December 9, 2011 by Amanda Zahn
It is Christmas time and I cannot help but think that it has been almost ten years since we last talked. Christmas was always a great holiday for our family, although it not was your personal favorite. That was Easter. While I think of you always, Christmas time finds my mind wandering to you more frequently because of the memories I have carried from my childhood, like driving the streets of Deming to see the Christmas lights and luminarias. It was a family event and it was something we looked forward to every year.
Things have changed a lot in a handful of years. You knew I had joined the Army, but you did not get to see me experience any of it. I jumped out of planes and helicopters, I deployed twice, I won multiple awards for boards and training, I lived in Europe, and I got to lead and train soldiers. I made friendships stronger than anything in this world, and I lost friends to roadside bombs, snipers, diseases, and general bad luck.
I learned so much about myself while I was in the Army. Through experiences good and bad, and a support channel I could not effectively describe in a letter, I grew into someone honorable, open-minded, supportive, trustworthy, and strong in so many ways. While I know you were always proud of me, I grew into someone that I felt would have been worthy of that pride. There were times throughout my career that I beamed with joy and was subsequently saddened as I wished you could see what I had achieved, what I had become.
You would be extremely proud of Hezzy too. It seems like so long ago that she was in military school, and her milestones put mine in shadows in so many ways. She married her high school sweetheart, Edgar. He was a superior cadet when they met, so it was a love that was fated to be a challenge from the start. She worked hard for it, and so did he. I was deployed when they married, but I got to watch the ceremony online from Kuwait. I still have to remind myself that technology has changed so much since you were here, but, yes, it was possible for me to see their first kiss as man and wife from worlds away.
They have three beautiful children now. True to her form, Hezzy made their lives unique from the second they took their first gasps of air.
- Ethan Roswell is the oldest. He turned four this September and is a whirlwind of energy, a daredevil that likes to jump and climb just like Hezzy and I did when we were young. He has these big, brown eyes and a smile that could stop the sun in its trail across the sky. He has learned that a cute look, or batting his eyelashes, will get his Nana and Papa to do almost anything.
- Harmony December is the oldest girl, the middle child. She will be three years old this month and has a personality so much like her mother’s. She makes her own rules, lives how she desires — as much as a child can at three years old — and her smiles are like currency. She dispenses them sparingly, but having one directed at you will change your world every time.
- Haven Sahara is the baby girl and she will be one year old this month. She is extremely bright, loving, and, unlike her brother and sister were at her age, she is open to the idea of being picked up by a stranger. Her friendly, outgoing nature makes her quick to smile, quick to laugh, and bubbly in a way that makes all things better.
Their names are a type of special that must be explained, but not because it needs to be validated. It is unique, and it tells a story. Hezzy and Edgar decided that their children would follow this scheme: boys names would begin with “E”, after their father, Edgar, and girls names would begin with “H”, after Heather. The middle name is also part of a story: they are a memorial to a special point or event in Hezzy and Edgar’s relationship. They met at military school in Roswell. They were married in December. They stayed at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada when they got married.
Hezzy is still as strong and opinionated as ever, but it is a more refined way than the stubborn, willful teenager she was. Being a mom has made her a woman I could only hope to be someday: strong, proud, firm in her beliefs, and a truly amazing mother. She is creative in ways that blow my mind: making blankets, photo albums, cloth diapers, and other learning toys for children. She takes beautiful pictures and has a voracious appetite for information and learning in general. She is one of the smartest people I know.
Mom and Eric’s wedding was the last major event we had as a family, and those memories are some of my fondest. I am glad we got to experience Las Vegas together. Eric works on the Air Force base and mom still has the same job she has had for years. I do not think I would call them “happy” in their work, but both jobs allow them time and money to live comfortably, so I would consider it a success even if nobody else would. They travel as often as possible, and they live close enough to Hezzy and Edgar that they get to see the grandkids frequently.
Their health problems always make me think of you. Both were walking down the same medical path, but the difference was that you were basically born with a lot of your health issues. Granted, your living style could probably have been adjusted, but I was too young to be able to help. I did not know how important it was. I did not know how much was preventable, even with Type I Diabetes. For that, I am sorry, even if I could not have guessed how important things were, or how much I would miss you when you were gone. Theirs was optional; it was their choice in the aspect that living habits were dictating the future they faced.
You would be so proud of them, Gram. Both are losing weight steadily and in a healthy manner. Mom is down thirty pounds and Eric is slimming so much. I got the best news the other day though. Mom went to the doctor and her A1Cs are normal. They are at the level of normal, non-Diabetic people. The choices they are both making are fighting against, and beating, Diabetes. I had grown up with Diabetes as part of my life and had accepted that I would have it someday. When mom was diagnosed, it sucked…, but it was not a surprise to any of us. It seems silly, and I can hear you attempting to negate the guilt that I feel, but mom and Eric’s success right now almost feel like redemption for me. It is almost like I can correct my mistakes — even though I did not know them at the time — in contributing to bettering your health. Maybe I can save them where I did not know I needed to save you.
I was going to include an update on world news since you died, but it all seems to mesh together for me. The passing of time seems like a blur because of the time I spent in the Army. There was plenty of news to be had, sure, but I lived it. In retrospect, it does not seem important or relevant to this letter.
The greatest memories I have with you are the summers we spent together. I do not remember why it was always just me, but summer was our time. The Price is Right — Bob Barker retired last year or so — and soap operas that I did not fully understand until I was in my twenties filled my days with errands and you. I remember the first time you let me go into the post office to get the mail. It was a little thing, but it felt like I had taken a step closer to being a “grown up” and I was overjoyed you trusted me enough to do it.
I will close this letter with a dream I had a few weeks after you died. That day I was alone at home when my grandfather called me and I had to be the one to track down and tell my mother while she was visiting Hezzy at the military school. There is not much in this world that will mean so much to me, but Hezzy’s first question was asking if *I* was okay before she handled her own sadness. I went through a couple of weeks wondering if I should have called before bed the night you died, or if I should have just made an impromptu trip to see you — something I had been considering doing for your birthday. Hell, I still regret not calling to say goodnight.
In the dream, I am running. It feels like I am chasing you, which is not a surprise considering I had just lost you. We are at the house you moved into when you and my grandfather divorced. This is weird to me because it was never “home”, no matter how hard we tried to make it so. When I finally do catch you, I remember crying and telling you that I was trying to find you. You responded that you were always with me, and the hug that followed was real enough to wake me. I did not wake up feeling sad at the loss. Instead, I felt comforted because I knew you would always be in my heart.
You have. You have been at every duty station, on every Airborne operation, on every deployment, in every laugh, through all of my tears… and my deepest sadness is that the people I keep in my life now will never know you like I did. They will have the stories that are clouded with my own, biased memories. That is more than fine with me.
I love you, and I miss you so much.