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Southampton Town Meeting

I am Teresa Adams. My husband, Roger, was killed in Iraq in 2009. Roger and I both grew up in Massachusetts. He was born in Montague in 1972. He went to elementary school in Gill, Massachusetts, and graduated from Franklin Technical Vocational School in 1990. He loved the Boston Red Sox, a good ham grinder, and snow, yes, snow. After graduation, he moved to Kentucky to spend time with his mother.

He wasn’t there long when he decided to join the Marine Corps. The closest recruiting station was in Tennessee, so he signed his name and became a United States Marine, and was stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was an 0352; a grunt.

On leave he would come to Massachusetts to visit with his family. He spent the holidays, long weekends, and special occasions in Massachusetts.

Roger and I fell in love on Memorial Day weekend of 1995 and decided to get married. We obtained our marriage license here in Southampton when the town hall was on East Street. Our ceremony was at the gazebo in Easthampton, Massachusetts on a snowy night. We were surrounded by Christmas lights, family and friends, and a brand-new blanket of fresh snow. We spent Christmas with our families, said our gut-wrenching goodbyes, then I moved to North Carolina, where he was stationed.

We spent years through multiple deployments to Okinawa, Mediterranean Floats on Navy ships, his first tour in Iraq, and more. We had four sons and lived as a traditional military family. We missed him quite often, and worried constantly. On summers, holidays, and times when Roger was deployed, we would come to Mass to be with family, because it was home. Towards the end of our travels on 91 in Connecticut, we always tried to be the first one in the car to see the small blue sign “Welcome to Massachusetts.”

I was in Southampton when I found out Roger died. We just got to my parents’ hours earlier. Roger had been in Iraq for the second time. The National Guard came to my parents’ house near the Ponds accompanied by a police officer from Southampton. They told me Roger was driving a Humvee and ran over an IED. They also told me he died instantly, and I chose to believe them.

After a few years of trying to regain some sanity and figure out what to do, the boys and I decided to move back home to Massachusetts. I did the math and figured that with the tax break, we would be able to afford it, so I bought a house in Southampton on Wolcott Rd; one I used to drive by each morning on my way to Hampshire Regional High School (a very long time ago).

After we moved in and settled, I filled out the application for the tax break and was surprised when it was denied. The reason it was rejected was because Roger did not enlist in Massachusetts, but in Tennessee.

I have appealed that decision through Boston, and we went to court in Northampton. I have yet to receive an answer from them. This is not about my case, but it brought light to this issue. I speak now for the future homeowners in Southampton, Massachusetts who are disabled veterans or surviving families.

Veterans and surviving families should be able to come to Southampton and not worry about being denied their benefits. Reducing the two-year waiting period to one year for non-residents would greatly alleviate any financial hardships put on the military members. More than that, it would make them feel welcomed by this warm, loving town. It would make them feel like they’re home. It would make them feel safe and give them a better chance to have as normal of a life as they can.

Each situation is different. The fact remains, however, that no matter where a service member enlisted, they took an oath to serve the United States. They did not take an oath to serve solely Massachusetts, North Carolina, or Tennessee. There are pages of generous benefits that Massachusetts offers our veterans because there is appreciation and caring for their sacrifice and service. I cannot allow myself to think of a disabled veteran, or another surviving family, feeling a little less than, or not having that sense of belonging, because they are denied. We, as a town, should help them the same way they helped us. We should open our arms and welcome them home.

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They Said “No”

Read this first… https://teresaforesteradams.com/2019/07/30/hometown-love/

I finally have a decision from the Appellate Tax Board in Boston. They believe that the boys and I do not qualify for immediate tax benefits for Massachusetts, and that we should wait until we reach resident status. I received the letter today instead of yesterday, probably because it was Veterans Day and mail didn’t run, and that would have extra sucked. Either way, I peeled apart the five pages to find a decision within the thick paragraphs.

I was nervous. I didn’t realize how much I still had hope the decision would be in our favor. As I searched, I imagined the floors I would have fixed, a new back door for the basement, and the cards I would send to people who have worked hard on this to thank them. I feel silly about that now, but it was fun for a few seconds. After some serious dissection of fancy words, I found this:

“The Board conveys nothing but respect for Mr. Adams, his service for this country, and his death in the line of duty, and it acknowledges the profound loss suffered by Mrs. Adams and their four children.” (I wonder if you can guess the next word.)

Ding ding ding! “But…” In a nutshell, we simply don’t qualify as true Southampton townspeople. It’s the law, and the town spotted it. I don’t hate living in a town that has my back like that, I suppose. It still made me sad, but I need to get over it.

