Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Few Thoughts As September 21st Approaches

I was blessed with two amazingly wonderful sons, Alex and Justin. Alex passed away on May 24, 2013 after a nine-year battle with brain cancer. This coming Saturday, September 21st is Alex’s birthday. He would have been forty. Last year, when Alex turned 39 we had a big party for him with just family and a few old high school buddies. He loved it, but I have to wonder if at that time he thought he would reach his next birthday, if he would enter a new decade. Perhaps not, for his health was failing and Hospice had been notified. Alex was incredibly astute. He seemed to understand life and all its contradictions a bit better than most people. Rather than getting upset, rather than complaining, he would make jokes; he would laugh; and he would do his best to make others laugh. He was just that way. He had such a gift and those who knew him remember.

I spoke to Justin yesterday for a long time. We talked about Alex and how we planned to remember him in a special way on his birthday. My husband and I will be attending an IAFF Memorial in Colorado Springs, CO for fire fighters in the United States who died in the line of duty. I am a little anxious, but I believe it is a perfect place to honor Alex, on his birthday. My husband bought him a birthday card. My son, Justin and his family have other ideas. They plan to write notes to Alex, letters of love and remembrance, and perhaps launch them tied to balloons into the air. It seems a sweet way to celebrate. Justin is the father of three adorable children, is married to lovely woman, and has a good job. He works hard. As his brother, Alex, did, Justin fills my heart with joy. I love him so much. Yesterday, following in his big brother’s footsteps, he made me laugh. 

Life has played tricks on our hearts this year. We have been sad. I rejoice, however, in sweet memories that gather in my mind and make me smile. Alex is still doing what comes natural, I suppose. 

Happy Birthday, Alex!

Alex and Justin (February 2010)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Something about friends . . .

I love my friends. I love them because they make me laugh, they accept me just the way I am, and they care. They have been by my side during some difficult and sad times, they have encouraged me, and they have supported my creative projects. My friends are smart, interesting, inspiring, and full of life. All are different, with unique interests and hobbies that they bring to the table, so to speak, and while we may not always agree, generally speaking we do. Usually we are “spot on” in regard to politics, religion, moral issues, and even sports. (Go Giants!)

My friends banter about ideas and impressions, rant and rave about world issues, offer suggestions, applaud successes, and console when need be. They have good stories. They share. They give. They accept. What I know about friendship is that it is a two-way proposition. I give back to them too. Sometimes I hope it is enough. So, yes, my friends are important to me. They have my utmost respect. I wanted to remind them of that.

Friday, September 13, 2013


9-11 has passed by again and, as most everyone else, I remember and I am sad to think of all the lives that were lost that day. I think also of the military personnel and civilians who died in the Afghani and Iraqi wars that followed. Fortunately many men and women who bravely fought in those wars have come home but not without myriad wounds. The pain and injuries go beyond what some might imagine. Every time I watch a reunion of families, particularly of a child with a parent, I am choked with emotion, and I know why. I understand that overwhelming sense of loss, so intense and powerful it is hard to articulate. Children are powerless in the face of such circumstances, and it is for that reason I cry, and for that reason I have written about my own experience. It was a long time ago, but I recall it as though it were yesterday.

