This is the Damon family. My friend, Hildi (right) married the sweet and dutiful brainiac, Pat, 19 years ago. Their daughter, Mikayla is 14, and their son, Jan-Christian is 12. This picture was taken the day that Pat was deployed to Afghanistan with the Army National Guard in January. Hildi'd sent me this picture along with five others, all of the kids being alternately goofy and pensive. As you might imagine, everyone was sad to see him go.
I just found out today that Pat died in Afghanistan. And every time I think of any aspect of the situation, I literally shake my head in a combination of utter disbelief and a gargantuan lack of comprehension. I can't fathom how or why it happened. I couldn't possibly begin to know what Hildi, Mikayla, and Jan-Christian are going through. And although it doesn't surprise me that Hildi effected a meeting with the President and that during that meeting she spoke the hard truth to him, I simply don't know from where she gets the strength and courage to do it. I just don't. Can't. Anything.
Hildi and Pat took me into their home for a little while before I moved to Seattle. The lease on my apartment was up before my job was over, and they were kind enough to let me pitch camp in their guest bedroom. If fish and houseguests smell after three days, I must have been rank (there nearly a month). They were only ever good friends and gracious hosts.
Pat seemed quiet around people who didn't know him, but he was an excited and unending source of information (and a bit of a ham) to those of us who did. And all I can do is shake my head and offer well-intentioned but ultimately unhelpful condolences to my widowed friend and her fatherless children.
I also found out today that my friend, Michelle, and her entire community have had a jarring loss. Two women were killed and two others wounded by a man who entered an elementary school and started shooting people. Today is the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and it's shocking how much has not been done there since. My friend, Donna, is boarded into her home in Florida waiting for Ernesto to show up. The news tells mind-boggling stories about one man pretending he killed a little girl and another man arrested for setting up marriages between little girls and older men. Some days, it's too much to absorb.
The world aside, my thoughts keep coming back to Hildi. And Essex, Vermont. And a naive wish that I could recapture the innocence of youth and spread it like peanut butter over everyone's wounds.