Monday, July 11, 2011

Do I Remember You?

There's a true story behind the poem I'm posting in the blog today.  I wrote it in 2000, after I received a letter from someone I hadn't heard from in over thirty years.  

I lived in San Francisco back in the early seventies, and I was a flight attendant with the now defunct airline, TWA.  This was what I had decided to do, after my husband, a combat medic, was killed in Vietnam the year before.  What I discovered very quickly, after moving so far away from my family in Ohio, was that grief follows you, no matter how far away you  move.  I couldn't understand why it still hurt so badly and I thought there must be something wrong with me.  

People didn't want to hear that my husband was killed in Vietnam.  Vietnam was wrong!  Vietnam was what people were protesting!  People said he shouldn't have gone and "get over it".  And yet, there I was, having a terrible time even coping with being alive -- I loved him, I missed him, and I wanted to die, too.  We didn't know about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) back then -- so I couldn't have known that I had a form of PTSD.  I've come to see that mine was caused by the trauma of Doug being killed, by the trauma of being informed by army personnel, (strangers), in my living room, by the trauma of having to wait sixteen more days for his body to be flown home, and probably because I was young, only twenty, and the anti-Americanism crap only added further to the problem -- it was as if they were bragging that Doug died for nothing, for no reason at all ...

I met the nicest man in San Francisco, within about six months of living there.  From Oregon originally, he was tall, very handsome, and we enjoyed each other's company very much.  He didn't tell me to "get over it" when I was overcome by my feelings.  As a matter of fact, he encouraged me to talk about Doug, lent me his shoulder and held me when I cried, and this unselfish comforting was all he seemed to expect of me.  He was my friend.

I don't remember now what happened, why we went our separate ways, but we did.  Knowing what a difficult period that was in my life, I was probably the one who broke it off.  But it wasn't until I received his letter in the mail thirty years later, that I found out that he had loved me, and I was stunned.  He had never told me.  When I read that, I remembered having feelings of my own, too, but over the years, I came to see those feelings more as deep gratitude, for being such a wonderful, caring friend when I desperately needed one -- and also for his strength of character, by not taking advantage of a grieving young widow.  

I'm happy to say, we've kept in touch since that letter came in 2000 -- email is a fantastic invention.   Now, I dedicate this poem with love, to my friend, Lee:

Do I Remember You?
by CJ Heck  

Do I remember you,
you ask, 
from so many
years ago?
(Who? The man with
a gentle touch
and loving hands?
The man whose
arms once
saved my life?
The man with
a caring shoulder
that welcomed
a widow's tears? 
Budding passion,
almost lovers,
undermined and
rent by fate?)

Many miles away
the years have passed.
Our mirrors echo 
younger faces, 
all gone now,
lives lived on
tandem shores. 
Silent hands reach 
through the ages 
spanning years 
from then to now, 
while fingers 
ply the keyboard
to fill in the
time between. 

Love and memories
come flooding into
present from the past
and I cry from
just one letter.
Yes, I do 
remember you ...

(c) 2000 CJ Heck

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