Monday, November 9, 2015

Left behind


 I am a Widow, weary and lost...
I'm Alisa Lynn Bulford, Ally to my friends.
But he never called me that, always Alisa. The way he said it melted my heart. Every time.  
It was four years ago that I married the love of my life, Jerry. Three days later he shipped out to war.

 I remember the first time I met him. Mom and I had gone to Spicer's for apples and such. We were baking Mom's Blue Ribbon pies for the holidays. And everyone knew Spicer's had the best apples! As they rang up our purchases, he quietly bagged them for us and put them into our cart. He was already in High school, about 4 years ahead of me. Tall and broad-shouldered deep blue eyes and tousled hair the color of corn silk. I caught him looking at me and as our eyes met, he smiled and winked at me. My foolish young heart nearly stopped!

 We started dating when I turned 16, and we'd been together ever since. He was quiet, gentle and strong. The strength of someone that knows themselves, and is comfortable with who they are. After he graduated he started working construction, doing rough carpentry. His parents didn't have the money to send him to college, so he thought he'd work and go part-time. His Grandfather died and left him a piece of land, out east of town down a little one lane dirt road. He told me, "I'm gonna build us a house, right here!" gesturing towards a clearing in the trees. And so he did.

 You know how they say "Beware the wrath of a gentle man"? I think they were talking about my Jerry. Once when we were out at a party, and there was a group of guys home from college. They were drunk and acting up, but Jerry ignored them. Until one grabbed my ass and tried to stick his tongue down my throat. The look that came over his face was like the calm at the center of a hurricane. A temporary respite, before the forces of nature destroy you. He snatched this guy up by the front of his shirt, holding him a foot off the ground. He pulled him close and said one word "Apologize!".
That's when his buddies jumped in. Jerry went through them like a bull in a china shop. No wonder his buddies called him "Bull"! He was always so fiercely protective of me, it made me feel treasured.
I only saw that look one other time. 

The day the twin towers fell.

 A month later he was off to Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island. After completing "boot" as he called it, he had two weeks leave before deployment. 
We decided we should get married before he left.

 Four years, but it seems like yesterday. We Skyped every chance we could, I even got to know some of the guys in his unit that way. We planned our lives together, from 7,000 miles away. We planned our "Honeymoon" in Hawaii, for when he got home. We talked of kids, and holidays and what he'd do when he got back. I hadn't been slacking either, I'd gotten my Nursing degree. I was an ICU nurse at Clemson Memorial, a couple towns over.

 Then his time was almost done. I spoke with him the morning of his last day of tour and asked him what he missed most. He laughed "You mean besides green grass, trees and the smell of rain?"
"Yeah, besides that..."
He got serious and said "Your smell, like flowers after a rain...it calms my soul". He always said quirky, endearing little things like that. It was the last time we'd get to speak before he got home. 
"Be Careful!" I told him.
"You know it. Love you, I'll be home before you know it!" 
Then he gave me that smile, the one that was just for me...and winked. There went my heart again.
It would take almost two weeks he'd said, catching what flights he could.

 The day I found out started so normal. 
Buttered wheat toast with honey and English breakfast tea with a splash of cream. A little treat before showering and getting dressed. It was a fine spring day, sunny and bright. The trees were alive with birdsong as even the birds sang their approval.   So I threw on my favorite sun dress and sandals. I had errands to run. I was throwing him a big "Welcome Home" party and preparations had to be made!

 I was just grabbing my purse when I heard a pounding at the front door. Funny, I hadn't heard a car come up the drive. But when I opened the door, no one was there. A sudden gust of wind blew into the house, I must have left a window open allowing it to blow through. So strong, my eyes watered as it blew my hair off my shoulders and flattened my dress against me. It was weird, as the morning had been so calm. It was a warm wind and as it wrapped around me...for just a moment, I felt safe and loved. Suddenly, I just didn't want to leave anymore. 

 I latched the screen door. It banging in the wind is what I must have mistaken for a visitor. I made another cup of tea and set at the table with my phone. I could make some calls instead of going in person, I had plenty of time. It's hard to explain, but right then I just felt...whole. Happy and content, like fitting the last piece in a complex puzzle. It was not to last.

