The Soldier

When you lose your husband suddenly, in the middle of a Tuesday in July, while the kids are at camp, and the sun is shining in the sky and everyone else in the world is still functioning in normal ways, the world tilts.

It is an atom bomb. It is a terror attack. Nothing is as it was. Everything becomes a distraction from the loss, and the loss becomes everything and nothing. You have a few hours to scream and cry on your knees in the grass in the front yard in front of your neighbors. You have one afternoon to let your tears and body fall to the ground. Then you stand, because you need to stand. Your husband could not deal with life. His life exploded in your face and left you with ruins to deal with, and you have no choice. Escaping is not an option. So you put your tears in a plastic bag in your pocket and store your grief under your broken bed and you put on a soldier's uniform.

This is you, and who you are now. What you knew is no more. What you trusted was never trustworthy. What you thought would be actually was never going to be.

You sit in your living room like it is the situation room, monitoring your crisis with maps and figures and diagrams and calls and questions and instinct. You have been attacked. You have been wounded. You have to plan and plan and plan so you can survive so that your children can survive, and so you and they will never get hurt like this again. You harden, and when your voice speaks it speaks truth relentlessly. You understand more now, and what you know is not pretty.

You wake each morning after four restless hours of non-dreams, you eat only when you remember to or when a person tells you you need to, you put on your fatigue and you move forward. As a mother, as a woman, as a soldier. You hold onto death certificates and birth certificates and bank account statements and bills and mortgages and car loans and more bills and police reports and human resources forms. You sign your name everywhere, and scream at people, and stay on the phone for endless hours in an effort to repair damage and rebuild things out of pieces. You walk robotically through ruins. You examine the devastation with precision. You explain your catastrophe in cold terms to everyone because you need to, so that people who don't understand you can try to understand you and work with you and give you what you need. You learn to do this quickly. You adapt. You think. You move.

This is you, and who you are now. What you knew is no more. What you trusted was never trustworthy. What you thought would be was never going to be.

But you need to live. So you fight.


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