One of Lynn’s earliest memories is of a casket. Her brother Jimmy had been such an exciting playmate for the three older girls in the family. Then one day, with no warning, there was a little tiny casket. Lynn can’t remember Jimmy being sick, but he had been, and she and her sisters ended up all dressed in black. Their playmate was gone.
As she grew up, Lynn put that trauma behind her. She learned to laugh easily and make friends quickly. She married a tall, handsome Navy Pilot, Paul, who sang in the Navy choir and appeared on national television on a few occasions. By the tender age of 25, she and her 7-month-old son were living in Naval officer housing – headed to the top of the social heap in San Diego. Life was good. Until …
“I got a call first. There had been an incident with Paul’s training flight off the California coast. The plane had to be abandoned and everyone had bailed out. Then another call brought the news that three of the crew members had been found quickly, but they were still looking for my husband’s parachute. But not to worry, they told me, Paul had a life jacket as part of the parachute apparatus, so as soon as they spotted the parachute, they were sure he’d be just fine.”
“The wives of the other crew members who had been on the plane arrived at my apartment next. They arrived empty handed, but they looked like they wished they’d brought a casserole or something. But it was too early for that. I suppose a casserole would have implied that something was seriously wrong. It had still only been several hours since the accident, so no need to get too worried about anything. The wives all repeated the same story. There had been a fire. Everyone abandoned the plane. The last guy to jump had looked back just before his parachute opened and had seen Paul at the door of the plane. One of the other crewmen reported that he had seen Paul’s parachute open.”
“After a few days of searching, they declared him dead. His body was never recovered.”
“For forty years now, I’ve had a recurring dream of him walking into the house and announcing, just like he always did, in his best Ricky Ricardo accent, ‘I’m home, Lucy.’
Lynn gave birth to twins just 6 months after the accident. Five years later she married Ken who already had 4 teenage kids, then together they had four more children of their own. She and Ken and the kids lived on a large orchard. They also had a cow and lots of small animals. Lynn was the classic life mother, surrounded by children and animals – always philosophical about the cycle of life.
“I’m always glad to see Paul, in my dream. But then reality sets in. I realize that I need to figure out how to fit him into my current life – how do I explain him showing up to my husband and to the kids. I want to be back with him, I want to hear him calling out that he is home, but in my dream it always seems like I’m going to have to abandon Ken and all 11 kids to be with him.”
But it wasn’t Lynn who did the abandoning. Ken died less than a year after his retirement; it almost seemed like too much for Lynn. Ken had scrimped and saved and had such big plans for retirement. With the illness hitting and then the long slow death, his retirement was nothing but pain.
“Not many women these days have to deal with the loss of two husbands. I’ve seen more death than most of my friends or family, but I’ve also seen a lot more life. And these days, sometimes, I can’t see at all because of the diabetes. I’ve lost all feeling in one of my feet. I know I won’t be around much longer, but I know how precious life is. I’m lucky to be alive and I cherish every day I have. There is no greater gift than life.”