Friday, September 19, 2008

Identity... Explained... a bit... more

Dang it.

I'm not a cute-overload type of person. I don't remember playing with dolls (except the day I was playing cannibal feasts and had to stop because my mother refused to keep sticking the limbs back on the plastic baby torsos). I do not have, and do not anticipate having, a big-eyed kitten photo as wallpaper on my computer and I have never, ever, used SQUEEE! in a non-ironic way.

But your emails and comments have just possibly left me a little runny nosed. And you're welcome for the image.

But there were a couple of questions - good ones - that can be answered (I know it's a little weird given the context, but I won't post names just because I don't know if people want their names out there)

I've been reading you for a while and I even went back and read alot of the "Kirk" things you wrote so I would know what you were talking about! What made you change your mind about using your name?

Honestly I'd like to say there was a well-reasoned instant where I thought through everything and weighed it all logically and carefully and then wrote up the post but... well, that's not how I work often. Instead I found myself writing up this mini-essay and there were phrases I knew I wanted to use and words that strung together just right and I realized that I was writing up something that had swirled around in my semi-conscious mind for... well weeks at least, but more likely months.

This whole blog has been the slowest, most glacial effort towards acceptance ever seen - ever. When I started it, a little over two and a half years ago, my mother asked me about the choice of names: Missing In Iraq. I would probably attract some attention, she warned me, given that title. And that was the whole point. At that time we didn't know what had happened to Kirk (we still don't, not entirely, not really and probably never will). We didn't know if he was alive or dead and it seemed we never would. I was under a lot of pressure to get the story told (some of it from another family that was equally devastated by a loss connected with Kirk's) but I had resisted it for all sorts of complicated and ultimately selfish reasons.

I honestly started it because I came to realize that the CID (the military investigating people) were going to have incredible power over Kirk's story. Because the investigation was having to be conducted the way it was, because much of it was (and is) invisible to me - not sure if I should use the term "classified" which has a very specific meaning to me, but certainly the information is controlled - they could make their conclusions and have enormous power over not only what I believed about Kirk's death but about his life as well.

There was more to it as well. That one event - a few minutes on the side of a road - had swallowed up everything else and I didn't want Kirk to be defined by those moments. Of course, I didn't want to be defined by them either.

What I've slowly - very slowly - admitted is that although I am not totally defined by the fact that Kirk went missing the way he did it has inevitably shaped me, changed me. I have tried my best to make that change... it's difficult to say good... difficult because all the language is loaded, but yes, I want it to be positive. I want to be able to say more than "this did not break me." Accepting that I have been changed - that this event is an important part of my life - is part of that.

Have you had any problems with people because of the blog? I've read some blogs that attract some real trolls

As I said, I haven't really had that problem. There have been a few people who want to express a political view and seem to think that I will agree with them (although what's funny is that I've gotten this from both - often extreme - ends of the spectrum). I have had some emails that basically state that all contractors are carpet-bagging, greedy bastards who are trying to capitalize on a humanitarian nightmare and therefore deserve all they get. This shows an amazing lack of understanding of a complicated situation and frankly I don't think it's in my best interests to try to educate anyone. Not that they sound like the sort of people who wish to be educated! However, this is a very small minority and I happily delete the messages. I'm not happy that this particular view is out there - but there are so very many black-and-white type opinions floating around that I find equally distressing! Purposeful bile is just that. Fortunately the few trolls didn't find me until well into the life-span of the blog - I think early on I would have been far more sensitive.

Do you regret being anonymous for so long?

Yes and no. It's possible that if I had really worked the media and tried to get huge exposure for the story right from the start things would have been easier for us. Maybe we would have been able to find things out sooner - there might have been more pressure on the CID to get things answered right away. I would hope not. I would hope that they did everything they could because that's the job they had to do. It's also possible that it would have made things so surreal that we would have had even more trouble coping than we did.

Remember, we were the first family to lose a civilian in this way - Kirk was the first American to go missing. It would have been pretty easy to get a spotlight on the story (once it broke the problem was to turn the spotlight off). But it would have meant answering unanswerable questions over and over again (how do you feel? What do you think happened? What would you say to the people who have him if he's been taken?) and turning over a large amount of our time (or my time - I would still have fought to keep the Children out of it as much as possible) to being the victims - to publicly accepting that rather simplistic and, at least in my view, potentially dangerous role. I don't want to be a victim. I don't want to be the person something was done to. Naturally this is a bit of a problem since, quite frankly, I AM someone that something happened to, but I think that it is a terribly seductive sort of thing - that being the victim can become a calling. People want to be nice to you which is fine, but... I suppose I'm concerned about how easy it would be to lose independence or to become too reliant on that kindness - in fact to begin to think of myself as that person this thing happened to. Back to the definitions I suppose...

