I just found this in a file while doing a search for something somewhat related. After spending so much time with Pretty Much True…, there are actually times, now, I can’t remember whether something in the book happened only in the book, or whether it’s a real memory.
A lot of Pretty Much True… rings true because I used my experience to guide the fiction, but now and then I’ll be reminded of just how many little pieces of reality also became Mia’s reality. The following true (real true, not pretty much true) account was saved as a file called “guest post,” but I don’t remember who it was for or whether it was ever sent:
~ ~ ~
When my husband left for Iraq in 2003, it was my first experience with a deployment, and it was not a good one. I imagined him being shot down. I imagined his funeral. Looking at his pictures could, on a bad day, send me into a gasping, sobbing fit because it was too easy to imagine never seeing his face again. When he left at the start of the war in Iraq, embedded reporters were bringing immediate updates twenty-four hours a day. Unless I had to, I didn’t leave the TV, and I rarely watched anything but the news. When I slept, it was with the TV on. I would wake up – without trying – every hour, look at the screen and the ticker-tape to check for his name or his division, and then go back to sleep when it appeared all was well.
One night, after waking up to check the news, I wondered how hard it could be, really, to pack my things and catch a commercial flight to Kuwait, and then (somehow) find someone to take me to him, wherever he was. What if he died in the next month and I hadn’t done everything in my power to see him just one more time? Shouldn’t we take control of our own destinies? Wouldn’t I regret my cowardice for the rest of my life if I did nothing and he died?
I went as far as sitting up in bed and trying to remember where my suitcase was. But, of course, I didn’t actually fly to Kuwait. I didn’t even pack. Rational thought returned and I watched the news until I fell asleep.
None of the above touches even the surface of what it’s like to worry every day the person you love most will never come home, to fear that the last time you saw them – days, weeks, months ago – will have been just that: the last time. It doesn’t communicate the powerful and complex mingling of every possible emotion in any number of ways, all of it sitting on top of a constant feeling of anxious dread. The anxiety never leaves; rather, it drags along, affecting every thought, every smile, every attempt to make everyday conversation with people whose last cry was prompted by a television show about home décor.
~ ~ ~
I still remember the day I was watching Trading Spaces (no longer on TLC, as far as I know) while Ian was in Iraq and how I felt when the woman started crying over the makeover given to her living room.
Everything is (or, it was for me) seen through a brand new filter. One that can often make you, in those moments and ever after, want to introduce people (who cry over decor through no fault of their own!) to an alternate reality and give them the benefit of perspective. That was what drove me to write Pretty Much True… .