There’s A Little Wild In You

WolfExcerpt 

“There’s a little wild in you,” Steve used to say. I think he believed I needed the wild to come up fighting and scrapping amid this life that he led, as though this crazy ingredient was necessary to be the woman behind the warrior.  He had a point.  It takes a little wild to travel 10,000 miles away from home to marry the man I love in the middle of a monsoon surrounded by a Platoon of Navy SEALs armed with votive candles and a liquor-laced, a capella rendition of the “Wedding March”.

Steve’s passion for me was quiet and real, but his first love, the Brotherhood of the “Teams” could barely be contained.  It vibrated just under his skin, hell bent on eruption, and flowed into every corner of our lives. I would learn soon enough that the stormy night in October 1978 was just the beginning of the torrential rhythm of our 31 year existence.

The truth is my marriage to Steve was not unlike locking myself in a cage with a hungry wolf. I did that once. Like my marriage, it was frightening and painful, joyous and loud and I knew I’d probably get eaten alive, but something – the slow dance and chance at survival – made it worth the risk. Wolves mate for life. I always kept this detail close to my heart, because to use the term “marriage” with wolves and warriors is fairly laughable. The union of Navy SEAL and the woman he weds is the igniting of a fire that burns white hot until it doesn’t anymore. In the wild the same premise holds true. Only a very few survive.

I did. And it had everything to do with Grace.

When I banged the cage open on this life, I was hell bent on my vision of a handsome prince and grand adventure as a 20 year old bride. I had no idea I would find instead an emotional rock fortress surrounding a driven man full of passion, honesty, pride and skill — with all the social grace of a troll. I suppose that might be a bit unfair. He did have an “on switch” used to charm world leaders and children, but he did not tolerate small talk or suffer idiots. Secretly, I found this endearing and useful.

And sure, it is always easy to rewrite history after the fact, but Steve really was one of the best of the best.  Before real world news events and the former administration started leaking secrets about these men at work, Steve did his job as a Navy SEAL in complete silence.  Most of them still do. He was trained and raised, so to speak, by the Frogmen of Vietnam and he did not sway for an instant from those lessons.

At first we lived as two young souls in a vacuum of subjects never to be discussed, which worked against every cell of the female in me. Women like details. We gather information, talk it through, report back in even more colorful detail and we like to be heard. Men could live their entire lives without sharing details. Steve listened well, but there had to be one of the following life sustaining events to look forward to shortly after his listening card was full: food, hard work, fun, sex, sleep. Shuffle as necessary and repeat. I was lucky to get complete sentences out of the man and even then, we talked around the obvious. That his job was dangerous, from training to deployments to war, was not up for discussion.

So we found other things to talk about and because we fancied ourselves madly in love, coming home to me was always his safe haven. I had his physical body, but after the initial welcome and the soft place to land, I continually had to clog and slog and pull my way through a thick dark muddy abyss with just a glimmer of hope that some semblance of the mental and emotional Steve might come home too.

For long moments after I gave birth to a child or brought a foster child home the murky fog would clear and this wonderful, weeping man who exhausted all of us with his playfulness and fierce love would appear like a long clear blast of cool air. Nothing was off limits when Steve had a child to entertain. His stories of adventure, replete with extraordinary detail, hands waving through the air and voice booming, could enchant children for hours.

Don’t think I didn’t ding him on this. I’d wait until all the kids were tucked in and asleep and say, “That was some detail there with bombs and booms, undersea exploits and cliff-hanging escapades. Do tell…”

With a huge grin, he’d ask for a sandwich or some such thing and say, “I made it up.”

I can’t stress this enough: Men like food, hard work, fun, sex, sleep. Repeat. Women like details.

Then he would leave on another deployment and I would hit face first into the wall of reality and the long hard climb back to unity. The man who left me was never the same man who walked through the door.

I truly believe I survived because I grew a spine of steel, reached deep and found an abundance of unconditional love, leaned heavily on impenetrable faith, rediscovered my fierce independence and matched Steve’s passion and resistance with my own fighting wild spirit. But perhaps it was simply Grace and to borrow Rumi’s words: Destined lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.

After 32 years of living on the edge of death and two more years working for a contractor, Steve fully retired.  We owned a small ranch in North Carolina, a few horses and had a full on dream for a house full of grandchildren and the creation of a safe place for his Brothers to come to when they were done with their part in saving the world.