Lots of waffle to say... well basically that I made the best choice I could at the time and everything else is might-have-been. It seemed the right thing at the time to keep the story suppressed. Later it seemed the right thing to begin to own the whole story by telling it here. Now it seems the right thing to accept all of it, including my part of it - my name.


Next, back to important things - like the over-due birthday post for Child 3!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


When I first started this blog I chose to mediate comments. I felt pretty exposed writing about Kirk in a public forum - it was the first time I had really, truly said right out loud to the whole world that he was missing. I had held that secret so tightly for so long that it became a defensive wall; it began to define me. I had made a few chinks in it, telling a person here or there, but only when it was absolutely necessary (my boss when the article in Time was coming out; a colleague when she simply wouldn't stop asking questions and I didn't want to overtly lie). The blog was a mental load of dynamite at the very foundations of the wall and it left me terribly vulnerable.

The last thing I wanted was to wake up to a load of comments like "War is evil and the Iraq war is killing babies so by writing this you are killing babies! Love, anonymous" or "OMG! Dick Cheney like totally talks to God and you are making Jesus cry because you hate the war!" Dudes, I have never, to my knowledge, killed babies. Also one of our favorite family expressions of over the top whackitude is "Dick Cheney on a duck hunt! Blam!" But please, point to a pro or anti war post in this thing? (oh heck, there probably is one of each somewhere and now I'll get an email pointing that out ever so nicely) I just told the story as I knew it and left the judgments alone.

Anyway, because this blog is one of a billion and maybe because there isn't really a genre for it (hands up all bloggers whose spouses have gone missing in Iraq! {I will almost certainly get an email now pointing me at such a blog, in which case - yes, please do!}), and just maybe because writing vitriolic hate comments in this situation just might make even the leathery hide of the common internet troll feel a wee bit sensitive, I didn't get nasty comments.

I did get emails - plenty of them - but thoughtful, polite and generally correctly spelled emails. Often disagreeing or trying to kindly point out where I was Ruining My Children's Lives (to which I have to say, I know! Isn't that cool?). Even more often they are interesting and funny and make a connection I would never otherwise have made. I love that - I love that I have friends all over the place who staggered in here because they saw a thing that linked to another thing that produced a thought that somehow ended up at this tiny corner of the internet.

All of which faffing about gets away from that first point way up there about where I was when I started this. It was all about Kirk, see, about his story (ignoring that it was, naturally, our story) and who he was and how he got to that road in Iraq. I wanted to shove him into the light while keeping firmly in the wings myself. Which was why I ended up with the grammatically incorrect and slightly bizarre signature, "For Kirk." It wasn't who I was, it was why I was writing but at that time... well, that felt very much like who I was as well.

So, like a lot of things in my life I'm afraid, I am far behind in doing something about this and moving past it. But it's Thursday, and Thursday just seems like as good a day as any to make a small change.

I still write here For Kirk, but also for the Children, and most of all for me.



Child 3: *clucking noise with tongue*

Me: Um

3: Yes? [innocent blue eyes combined with slight fogginess of a cold]

Me: Do you think you could stop that?

3: ... I think so ... [ponders for a while] yes, yes I can.

Me: Thanks.


Me: You know, I think that you are probably the only person in the world clucking the Russian National Anthem.

3: Yah... except I'm not doing it any more.

3: *clucking noise with tongue*

Should never have gotten it that damn frenectomy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


A: Does crossing myself, with what probably was a drunken H somewhere over my unhallowed solar plexus, count as religious observance? Memories of grade school field trips are haunting me for some reason.

B: It is not, in any way, bizarre to carefully separate one's eggs prior to cooking. It simply affirms the noble sentiment that uncooked whites are directly comparable to the output of a child's runny nose while egg yolks should just be gently introduced to the idea of a slightly hot pan before they are eaten. This is utterly normal no matter what any random Child might say.

C: It is possible that there is nothing so truly satisfying as introducing one's offspring to the glories that are found in M*A*S*H. Particularly as said Children have already met Alan Alda as the host of Scientific American Frontiers. This is why one breeds.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


So, Americans, what did you do today?

It's a little weird, isn't it? This not-a-holiday day. It feels wrong to let it go by without some sort of acknowledgment but what should it be?

I've posted about 9/11 before, telling the story all of us tell each other: where we were that morning, what we were doing, what we thought. The world certainly changed for me that day - it was the event that began everything, focusing Kirk's restlessness, starting the Iraq War... leading finally to that empty car on the road.