For a ten-year-old girl, way back in 1958, life should have been filled with dolls, ballet, books, first bras, and the beginning dreams of boys. In my life, however, age ten presented me with my first experience of loss. It was the time that my dad said good-bye for eighteen months and more.
I knew he was leaving. I had heard the whispers and watched my mother’s intermittent tears, but I kept my distance from emotions I didn’t understand and was yet to endure. When I learned of his leaving, I became aloof. I watched. I listened, but I stifled my feelings. I can remember even scoffing at my mother when she cried. It somehow seemed so weak. Not until the morning of my dad’s departure did I allow myself to feel, and when I did, the sensation caught me by surprise and I was submerged in a sadness that has never fully disappeared.
As surely as it must, the day of his leaving arrived. My dad was going to Cambodia, Vietnam, places whose names I did not know then. I remember waking to a cool dawn. I heard the shuffle of bare feet in the hallway, the flush of a toilet, the running of water, and the familiar kitchen noises as my mom prepared breakfast. I lay in bed listening and breathing ever so lightly. In the stillness of my room, I begrudgingly allowed the early morning sounds to slip into my world. I finally pulled myself from bed and stood on the cold, hardwood floor of my bedroom preparing a cursory good-bye. I simply did not comprehend how incredibly ill prepared inwardly I was to let my dad go. I could not have imagined earlier the feeling I was soon to encounter.
At ten years old, I could be defiant. I could shield myself from emotion. I was strong, I knew. Even as I stared that morning into the dreary gray around me, I was certain I would not cry even though, as the minutes passed in my cold, shadowy room tightness was beginning to grow in my throat and chest. I stepped from the chilly floor onto a softly matted throw rug and reached for the light switch. Instant, yellow brightness brought details from the shadows. Everything became clear, including my pale blue eyes still weak with sleep. I stared at my reflection in the oversized mirror. My red curls were tousled in disarray. My pink, baby doll pajamas were wrinkled. One slightly sunburned and freckled shoulder protruded above the ruffled sleeve. I looked at the blue walls and the orderly, flowered wallpaper reflected behind my bed. I suddenly hated it.
A quick scurry of hasty movements and the soft scrape of a chair against the kitchen linoleum alerted me to the moment I had been avoiding. I grabbed my terrycloth robe and threw it on hurriedly. I opened the bedroom door and there in the hallway, attired smartly in his dress blues, was my father. He reached for me abruptly without a word and as if on cue, I began to cry. I held to him tightly, my arms clutched around his neck; my cries were mute against his chest. I could feel tears coating my face and my father’s pale, blue shirt became moist against my cheek. I don’t remember anything else except my crying as I awkwardly gripped him. My body was tight as though to gain strength from its rigidity. Finally my father’s arms moved from around me but I could not let him go.
“I have to go now,” he said. I could hear the quivering voice above me.
“No!” I cried, and looked with fear into his blue eyes. They too were wet. He hugged me once again and I sobbed some more.
I don’t recall how long we stood in the hallway with my mother and brother helplessly watching. It must have been several minutes. Without realizing how or when though, I found myself standing suddenly alone in the semi-dark hallway outside my bedroom door. I turned slowly into my room, fell into the wrinkled covers and cried some more. I don’t know how much time passed before I got up that day, but when I did, I looked sickeningly around my room and I knew it had to change. I spent the day scraping wallpaper from my wall and as I watched the ordered flowers drop in wet curls as I scraped and pulled, I cried.
When my mother, time after time, told the story about that day she simply said she had never seen anyone so obsessed with anything. Nor had she seen so many tears.
“You scraped and cried. You scraped and cried all day long,” she told me over the years.
I remember that. The next day, I painted my room lavender. I realize now it was a necessary change for me, one that I could control, one that could not hurt me as the greater change, the loss of my father had.
When my dad came home after eighteen months he was there very briefly before he was sent away again, this time for a year. That parting was tearless. When I was thirteen he was home to stay, but I had changed by then. Thirteen had brought boys, lipstick, and cheerleading yells. I was no longer Daddy’s little girl. I would never again be his little girl, for I would never let him in to hurt me again.
Now, years later, I look back at my dad differently. The bitterness is gone. He is no longer the ogre who left me crying in the hallway. He is my dad, and although I may never give him the chance to hug me again as he did when I was ten, I do love him. Age ten began years of pain, but the feelings of abandonment have been resolved. I still think of a potential hug in a hallway somewhere, but when I do, it brings an incredible feeling of panic. I’m afraid it would let loose the sorrow and another flow of tears. And there’s no wallpaper to come down.

Judith DeChesere-Boyle, 2013

My dad and me in 2010. He's 102 now, in 2013.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Taking Chances

Why is it that some people find taking chances a snap and others feel burdened with the thought? Adrenalin junkies (and I know a few) have no problem with the concept. These impulsive, spontaneous folks feed on the gamble, the risk, and the odds. It is their lifeblood. In most cases, I assume, they don’t look beyond the possibilities of something going wrong or at least they don’t linger on it. Given half a chance, they’ll grasp any opportunity. It’s as simple as that.

Others of us are not of the same ilk. We ponder and consider, we fret and foresee, anticipating what may or may not be. Therein lies the problem for us, I suppose. Thinking too much can hold us back. It’s so very easy to bask in the safety of the status quo, choosing to chase that annoying uncertainty away. Fat chance we’re going to change!

I’m usually pretty careful, although a few years ago I did go skydiving with my sons. Jumping out of an airplane at 13,000 feet was the chance of a lifetime for me. I don’t think I’d do it again, but taking the plunge, so to speak, was exhilarating beyond belief. I recall that time now because today I am faced with taking another chance; it is a risk of a completely different nature, and it makes me a little nervous. I’m trying to reason with myself. Seize this opportunity, Jude! What happens is simply what will happen. Go with it.