A few months later he finished a 16 mile bicycle ride and died of a massive heart attack at the tender age of 55. On that day two sheriff deputies arrived at my door and handed me a yellow sticky note with the acronym “D.O.A.” written in pencil.

Steve died as he lived, on his own terms with no fanfare or drama.

And my initial dreams of a fairy tale marriage? They never did come true.  But something much larger than two people in love erupted into this world and I am forever grateful for such Grace.

I’ll carry on his dream in the very same way that I still get down on my knees every day and thank God that not one of us can live the way we want to because God does not let us get away with it.

We do not love on our own terms.

Be grateful in all ways for fierce love and wild abandon because at any moment the people we love can disappear just like this:

You are here. Now you’re not.

 Lynnette Bukowski © 2013 All Rights Reserved

LZG_logo HR Please visit www.lz-grace.com and https://www.facebook.com/LzGraceVeteransRetreat for more information about how Steve’s dream lives on.  

Live Your Dash

Memorial Brick WalkEach morning the dogs and I step lightly when we cross the memorial pathway leading to the beach.  Walkway or not, to me it is a sacred place and the three of us stretch left and right and forward like children playing an awkward, slow-motion hopscotch.  Selah, still learning this tender pace, does more of a leap, slide, and pounce. But it occurs to me that she could very well be playing with little souls, so I lighten my hold and let it be.

I woke up today feeling like a novice at life. In my dream a man asked: “How long have you been who you are?” I was terrified and oddly embarrassed and I barely knew what to say because there, in my dream, I was not sure if this was my first attempt at being or if I’m still waiting to begin. I answered: “Not long enough to be perfect at it.”

Still restless and drowsy from the dream, I was arguing with fear when a bit of rising sun sparkled off a memorial stone. We all stopped.  Selah dropped, Spike sat and I read:

 6/24/1968 ‘—‘ 2/1/2011.

For Sam. Loving husband, father, and son.

He lived his dash.

I don’t think any of us have time to waste not “living our dash” because we are afraid we won’t be perfect at it.

Grace really does meet us exactly where we are.

And there is magic here for all of us, in that moment when light begins.

Lynnette Bukowski © 2013

 

“White Hot” Rainy Morning Letters #720

Excerpt from Married to the SEAL Teams: Lessons in Love

When I least expect it the missing burns white hot just under my skin anLake Arrowhead snow 2d I fold myself in half, wrap my arms around my knees and wait for it like I’m a kid on a toboggan racing down an icy hill with fat trees in my path. Time slows into long, long moments when I know I’m going to get hurt, and badly.  And I do. But I steer into it now because the impact kindles my strength.

Like I’m Firewalking again, I feel your presence. In spirit, you watch and wait until I stand up and move on and I hear, “Hooyah, Babe!” when I need it most of all.

Silence does have a sound.

And there is no statute of limitations on missing.

I still want to curl into a ball and wail loudly and for so long that God gives in and gives up and gives you back and we can do our forever again. Instead, I took our forever as my own and wrapped its precious fragility with memories and scars. And now we know it was never safely bound by hope or adventures or things.

I give things away now – two at a time – because it is not my place to convince others they don’t need things.

sperlonga italy 3Things are ephemeral. Like me on the side of the cliff in Sperlonga with you on billet. Half way up I lose my strength, then my grip. I scream, “I need something!”  And you laugh. Laugh! Sure of yourself, sure of me. You roar, “You don’t need one damn thing but me, baby. Suck it up. Climb!”  And I do.  Sobbing and spent I stand on the top of that cliff with bloody hands and legs and shout, “You’re supposed to save me, you ass!”

You say, “I just did.”

True enough.

These tiny scars are white hot tokens of my strength.

The children carry their own scars. One returned to balancing himself in the ocean, in currents strong with peace. One remains strong in faith, has no fear and lives without a net.  And our youngest wears his strength softly cloaked in a soul so tender I’m reminded where love lives.

They circle me carefully now because I am alone in this forest, wild and fierce.

And I am stronger than I have ever been.

To remind me of this I keep my missing in a box under our bed packed with memories that fill me up. The things of our forever may never be the same, but the rough edges of my grief have been smoothed away into missing.

Still, your spirit softens and delights me like the memory of waking up from afternoon naps to find your hand on my heart. I say, “What?” and you smile that smile and say, “I was missing you.”

White hot love.