 The car came up the drive slowly, just after noon. 
A dark car with Government plates. No, I thought no no no no! This isn't happening, he's safe, he's safe...it was his last day!!! I watched through the window as two Marines in dress blues got out of the car. My heart sank. Like a zombie, I stumbled to the door and opened it. Wind SCREAMED through the house tearing the latch free and throwing the screen door wide. Gathering dirt, sticks and leaves as it roared towards the officers. Blowing their hats from their close-cropped heads and assaulting them with debris. As if attempting to force them back to their car. Then, as if admitting defeat it just stopped and a sudden calm surrounded us. Even the birds quit singing.

 As the shorter of the two retrieved their hats, the taller one stepped up to the porch.
"Mrs. Bulford? Alisa Bulford?"
"Y-yes" I stammered
"Maam, I'm afraid I have some bad news..."
I don't remember much after that, what matters when your world falls apart? After they left I just fell into bed, clutched his pillow to my breast and sobbed. Like the whole world felt my pain, the wind came up. It howled and roared like a deranged beast circling the house, trying to get in. For three days I didn't leave the house or answer the phone, in fact, I rarely left my bed. 
And for three days the wind raged.

 Finally, I decided to answer the incessant ringing of the phone. Friends and family surrounded me and saved me. God bless Jerry's parents, they took care of all the arrangements...I just couldn't. It wasn't right, it wasn't FAIR!

 It seemed the whole town turned out for Jerry's funeral. In death, he'd become the town's favored son. A hero worth remembering. I kept it together pretty well through most of the ceremony, I think Jerry would have been proud. 

 It was an oppressively hot day and everyone was melting graveside. I jumped at the first volley of the 21-gun salute. Then they played "Taps", as two young Marines folded the flag that draped the coffin. That's when the tears started again.

 As the first tear started down my cheek a gentle breeze caressed my face. Changing it's direction. 
Like someone wiping it away with a thumb, as they cradled my face in their hands. The flag was transferred to the solemn senior officer, amid slow formal salutes and heel taps. As he knelt before me and handed me my husbands flag.
It started to rain...
Jerry would be pleased.






20 comments:

  1. Eye leakage. This is amazing. Beautiful. Heartwrenching. You shared her soul. I lost someone reading this. I am sharing her grief. You wrote this brilliantly from your heart. Excellent.

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    1. Thank you so much Jo. That's high praise indeed! ;-)

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  2. So beautiful! At first I thought it was a real story and then I figured out this was fiction, but the detail brought it to life, including describing what she had for breakfast. I can't imagine what this would be like.

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    1. Wow, thank you Stephane! This is actually a continuation of my "Homecoming" story a couple of posts back. Some things will make more sense after you read that. 😊

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  3. Filled with so many glorious details, you kept me enraptured and transfixed moving me through your story. You are so GOOD Joe. You really are. The emotions you captured...just everything. Bravo!

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    1. Thank you Kathy! Such kind words...I'm speechless.

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  4. But I wanted her to have a baby.. Loved it, as you know. Jo said it best, beautiful, heartwrenching, excellent.. <3

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    1. That might have been too heartbreaking for me to even write! Lol
      I did think of adding "the child he never met", conceived before he left.
      But not having a child in "Homecoming" negated that. Because I just didn't think Alisa was the kind of girl that would keep that secret...you know, like she's real! ;-)

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  5. You tell a story well, I look forward to some uplifting stuff.

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    1. Thank you Joeh! And thank you for taking the time to stop by and read!!!

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  6. Usually you make me laugh but not today. This is really good Joe. I'm crying and usually only Squid makes me do that! lol - I love it.

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    1. That's high praise, putting me in with Squid! Thank you Jennifer!!!

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  7. The last paragraph is my favorite. Hanky, please!

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    1. Thank you Mamarific! I actually started this story for the fiction/poetry grid, look for the "Homecoming" post. Thank you again for reading!

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  8. I cried. I felt her emotions. I felt sorry for he deranged wind trying to get in. You're such a brilliant story teller Joe.
    .Beeray.

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    1. Thank you so much Jasbir! I'm glad you had read Homecoming first, that you realized the winds significance...

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  9. Alisa's emotions and thoughts were very expressive and emotional. Beautiful writing, Joe.

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    1. Thank you Michelle! So good to see you again!

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  10. "The look that came over his face was like the calm at the center of a hurricane. A temporary respite, before the forces of nature destroy you." What a surprising reaction, and very well described. It makes sense that a soldier would relax just before confrontation - that's the kind of situation they spend months preparing for. Nice detail, Joe.

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    1. Thank you Nathan, for reading and the compliment. :-)

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