Caroline Eltrich

Caroline 2

Dear Sweet Caroline:

Why did you leave us so soon?  You have flown away beyond the sun, scattering your joy and beauty and love among the stars, whence they will shower down upon us, like flower petals on a warm spring breeze.  In this way, despite your absence, your spirit will always be with us.  Our memories will not fade.  Our love for you will never die.

Much Love,  Your Family

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Our beloved daughter, sister, and auntie left this life unexpectedly on Memorial Day, 27 May 2019, in Arlington, Virginia.  Caroline loved life, and within her life she loved science, family, proper spelling, cats, grammar, the mountains of Colorado, the beaches of Delaware, newspapers, books, travel, the Oxford comma, progressive politics, equal rights, good food, good wine, and good friends.  She especially loved her nephew and niece, Max and Emilia, and they miss their Auntie Harbo.

Caroline was born in Denver, Colorado, at sunrise, on 20 November 1983.  She attended public schools in Denver, and graduated from Wheat Ridge High School in 2002, after which she attended The George Washington University and the University of Colorado.  While at the latter university, she spent a semester abroad in Madrid.  In December 2013 Caroline graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver, with a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology.

In early 2014 she moved to Washington, D.C., to be close to family, and to start a new life adventure.  During her years in Washington, she worked for the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), and for the School of Medicine at The George Washington University.  At the time of her death, she was considering teaching English abroad, seeking new experiences in a distant land.

Caroline was a kind and independent woman with a fierce spirit, exemplified by her red hair.  She touched and inspired and shared life’s joys and sadnesses with numerous people during her years among us, and she is and will continue to be greatly and sadly missed.

Caroline is survived by her father and step-mother, Michael and Terri; her mother and step-father, Nancy and Greg; her sister Jessi; her sister Kate and sister-in-law Lisa; her beloved nephew and niece, Max and Emilia; her fuzzy butt companion, Dotty; and more friends than we can count.

You may be reading this because you knew Caroline, or, like Caroline and her father, you read obituaries for the stories they tell about people.  However, this obituary cannot fully tell, nor do justice to, Caroline’s story.  So, whether you knew her or not, you can honor the things she loved and the causes in which she believed by doing some of the following things:

  • Travel to exotic places, and honor their cultures.
  • Stay in your PJs and binge watch a favorite show.
  • Celebrate Christmas with dinner at Filomena’s in Georgetown.
  • Read a book (read several books!).
  • Go see live music and dance like there’s no tomorrow.
  • Enjoy a meal, particularly a good cheese course (with red wine).
  • Be helpful, and kind.
  • Apatosaurus, not Brontosaurus.
  • If you love someone, tell them. No matter what.
  • Know the difference between your, you’re, and yore, and use them correctly.
  • Register to vote, and vote in every election. Your life depends upon it.
  • Help someone else register to vote, and then encourage them to vote.
  • Support a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions.
  • Make a donation to an organization that is working to make this a better world.

A celebration in honor of Caroline’s life will be held at the family home near Estes Park, Colorado, on Saturday, 10 August 2019.  If you wish to join us in remembering this remarkable woman, write to RememberingCaroline2019@gmail.com for details.

And remember: There is no ending as long as someone is alive in your heart.

♥♥♥

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Seeking Optimism on a Beautiful Cloudless Autumn Morning

 

It was a beautiful autumn morning – cloudless, warm for the season, the clear sky broken only by the flight of ravens, black against the blue – when he realized he might have only another thirty years to live.

Now, this may sound silly to you.  It’s not like those dreadful, or sometimes up-lifting, stories in which a woman or a man has but six months, or a year, to live.  Their valiant struggle against an ultimately victorious disease.  A story whose outcome was never in doubt.

We’re supposed to find those stories inspiring, because of the indomitable human spirit evident in the fight against unseen forces, whether cancer or mental illness.  However, as we all know, as he knew that autumn morning, the human spirit, to say nothing of the human body, is quite domitable.

He knew that because of everything he had seen and heard and read in his life, and it caused a small wave of fear and sadness to come over him.  He recalled how quickly, looking back over it now, the last thirty years of his life had passed, and with what consequence.  Oh, it was the same old story: love, loss, money, destitution, family, birth, joy, marriages, war, death.  Not necessarily in that order, but they were all there nevertheless.  All of that and more had filled the last three or four, or five, decades of his life.  The fact that it had all happened did not make him feel prepared for the next three decades, nor encourage him as to what he might yet accomplish.

So he sat there, looking out the window at the ravens flying across the clear blue sky and wondered what the point was, or if there was a point, or at what point it became obvious that life had a point, and that it was worth carrying on, right to the end, valiantly pursuing … something.

