Memories of Michael flooded me before dawn. It’s like that little boost from Ruby allowed me to take back what I wanted from this blog. I’d been waiting to have photos to post but now won’t even hassle that for right now.
The significance of this past week is that a large check from the Treasury Department showed up in my bank account, I finished paying back his debt to his brother and Lucas made good on his promise to Michael to help me get rid of some of his skiing, windsurfing, kayaking stuff. (At least it has left me, even if I never get a dime for it… I did not want it.)
Michael was an Aries, a sign that connotes “self” to the astrologer. That PTSD claim was something I know he wanted for himself but also something I know he would have wanted me to have. (I’m using it to go on a Code Pink delegation to Cuba! The check wasn’t that enormous but did cover the amount I repaid his brother for money M borrowed for the toys he bought in the last few months of his life.) With the lump sum is the opportunity for a small widow’s pension which I will not apply for. His death is a bitter pill. What the war did to him, probably killing him, is even worse. Besides that, I’m a war tax resister and it would be hypocritical on some level. Let the VA, massive with the glut of damaged people, have those few dollars in its coffers for the next guy they put a judgment on… (30% PTSD, denied Agent Orange in our case.)
The memories that flooded back first this morning were of Michael’s amazing reflexes and physicality. I recall one time we were at One Mile and he was on his bike in toe clips balancing when he suddenly fell over and quick as a whip he went from on his side, still in the toe clips, to back upright balancing again. Another time we were headed down the coast and picked up a personable young hitch-hiker and we were at the beach. Michael knew martial arts but I’d never seen him practice or execute a move when suddenly he threw me over his head into the sand, probably for the admiration of that young man. (It was not a very nice experience getting crashed face first into the sand but one that amazed me with the lightning quickness of it…that anytime he could do what I have only seen in movies.)
When he got older I started being concerned about periods of apnea, or not breathing, he was having in his sleep. I’d count the seconds and worry and tell him about them. When he went in to have it evaluated he did indeed have moderately severe sleep apnea and started wearing a CPAP device at night to force regular breathing. With that he started to have more regular sleep cycles and with that also he began to not only dream but have nightmares. And that is when he really took the PTSD seriously. I’d always known it from the fact that you could not do anything at night without him being awake for it…like going to the bathroom, turning over, etc. He was ever hyper-vigilant after the war.
He became rather obsessed with telling war stories in the last few years to any new person who hadn’t heard the story. The story he told each time seemed to have more details but never had a feeling tone to it… to me it was just a grueling recitation of the same story. What woke me this morning was memories of going up to the Olympic Peninsula with him and hiking in the deep drippy forest there…it reminded him of Vietnam. He told of how quiet they’d have to be, how still, cold, wet, with uncooked rations. I think all the times he cheated death both then as a young adult but also later on those winter solo transects in the Sierra gave him a sense of invincibility and that made him impervious to anxiety about pending death. He’d had his nine lives but wasn’t counting.
A few more memories about that trip. I didn’t know him well then. We were driving along and I was really enjoying a George Winston tape when he shut it off. Michael could not tolerate repetition of a motif or a chorus or any of the rhythmic devices that most of us actually enjoy… I look forward to reclaiming music without the overlay of “Michael will hate this.” He thought that repetition was laziness rather than something of a more primitive and natural way we relate to music. In a Baptist family he did not grow up with music and never really took to it. He was always pulled between internal strictness and his native hedonism. Sometimes I had to confront him by annoying him with–“Hey, I’m not in your army. Quit ordering me around.” He had that captain thing down on a deeply rooted level.
Lastly, after the Olympic Peninsula we looped the lower part of Vancouver island on our bikes and then went over to Vancouver to see the Expo. I don’t know if we took LSD, psilocybin or what but we took a hallucinogen to walk through the exhibits. We completely synchronized on the beauty and creativity of the expressions of human-kind. The night ended with a fireworks show over the water and it was one of those perfect moments I will always cherish. Neither of us had said a word for hours but being able to maximize the intense experience of Beauty synchronously with another person you feel completely as one with… gets near the core of what animates us and allows us a form of divinity (which Michael would hate me to say because he hated god-talk but it is what I believe.) I sense the entity elements that were him gets all that now.