Nine Years – Remember or Forget?

Arron and I, likely around 89 or 90

Never Forget. That is the ubiquitous 9/11 statement is it not? And as always it perplexes me. This year in particular, with all the media attention about the Mosque in Manhattan and the burning of the Koran in Florida, how can we possibly forget? The media is always finding us a new angle on which to focus our attention, keeping 9/11 fresh and new, keeping controversy alive and well.

I’m glad the anniversary will be on a Saturday this year. When its on a weekend, it feels more fun somehow, like we can sleep in, have a big rousing breakfast and enjoy the day. No one cares about the media on a Saturday, everyone is trying to enjoy their day. My kids won’t have the pressure of wondering what they will say when a teacher will inevitably bring the up the subject, never guessing that a child who had been directly affected sits among their midst.

I will revel in the calls I will receive from people who I only manage to speak to once a year. I am grateful in that way to have such a public anniversary date, a date that had Arron died a more natural death would likely be forgotten in people’s minds. This raises the question every year of whether its better to remember the day or forget it, my usual default. It’s not a day I want to remember, its Arron I want to remember. But somehow the two are confused, melded together, a bittersweet combo.

I sit here at my desk, looking out at my garden, trying to come up with a memory of Arron, a story I can tell about him that would bring him to life. I am surprised at how hard I find this, have always found this, since the moment he died. I wonder why. Perhaps I just so took for granted that he would always be there, that I didn’t need to make special note of those moments that we all pass, comfortable in each other’s presence, just breathing together, living life. The memories whiz past at warp speed, and I am unable to capture even one. Instead I get glimpses – a giggle, a pat on the bum, sitting in a Chinese in Toronto restaurant planning our lives on a napkin.

I was on the high school soccer field last night watching Olivia play her first game of soccer since her knee surgery last October and realized that Arron had never seen her play soccer, that she started playing only after he died. That thought struck me hard, in the gut really, as I watched another father dance around the field shooting pictures of his daughter scoring a goal. Arron has never seen his daughter score. Shit. Nine years and there it is, ready to kick me in the gut if I let it. I am good at stomping on it, pretending its not always there, ready in the wings.

I have been asked to speak tomorrow night, at a fund raising BBQ where I am worried that people will be ill-prepared to have me there, to hear my story on this day of all days. I dread seeing the sideways glances as they seek an escape. I know I have the power to inspire, to convince people that death and loss is not always a terrible thing, but I wonder if I can do it on this day, when I remember that Arron has missed yet another year. How do I expect someone else to remember when all I want to do is forget?

Considering the world seems to keep warping the meaning of “Never Forget” into  a message for revenge, I am left to remember what was lost – Arron. My husband. The kids’ father.

I was going through some old letters that we wrote each other while I was living in Australia and found this. He was a prankster and one of his favorite pranks was to convince people that he was a British spy. Reading this now, given what happened is all too spooky:

By the time you get this letter I will be long gone. Since we last spoke, certain unforeseen events have taken place and a great shadow of misery and death surrounds me. I am alone in a chaotic world of international crime, the foundation of which have been torn asunder and burned from within. My heart reeks with shame and the ashes of my blackened soul leave little for redemption.

As I once tried to explain to you, I am employed by the British Secret Service as an operative and it is in this capacity that my downfall has come about. Accused of many crimes, I am forced to leave the country. I am so sorry as this affects our plans to be together again. I’m afraid we will never meet again. As I sit here, my eyes filled with tears, I wonder if not death itself would be fitting of someone carrying such weight.

Oh, great stinking, vicinal (?) sad heart. Oh, this fetid, bilious flesh that doth fall from my greiving buttocks. I shall burn in almighty hell. I shall fall heavily upon my weighted brow, for shame is my lot and I should be left to rot.

Oh, sweet princess, Queen of light and beauty of begotten souls. Bid me a small prayer that my passage into darkness might not be completely unwarranted. I will always remember you.

And in another letter:

My little hazelnut,

What a fab day. Man, it’s like spring these days. I got a good night’s sleep and having read what I wrote last night, I should tell you that my heart is still yours and always will be. Yes, I am lonely for my chicken and would happily have you again at any point in time. Writing letters you won’t get for some time is weird to say the least. I haven’t edited any of them, just written what was in my head and my heart so if doesn’t work for you as you are today then maybe some other time.

I lay in bed for 1/2 an hour this morning and daydreamed about us together. It was real nice. We held each other with our legs all intertwined and I ran my fingers through your hair and told you how I wanted you and how much I had dreamed great passionate tales of Robin Hood type romances. I love you so much, you are the world to me and all its riches lie in your beautiful big heart. I will always be yours.

Love Arron.

I am not sure what all this is saying, just another way of remembering him, this time in his own words.

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  1. Sarah September 10, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    i am completely awed by your perspective. it brings it so close to home in a very strange way.

    thank you for you for sharing and all my best for a peaceful tomorrow.


  2. Theo Nestor September 10, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Beautiful post, Abby. Love the detail of planning your lives on a napkin in a Toronto Chinese restaurant.

    I will be thinking of you and the kids tomorrow.

  3. Debbie September 10, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    The part of your post that really touched reality for me was the part about Arron never seeing Olivia playing soccer. Having moments of realization like that with my own kids just hits me right in the gut and takes my breath away. I guess it’s a universal widowed parents’ experience. Always difficult though.

    Thanks for sharing a small part of you and Arron with us. Whenever I hear about 9/11 these days, I always think of you and your family. I hope that tomorrow brings some laughter, smiles and happy memories as you enjoy your sleep in and great breakfast together.

