other than my own wants and needs. I can choose today to honor Phil’s memory and the memories of so many with my actions and my service.

My Year of Hope

Source: My Year of Hope

My Year of Hope

2 May 2015  Falcon 50 Marathon at USAFA

16 Aug 2015 Pikes Peak Marathon in CO

19 Sept 2015 Air Force Marathon in OH

23 Oct 2015 Marine Corp Marathon in DC

1 Nov 2015 New York Marathon

These are some of the marathon I did this year.  They are not all of the marathons I painstakingly plodded through in 2015, but these marathons represent more than a physical feat.  Each of these races is deeply personal and each of these races represent who I was before Phil, with Phil, and who I have become since the death of my Phil.  Most of you know that I do not do New Year’s resolutions.  I do words instead.  2015 was my year of Hope.  Hope can be defined in two ways, both of which played into my choices these past months:

  1.  Hope (noun) :  feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best
  2. Hope (verb):  to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.

In the spirit of choosing hope as my focus, I have worked hard at my attitude. Attitude, however, has not been as big of a problem as looking forward to with desire.  Looking forward to what?

Running is that bridge between my past and my present.  Running has been a part of my life since long before Phil.  While  I won many races in my youth, running was never about being the best, but running was my place I was free to think, to believe, to cry, to celebrate, to be me.  Running has carried me through most of the hardest days of my life.  It has been the way forward.  It still is.

After Phil died, I ran away from Colorado Springs.  It literally crushed me to be surrounded by all of the memories, the stares, the gossip, and the splintering of friendships.  I would slink back to Colorado Springs doing my best to avoid the one place that is a large part of who I am.  In the spirit of believing that somehow I will know where I fit, where I will settle down, and with the belief  that the past and the present can work together to make for a good future, I ran the Falcon 50 and the Pikes Peak Marathons.  Both of those marathons are brutal due to the altitude, hills/mountain, weather, and technical expertise needed to traverse the trails.  Running those races required true grit.  I ran injured and I fell more than once in each race.  Sometimes the decision to believe that things will work out for best takes that grit and the willingness to push past the pain, the falls, and the fear.

True grit is not a Pollyanna way of looking at things; it is just the decision to know that Phil’s death cannot be undone. I cannot bring him back and the clutched memories are still there.  I can spend the rest of my life wallowing in my grief, or I can choose to figure out a way forward.  Happiness is a choice.  These races were about confronting the pain and pushing past the pain into the realm of new beginnings (next year’s phrase).  I am not running from my past or the ache because they will always be a part of the fabric of my heart; I am choosing to look ahead which is the very essence of hope.  I may not know what my future holds, but it is enough to be standing on the threshold of what might be and who I might be.