In a box now… to remind me that if we had our forever again

I would still hold the map upside down and prove to be the worst navigator in history.  This would piss you off in no small way, but I’d make you laugh until you cried at the abundance of life when we find ourselves on a goat trail in France.

 

And I would still throw the level down and dance through the pasture to All Summer Long while you toiled over a horse fence. Sure, you’d yell. But your heart would smile until your arms reached out. Then, I’d make you dance with me because… really, honey, level is all in perspective.

And I would still love just to fight and fight just to love like the very first time was the very last time every single time.

I do not know the exact moment our forever became my missing, but as it turns out, missing is not a thing to be put away or given up or ignored.

Missing is an ember hell bent on igniting a white hot strength for life.

Hooyah, Babe!Lake Arrowhead snow

Lynnette Bukowski, All rights reserved June 2012 ©

Rainy Morning Letters #495

golden memoriesIt is the perfect morning to lie in bed and cuddle with the memory of you.  Through the window glass the trees shush, their leaves yielding to clear drops, one after the other, sometimes two together, as though you are watering my heart from your Heaven.

The roof dulls the sound for a moment until it spatters over the eaves and creates blistering drops on the deck, like sizzling bacon.  I think: bacon and three fried eggs and a sliced tomato.  A lazy weekend morning and I serve you one of the few gifts you would accept from me.

At this moment – right now – I feel your solid chest against my back, your right forearm and calloused hand resting on my hip, your knee pushing gently against the back of my thighs.  You are right here.  If I turned, I could lay my head against your shoulder, push my face into your smooth neck and know.  The knowing of nothingness and everything.

My eyes squeeze shut at the ache of pure sadness.  The missing your physical presence makes the windows shudder with a stomping rush of falling rain.  Is this your universal answer to my tears? You were never this dramatic on Earth.

You whisper: Get up and write this down.  I stretch against your memory like a waking child. I say: don’t tell me what to do.

If you were here to make me coffee I would hear the sound of six level scoops.  Water pouring – like this morning rain. The aroma of your love for me would seep into the bedroom like a stealth warrior.

I get up, wander into the kitchen and put six rounded scoops and one-half more, which I know would cause a morning spat.  Why do I so blatantly break the making coffee rules?  Because I like the way our spats end: You grab my hips and spin me into a bear hug and ardent kiss that even now – in the memory of it – leaves me breathless.

Still – probably surrounded by a Platoon of spirits – with each cup of coffee you pour – you add cream, a teaspoon of sugar and while you stir, you grumble to the cup, I can’t believe she is still such a rebel. They all chuckle.  I can hear you, you know, as though the words form a red neon ticker tape of commentary circling the tongue and groove pine of the kitchen ceiling.

I ask God: Do spirits laugh?  And I have this vision of you sitting around with God and Buddha, a few Mystics and all the Team guys who have so recently passed over.  You are all telling stories, animated hand gestures and colorful language and the laughter is so huge it sounds like thunder rumbling through the trees.

The passion with which we lived still resonates.  My ego starts to dream up God deals.

I’m sipping coffee laced with licorice tea.  I know… the oddity of me.  And I begin:  rainy coffee

Dear God, today is the 495th day of this infinite deployment and really, I need him back now.  Here’s the deal….

God sighs… the infinite loving sigh.   No Deal.  He says this in capital letters.  And like I’m watching a You-Tube short I’m given a glimpse of you – vital and healthy, slipping through narrow gates, holding infants, holding moons, philosophizing with Emerson and St. Francis, building lavish parks, bending to take a toddler’s hand, telling sea stories with your Team mates, trimming your mustache, building houses, studying in a library that is endless and everything.   You are full of Joy.

When you stand, turn, and stare at me, through me, hands on hips, blue-green blazing eyes near maximum intensity I can hardly breathe through the realness:  I’m writing again, I say. The answer to the question you have not asked.

About damn time.  You think it.  I feel your thought and see it glisten through you just as the sun peaks through the cloud.  It’s your rare, reserved smile spilling over me.  I laugh aloud because even in Heaven you’re a smart ass.

It’s all about the Love… I hear you say, standing at the stove stirring your beef bourguignon and reminding me each time I walk into the room that it’s all about the love.  I wonder if you even had an inkling then of the absolute greatness of that simple lesson?

You wait patiently then – so unlike you – until my soul fills with a boundless blue love.  The rain begins again and it is here in this moment I feel your energy leave me – for now – standing in the perfect memory of you.

rainy morning sun

Lynnette Bukowski © 2011