The Sands of Ho-Na-Lee

Dearest Rachel –

There are some days, darling, when I admit that there isn’t much to write to you about. Nothing much is happening, I don’t find myself inspired, and I find myself forcing myself – rather against Jan’s advice – to send you something simply for the sake of sending you something.

This isn’t one of those days.

In fact, I had two other topics already prepared (if not flashed out and ready to send) for today, but then I woke up today… sobbing. And those other topics can wait.

Last night’s Grief Share talked specifically about trauma (and I’ll cover that in one of those other letters), Including some of the lingering side effects, like flashbacks and nightmares. I don’t suffer from either, really, but the dreams I have can be more than painful enough.

Most of the scenario was relatively nondescript. I was sitting at a picnic style bench, eating lunch in either a food court or a British village green. And while I didn’t recognize my companions, I knew they were all current acquaintances from college. Almost all of them had blonde hair, and I’m pretty sure most of them were girls, not that that matters. Again, bear in mind these were acquaintances, not necessarily friends. Were I to see them again, I don’t think I would recognize them as even having been seen in dreams. I refer to a village green because I believe that, off to my left, was a public house, from whence the strains of thickly accented music emanated. Yes, I said accented – I want to say Scandinavian, but I honestly couldn’t tell you. The words were pretty much incomprehensible. All I know is, the tune was unmistakable:

Puff the Magic Dragon.

I admit to preferring a version by the Irish Rovers, as I think they do a more poignant rendition, but that’s neither here nor there. Somewhere amongst all my old photos of you are a few from when you, Ellen and Dana went to see Peter Yarrow in person at Ravinia, even getting to meet him backstage. From what I’ve heard, it might be a case of ‘never meet your heroes,’ but that’s a subject for another time.

My dream self was shocked to recognize the song, to the point of accidentally setting my arm down on my plate and getting mustard all over my sleeve.

And after a verse or so, I woke up… to find my pillow soaked. I know, I know, it’s a silly song to cry over. I always hated this song, because it made me so sad that the old dragon lost his little boy. The song never says why Jackie Paper never bothered to return; the implication is simply that he grew up, and found other things ‘more important’ to occupy his time. Maybe he found a little girl to play with. But I always thought that Jackie died. And as far as Puff was concerned, he might as well have.

And this morning, it hit me: I am Puff.

You never gave up the things of your childhood, and those that you had to, you tried to gather back up over time, like your book collection (which, ironically enough, I’ve had to donate elsewhere, as I had no intention of reading them, and they would be better served in someone else’s hands). When I first met you, you and Liz we’re already play acting like little girls, and loving every minute of it. Liz, of course, has grown up – studying the law and the serving in the military will do that to you – but you never abandoned your childhood. You were a dragon’s ideal companion, even if it never occurred to me to play-act the role.

But now, of course, like little Jackie, you come no more to play.

Thank God, I am not a dragon; I don’t live forever. One day, like David and his first son by Bathsheba, I will go to you. But for now, I’m forced to remember that you cannot come to me anymore. And it hurts so much to have to come to terms with that.

I also have to bear in mind that I’m not the only ‘dragon’ in this house. Daniel misses you terribly as well, even though he doesn’t seem to show it, what with his preoccupation toward politics and prophecy. But he, so much more than I, has crawled back into his cave, only coming out upon my insistence. Meanwhile, I find myself hoping for another verse that speaks of Puff discovering yet another playmate to call his own, and seeking her out, whoever she may be – although as of yet, she seems as distant a dream as you.

I understand that there really is a land called Ho-Na-Li; I believe it’s a beach somewhere in the Hawaiian islands. I know that you want your ashes scattered off Middle Bass Island into Schoolhouse Bay, but I may keep back a portion. You know full well that I intend to take those travels that we meant to as a couple. If ever I should find this beach, I plan then to sprinkle a few grains of your ashes there, to join the sands of Ho-Na-Li, where a bit of your spirit belongs.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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