  4. Joanna September 10, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    My Little Hazelnut?!?!? That’s the best term of endearment I’ve ever heard.

  5. Becky Pittman September 10, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Abby, another wonderful post. Thank you. I can still hear you sharing those great, endearing stories of Arron in Santa Fe. I still find myself responding with a pause much like you would at a classical music concert: You need to savor the moment and let it resolve before you step on it with applause. My best wishes – and those of Judy Reeves – are always with you and the children but especially at this time of year.
    I will be celebrating Arron with a lazy wakeup and Nutella crepes tomorrow.

  6. Lauren September 10, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Abby, thank you for sharing and especially the letters Arron wrote you. It inspires me to continue to capture life with words. I am very glad you and Arron are a reminder of that. I will be thinking of you, Olivia and Carter.

  7. Abigail - Site Author September 10, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Thank you all for your sweet thoughts. It is lovely to know we are being thought of.

    And Joanna, here are a few other gems (Arronisms??):

    “Howdy chickpea”
    “I love you like farmers love their chickens.”
    “I love you jeepers-style”

    And a whole poem I found:

    You’re the chicken in my goulash
    You’re the rhythm in my songs
    You’re a gleaming leather shoelace
    You’re a brand new pair of thongs

    You’re the gravy on my dumplings
    You’re the banjo in my heart
    You’re as sweet as fifty ducklings
    You’re a rolling wooden cart

    Oh too bee, too bee
    Soon be near me
    Let me lie on yer boobs

    Don’t be scared of me
    Come and get bare with me
    Jesus I must be a fool

  8. Bec Young September 11, 2010 at 5:44 am

    I too, am a young widow with a young child. Although not affected by 9/11, I have travelled the same road with my grief journey with the death of my husband in a workplace accident.
    Thank-you for being so honest and raw and giving outsiders an insight into what it is like to be a widow and lose the love of your life. From all the way in Australia, I’m sending my thoughts to you. xx

  9. paul September 11, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Hi Abigail:

    Nice post. Take care.


  10. Heather Dack September 11, 2010 at 3:59 am

    Reading this makes me more certain that it was Arron that christened Adrian “Eggy” which he is known as by all.
    He’s Uncle Eggy,Egg,Big Egg and nobody can remember where he got the name from, only that it started at primary school (when Arron was living with him).
    Could have been worse he could be going through life being called “chicken” !! Not very manly

  11. womanNshadows September 11, 2010 at 8:10 am

    you are further along in dealing with your loss than i so leaving a comment seems like the student approaching the teacher. simply know that i keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  12. Cathy September 11, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I love those letters. Love the pat on the bum. I love pats on the bum. all this makes me remember my guy, remember the 9/11 day when we lived in Portland and the days that followed. I made a great breakfast for my children today in honour of you and your family. In honour of remembering and doing something great to start the day. a new tradition for us for sure. You do inspire Abby, thank you for that.

  13. Michele Neff Hernandez September 11, 2010 at 1:30 pm


    Just wanting you to know I am thinking of you. Yes, because it is today. But also because you have made this day so much more than a tragedy. It’s personal. I both mourn the loss of a man you loved so much, and admire the woman you have become as you make your way without him. I hope the sun shines on you today my friend.

  14. Joss September 11, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Hey Ab, both letters so Arron. The British spy! He had me going for a whole day once! He phoned me up to tell me he’d been hired to work for the royal family in Saudi Arabia but that it was a cover for hush hush work (why I never questioned why he was telling me about hush hush work over the phone either shows how gullible I am or how good he was). Took me until six that might to realize it was April 1st. I send you all my droopy dahlia greenhouse licorice love today. X

  15. Kathleen Flinn September 11, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Such a touching post. I have to admit that I woke up this morning and realized it was 9/11. I’ve come to loathe coverage of this day and the way that everyone seems to claim it. So I’ve avoided it as completely as I could. But my mind went to you, and I wondered what you thinking and came to this quiet place and was blown away by the image of Olivia playing soccer.

    Thanks for sharing, as always.

  16. Kathie Neff September 12, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Dear Abby,
    My mind went immediately to you this morning since I recently (after Camp Widow) read your book. Soon after that connection, I recalled (vividly) some details you shared in the book of how you honored this day in the early years…the public memorials both far away and those close to your home…your close connection at that time with Aaron’s mother. Your direct way of saying just how it was for you was refreshing (again and again) and my favorite part of the book was the chapter that told of your finding the house in Seattle. Through your writing, I felt like I was there with you. Second favorite was the story about creating the mosaic bird bath and the placing of it in the new home overlooking such a life-giving view. Full circle.

    Most of all, Abby, today I wish to thank you for your blog and for the mention of how “never forget” connects so many people to the concept of revenge. The mere mention of this is such a powerful statement coming from you and it gives me hope that this world can heal from the messes humans create with such regularity in this life. And,to share such tender memories here stands is sharp contrast to that call for revenge.

    Thank you for putting into words your experience for all who are navigating their way through loss. Your heart shines through your writing and reveals that person whom Aaron spoke of here with such great love. A lucky man was he.


  17. Supa Dupa Fresh September 13, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I would like to be very respectful, and I am, usually, but it’s hard for me to get past the phrase “GRIEVING BUTTOCKS.” WHY has this not been the title of one of our memoirs yet?

    Perhaps you will understand, with your own, er, problems being solemn all the time. If not, my apologies, which will continue for years.



    1. Abigail - Site Author September 20, 2010 at 3:43 pm

      Haha. I loved grieving buttocks too! It should be a title!

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