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Happy Birthday, Roger!

July 13th has become a favorite of mine when she enters the world dancing and celebrating. The date indicates the beginning of peace for me, and a termination of the seemingly eternal six-week period of time when memorable dates congest my breathing and weaken my body.

Also, during this long stretch of time, I feel the cloud around me, the one that places a haze over my individual self, violently stuffing me back into my blaring widow status. Any of my personal accomplishments, good moods, or peaceful days are to be set aside until the certain dates go by. The boys’ lives are paused as well. Another thing that makes these days heavier is being the “sad one” all the time. I am associated with bummer-like feelings, and July 13th brings me back.

As the years go by, people still celebrate him on all of the dates, and I pray it remains that way. If people forget him, I will lose a little of me, so I don’t want it to stop, but it takes work.

Memorial Day begins before the actual weekend with posts and photos, and I will always be grateful. We all dip into the tepid pool of memories and deliver them to each other in the form of Facebook posts, old, pixelated photos, and emails. This year was particularly peculiar with its lack of ceremony and personal connections, yet still it wedged its ghostly barbed form into our hearts.

After we memorialize our fallen, we celebrate Father’s Day which has become blurry with false cheers for the future which we don’t have with him. For some reason, the sun shows brightly each year attempting to heave up my pouty mood. Maybe she’s mocking my fake smiles and closeted crying with her cheerful rays.

After Father’s Day comes June 29th which marks the anniversary of Roger’s death. This year we acknowledged it for the eleventh time. As the years pass by in their modern vehicles, I become less confident in time’s ability to mute the sadness. I just willingly become tired because it’s easier.

The significant dates linger, too, by my own choice and fault, because I stay off social media on those days as much as I can. I respond the day after, which I suppose is counterproductive to condensing the feelings of all the special days.

Roger’s birthday is Sunday, July 12th.

He would have been forty-eight, with gray hair, maybe, otherwise the same. As always, I would have teased him because he is older than I am, and he would have crossed his eyes, scrunched up his nose, and made the most obnoxious face at me while he cackled.

There would have been pineapple upside-down cake as with any special Roger day, probably some type of cheeseburger, and so many fries, crinkle cut, with lots of Heinz ketchup and extra salt. I would not have given him grief about having too much Dr. Pepper, and Busch Light would have joined him to the end of his evening while we swam with the squeaking bats in our backyard pool.

The boys would give him gifts of heavy handfuls of dried clay shapes with gobs of primary colored paint placed carefully on their surface. They would look nervous when he opened their individual gift, making my heart stop for just long enough to reset me. I would have wrapped t-shirts with funny pictures on them, size large, a giant Zero bar, some router bits, and a book that he would love more than I thought he would.

I remember the first birthday of his after he died, the day we had his funeral, July 12, 2009, but a year after that leaves its spiny quill in me the most.

We made a pineapple upside-down cake, of course, and let the day pass. It was getting dark so the time came to light the candles. The kids were happy and giddy, I mean, it was a birthday. I stood on the back deck with my vodka drink and freshly lit Camel Crush after casually saying, “Go on without me.”

The lights in the kitchen turned off and I saw the cake through the back window, floating around on its own being held up by an orange halo of candles. He would have been thirty-eight.

I listened to them sing to him.

“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear dadddddddddyyyyyyyy. Happy birthday to you.”

I choked.

After that year, we quit doing anything traditional on his birthday. I don’t make a cake and we don’t look at photos. We just exist in the thickness of the date, waiting for the day to pass, longing for the arrival of July 13th so we can, without explanation, live as regularly as we can.

I don’t think there’s a right thing to do. We celebrate him every day and he’s never away from our minds. Sometimes, though, it’s just too much.

Happy birthday, hon.

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Give the Bugle a Break

Why are we still fighting each other publicly for the world, including our enemies, to see? In my vision, the momentum carries us all to a gradual implosion. The unsolicited comments and chest pounding aimed at each other within our own land is quite embarrassing. Democrats and Republicans are violently defending their beliefs before they are challenged, and the assumptions are creating asses left and right. I wish to see more compassion and concern for humanity, and a little reverence.

Patriotism to me happened after September 11, 2001. We loved each other, and our differences were muted and tamed. Social media was not the prominent armored platform as it is now, so we didn’t sit in our torn armchairs and use our thumbs to attack those with different beliefs.

Loving one’s country does not mean there has to be a quest to kill and hate. I love the USA, but the last thing I want is another war. That’s what we all should want. We need to defend and take all measures necessary to end this conflict and pray it doesn’t grow. Am I wrong? There are people there who have nothing to do with any of this. There are children, gentle communities, and even family dogs who all want peace.

Roger came back from Iraq in 2005 and told me stories about the civilians there, especially the children, and even a scrawny stray dog he befriended. He was unable to communicate with the children using words but they connected through his gentle nature and love for sport. They played soccer and laughed with each other. He was not there to blow up the country. He was there to make it better for the citizens. To him, aggression was the last resort, and a united America was his dream.

Sometimes I place myself in the living room of a modest home in England. I’ll sit in a chair that is older than my name and try not to spill the Earl Grey on my wool skirt. When I peak at my social media or even the news, I wonder about the United States and the words that come directly from the people. I see them argue and point, and the anger saturates their aim at the wrong target; each other. Our allies are watching us bicker.

How cool would it be if the rest of the world sees us Americans as a united bunch of folks?! I recall the love that drenched Roger’s funeral services and how it was wrapped around me and the boys. That is my hope for America. If we do to go to war, knowing we are each other’s allies will strengthen our cause and create a more welcoming environment for others to join.

One thing I have yet to read in the constant banter and judgement, is the concern for those close to the hot areas on the map. I wonder about the civilians of Iran and the surrounding countries, and of course our military will never leave my broken heart.

No, I am not taking a stance on the war, retaliations, or our leadership, and won’t publicly considering my obvious bias and knowledge of loss; I am simply sad for them, us, and all. I have my own beliefs which are complicated and personal. I simply don’t fit into one pod of political definition, and that’s how it should be.

I hate that if I type a “w” in my Google search “World War III” pops up. I fantasize about that twenty-third letter generating words like weed or winter. Wine works as well, or maybe warmth. Some news sources are eating this all up and engendering fear and hate. I’m afraid to go to a movie or put my child on a plane. The violent tension is thick as it hovers over Earth. I want peace and grace, and a little more effort to understand each other.

The United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Team gifts us with an example of how we could unify. The only sound you hear from them is the united taps of heels from their black liquid coriforms, and their twirling white rifles uniformly clicking. The audience should be silent as well, and nobody types daggers at each other. That is called grace, and it is united. We should all take a moment once in awhile to be silent, and simply listen.

#ichoosegrace #grace

https://www.barracks.marines.mil/Units/Silent-Drill-Platoon/

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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.