I hadn't really thought about doing anything particular this year but The Male Child announced last weekend that it was going to wear its uniform as a quiet way to mark the day. It was a three day weekend because of our national salute to the value of hard work (take a day off and crowd the malls to buy knocked down tool sets and three-for-the-price-of-two pieces of underwear) and we celebrated the way we like to - avoiding the crowded malls and sleeping in. So we somehow ended up watching a marathon set of shows on the training process for Navy SEALS (Just Children 2, 3 and I - Child 1 was away. We reacted characteristically. Child 3 began doing ridiculous amounts of push ups apparently out of solidarity, Child 2 watched this with some scorn until the acid burn of competitiveness was too great and it too did some sit ups and push ups; I lolled in exhaustion from all of the enormous amount of exercising everyone else was doing) and somewhere in the ad breaks came up a spot for the Freedom Walk.

So that's what Child 1 and I did this morning.

We got there too early (because I always get everywhere too early)

So we walked through the Veteran's Memorial and learned that rose breeders had produced hybrids that are dedicated to peace, to the WWII veterans etc. I can't think of a more beautiful tribute - something live, something growing, something that renews itself each year.

There was also a wall engraved with texts from emails, letters and telegrams. This one that Child 1 is reading

Is followed by one right beneath that (nearly a month later) tells the family that their son is not killed, he was only wounded...

Eventually we signed in, got our NAVY! pins, and gathered behind the color guard to start the walk

We walked behind a man with a horrific scar on the back of his knee. He had a brace that wrapped his calf and went down to his shoe. When we got back to the starting point I could see that the scars continued around the front of his right leg as well - deep, long scars. He wore an "Instructor" t-shirt and spent the walk harassing the other instructor he came with. He had no limp and his scars are old and well healed.

We walked for maybe half an hour, following the color guard as they ran the gauntlet of smashed glass and low-hanging branches. There were a few babies in strollers. There were a lot of frighteningly fit and terribly attractive ROTC types in their PT gear or BDU's. And there were some civilians like Child 1 and me - just people walking and thinking about that day, the day the world changed.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008


I am in shape!


A shape.

I am in a shape that is mine.

But I have sadly learned that just because one was once really, really active and thus in pretty darn good physical condition it does not mean one is frozen there at the peak and can then sort of... stop...


See, Kirk and I used to run every night. We would head down our little street, down two blocks, loop around, back over and up the street, loop again, head UUUUUUUUUUP the hill to the dead-end and back to the house. I have no idea how far the run was but Kirk always claimed it was about three or four miles depending on how many dead end circles we went around. Could be. Then on the weekends we biked 20 miles or so each day (with the Children, and the shouted reminder as we rode along the crumbling Nor-Cal cliffs to FALL LEFT!!).

Of course then it happened, and he was gone, and we moved to this place of NO OXYGEN AT ALL and I kind of sort of stopped. Everything. All the active stuff. I mean, the bike has a flat tire, and running up here gives me activity induced asthma and it's too hot and it's too icky and... and... and...

But I still think of myself as active and healthy and all of that which is why it was so terribly annoying to have found myself out of breath when hiking with the Children a while back. Not that I did anything about it. I just reminded myself that I walked at LEAST 3/4 of a mile to work EVERY DAY which was totally valid exercise. Besides it got too hot to hike after that so problem solved!

Except those darn Children kept joining in things that involved stretching and leaping and doing muscley thing with their arms. And that even more darned Child 2 said it wanted to tone itself up and be healthier and as a Good Mother I had to support it which meant facing up to the hypocrisy of nagging a Child to do push ups while sitting on the couch watching Top Gear.

So for several weeks now Child 2 and I have been walking together - down the bike path, over the bridge and twice around the park (which, according to the entirely reliable Child 3 is about 3/4 of a mile around). I have rather longer legs than the Child which means that there is a slight inequity of stride. Child claims that it shouldn't have to keep up with me because of the leg issue. I claim that as I'm OLD and it is YOUNG there are to be no excuses. Finally we have compromised by staying together on the way to the park and then parting ways. Child 3 has even begun tagging along and showing us both up by loping around the track and then wheezing dramatically all the way home.

It's good though. It's good to remember how nice it feels to be in a body that likes to work. It's good to spend quality time talking with the Children about absolutely nothing.

It's good to be moving again.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Male Child Introspective

I'm not sure if was the manly legs or the fact that the Male Child willingly and ably does automobile repair (there is evidence to support multiple theories), but I got a surprising number of emails about the last post. So for those who expressed an interest, here's a little more about the Male.

Patience is necessary and a certain amount of speed for the Male Child is an elusive species and quick to escape.

Note the ease with which it moves about its native habitat

It is extremely well adapted with attenuated limbs and a lean and gracile build allowing it free movement through the branches of the trees it likes to call home.

When threatened with household chores or geometry it retreats with ease, back into the canopy.

And safety.

[note, guest head for this post was played by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley by special request of the Male Child]