I’m not mad (Except the part where they say we came here to go to school. Um, no). People were doing what they really thought was right, and the way it’s worded, they are absolutely correct. Even though our heart is here, Roger didn’t enlist in Massachusetts, and we lingered too long in North Carolina after he died. I didn’t know what the fuck to do. I was so confused, and still am, ten years later. And that is why nobody should have to deal with this ever again. We’ll start with Southampton and continue infinitely.

Here’s the deal…It’ll be on the ballot next election. The people of Southampton decided to put it on. I am thrilled! It means that any veteran from ANYWHERE can receive their town benefits, and instead of waiting two years, they will only wait one. Huge!!!! It was cool to be present for that meeting, and even the boys were able to vote (Max’s first time). It was just special. Please, talk to your friends about this at voting time. Here’s what I said at the town meeting. It may explain what’s going on with the law: https://teresaforesteradams.com/2019/11/12/southampton-town-meeting/

I wish there were more ways to thank people. I’m usually good with words, but people have been the best support, even shaking me when I want to quit this quest for the next military connected families who may have to deal with this. There’s love and patriotism that feels warm. It’s like a soft blanket. Anyway, thank you. The boys and I feel welcome here anyway, because it’s home, and you all have made us feel safe and loved.

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Man Cave in My Mind

On June 29th it’ll be ten years since I lost my husband, Roger Adams, Jr. when he was killed in Iraq. During the last few months, I have been working on a memoir. It began as a project for a writing class but seems to be finding its way to more people each day.

“The way you write brings him back,” one said.

“I remember his crooked smile, too,” another commented.

“I love the way you describe his Dress Blues and how the cover compliments his full lips,” is another nice comment.

Writers observe details and share them. The reality is, my gift curses me with vivid pictures of his face, the feel of his coarse palms while we hold hands, and the smell of his uniform’s sleeve. I can close my eyes and softly rub my face on the chest pocket of his cammies and feel the soft thickness of the material. I smell the barracks room on his neck, Pine Sol and Camel cigarettes, and can hear him say, “hon” like it was this morning or last night.

I will write all day long, with breaks for lunch or a walk to the brook in the back of my property. I will then play corn hole or croquet with my sons, have some wine, then sleep. I try to aid my sleep with sitcoms such as “Friends” or “Golden Girls” to cloud my Roger-filled mind. I felt selfish when I began this ritual until I recently started having the dreams again and became tired of wiping my eyes.

The one I had the night before last was of Roger, me, and our four sons when they were little. He and the boys were swimming in our modest pool at our little house in Jacksonville, NC. We just cleaned up after dinner of something with gravy, and his favorite pineapple upside-down cake with extra red cherries. The sun was caressing my shoulders, and the grass was cool on my bare feet. I watched them play and listened to them laugh and splash around. Occasionally, the cool water would come my way and they would all giggle while I dodged it. Roger looked at me the way he always did, with a little smile and crinkled eyes, and I felt safe.

The great torture that comes with waking up from a dream like that can be debilitating. Mine lasted all day yesterday, and I awoke this morning with a cloudy vision of it. The clarity of his face, tanned worker hands, and the smell of his neck, is once again diminished, and I am thankful for that.

“How can you want his memory to diminish?” I have been asked.

“His memory will never be diminished,” I have said, not violently defensive, because once, I didn’t understand either. It will always be clear and rich, but in order for me to carry on with a full life without him, I must be allowed and able to put the images in a special room in my mind, so I made him one.

I made Roger’s room nice for him, and it’s filled with his favorite things; his dad who passed last year, and the many pets we have lost after him. I just know he and his pops are playing cards, and he is tossing the muddy tennis ball around to the dogs. The Boston Red Sox will be heard on his old shed radio and Big Papi is at bat once again. There will be cheeseburgers and chocolate chip cookies, still warm, and Dr. Pepper in a cold can. The walls, which are not inside or outside, are plastered with photos of people he loves, especially our four boys. And, this Patriots fan even gave him a small 49ers pennant to hang in a corner somewhere. It is a room, but has no boundaries, and it smells like the wool on clean dress blues and freshly cut grass. He can build furniture and splash in the pool while he waits for us, and he can visit whenever he likes.  

Roger is always in my mind, and him having his own space helps me to be OK with not focusing on him, and the guilt of moving on with life while he’s not here. He still comes to the front of my mind in my dreams, but as long as he has his own place to go to allow me to breathe, the more I am able to cope without the challenging blues that come after a good dream. Being a left-behind mortal can be torture, but with silly little coping tools like Roger’s room, living can be more than tolerated, it can be quite nice.