One of the poems from "Women of War"
How many times have I looked at it?
I’ve carried it around all these years,
The edges are frayed and worn,
The image is faded.
We were so young once,
You were so stunning in your uniform
I wore my mother’s wedding dress,
something borrowed, something blue.
We never thought our
time would stop.
As I write this, I remember the songs from those carefree days:
“Seasons in the Sun,”
“He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Tears cascade onto the paperwork. They are joyful remembrances, not sorrow.
You talked of coming back and being a rodeo star!
“Amarillo by Morning” just finished playing. It takes my breath away.
When I imagine you in a tight pair of wranglers and your worn cowboy hat.
My God, you were so handsome !...and then you were called up.
We put our lives on hold until you came back. But you didn’t. You couldn’t.
My life was so empty until our son entered the world.
I promised myself, he would know you, if only in spirit.
I held many jobs and never regretted a one. They kept us fed, clothed and sheltered
Times were hard and some days I didn’t think I could go on, but I had to.
For you, Jack Jr and myself.
God, how I miss you!
When James came into my life,
I was scared to death.
Over time he assured me
he would accept me, Jack Jr and your memory into his house.
With time, I slowly relaxed and let him bring down the walls I thought were sheltering me from more hurt.
I knew I was with the right man when he sat me and Jack Jr down,
“Jack, would it be all right if I married your mom? But, before you answer,
would you ask your dad too?”
I must have sobbed for an hour when Jack beamed up and said
“Daddy and I agree. You will make a great father to me and the best husband Mom could find.”
Many times our children, would catch me at the kitchen table, smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee, cradling The Picture and crying.
Seldom did they intrude. Rather, they look to Jack and James for guidance and an explanation. The reply was always the same, “Mother is having a moment. Give her time and she’ll be back.”
“What is she holding in her hands that makes her so sad?”
“Someday, you’ll have to ask her. But not today.”
I never let on I heard them talking about me
I would pull myself together and place the photo back in
my pocketbook and return to the present.
Twenty years passed. We were as happy as a family could be. James and I supported them in all their endeavors whether they be: sports, arts or academics.
James planted a garden under my kitchen window, with different colored roses for each family member. That lush purple one? That’s you.
The day Jack Jr graduated from high school I was left breathless. When he walked across the stage I saw him standing by your side smiling and then you looked up and waved at me.
When we came home I cried for an hour. Jack Jr. and James walked into the kitchen and sat at the table. They both placed a hand on mine, holding The Picture.
Jack squeezed my hand. “Mom, I felt him, too.”
I sobbed uncontrollably. “James I’m so sorry. After all these years, it shouldn’t affect me like this. I’m so sorry.”
He wiped a few tears from my face; brushed a few tear-soaked strands of hair away, then looked deep in my eyes. “Sweetheart, we all love you.”
I tremble as the love of this man fills me with strength.
He hasn’t replaced you, but he has planted a garden in my heart, once empty and barren.
The kids are all grown and have lives of their own. James passed a few years back, but then I think you knew that.
I see my life flash by, a lush garden that grew from love.
I reach up, turn off the lamp, cradle your picture and take my final breath.
I’m coming home.
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