“That’s too morose a thought for such a beautiful morning”, he thought.

He’d seen people, many people, in fact, who had clearly given up; who sat on their porches, or in front of their TVs, waiting, waiting, waiting, for the Grim Reaper to find them.  It was probably pretty easy for the Reaper.  They weren’t exactly hiding, or running away.  Just sitting there, mouldering in place.

No, he thought, that’s not what he wanted to do with the next thirty years of his life; being optimistic, you see, that it might turn out to be thirty, not twenty, or five.  If that was optimism, then he had no need for fatalism at all.  He did need some encouragement, though.

The amazingly blue sky, the ravens, the autumn morning – none seemed enough to encourage him to take up his pen and write something inspiring, or at least competent and worth reading.  Things just seemed to escape him on mornings like this, his mind wandering around, poking under this rock, behind that bush, coming up empty-handed, once again.  Five hundred words.  If he could just get

 

 

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11~11~18

 

Armistice Day.  One hundred years ago today, The Great War, The War to End All Wars, came to its cataclysmic end.  Fifty years ago today, I was in the Army at Ft. Bliss, Texas, suffering through Basic Training.  My suffering was nothing, though, compared with that of the young men who had preceded me in war, fifty years earlier.

I don’t recall any commemorations of that fiftieth anniversary.  Perhaps that was because America was deeply embroiled in another war, much further from home than Flanders’ fields.  Now, so far has The Great War faded from our collective memories, that few will recall that this day was, for many decades, known as Armistice Day.  Here in America, it eventually came to be called Veterans’ Day, I suppose because we’ve since had (and still have) several more wars, so we can’t afford the luxury of focusing on the end of just one.

2 September 1945?  27 July 1953?  How about 29 March 1973?  No idea?  If we can’t put a name to those dates, we can hardly be expected to know the significance of, say, 9 April 1865, the end of a war whose total number of deaths continues to overshadow the American losses in every war since.

And the wars continue.  Young men and women continue to be sent to places thousands of miles away, and some of them continue to come home in flag-covered metal coffins.  Many of those who do not come home thus, return missing limbs, or sight, or mental stability.  Like every other war, veterans, men and women, continue to die as a result of their wars, years after they have come home.  For far too many, the war never ends.  It just endures on different terrain, with different enemies, real or perceived.

My war ended on 29 March 1973.  I say “my war”, because that war and I became, and remain, close friends, if friends we be.  My part in it ended, officially and physically, on 13 October 1970, the day my flight took off from Da Nang Airbase.  But anyone who thinks I left it behind me on that day is quite mistaken, just as they would be mistaken about everyone, in every war.

What I experienced, what my friends experienced, as young infantrymen in Viet Nam, fifty years ago, will accompany us to our graves.  As it is for us, graying veterans that we are, so it is for the young men and women now serving their country’s sometimes muddled objectives in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria, in Niger, and who knows where else.  These veterans, while not exactly forgotten (certainly not by their families), they are often overlooked.

We should be careful not to do that.  Life will be difficult enough for them in years ahead, without their wars too fading into difficult-to-recall dates and places.  Their wars, their personal wars, like my own, will never fade away.  There will never be a peace treaty in those wars.  Sometimes there are surrenders, but it’s never the other side that surrenders – it’s always the veteran.

If we really want to recognize and honor veterans, then we should understand and acknowledge the fact that their war never truly ends.  And when we understand that, we should return to calling this day Armistice Day.  An armistice, after all, is just a temporary cessation of hostilities.  Not an end.  Not a peace treaty.  Just a little stillness before the war resumes once again.

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Wednesday Morning in Colorado

It seems our beautiful Colorado blue sky has a wider significance than just climatic.  Yesterday, we elected the first (openly) gay governor in the country.  He appears to have won the confidence of a majority of Coloradans, because he will become governor alongside Democratic control of both chambers of the state legislature.  Turning Colorado even bluer, Democrats have been elected to all of the other significant state-wide races:  attorney general, treasurer, and secretary of state.  I have no idea when that last happened here, but I suspect it’s been a long time.

Although I do not live in the congressional district of Rep. Mike Coffman, I am nevertheless pleased to see that he was defeated yesterday and will not be returning to Washington, D.C., next January.  I freely admit that my joy at Coffman’s defeat is both personal and political:  A couple of years ago, Coffman, who has always made much of his fervent support of the military, wrote an op-ed in the Denver Post, disparaging Vietnam veterans (of which, I am one), in which he intimated that we were somehow cowardly, because so many of us opposed the war, both while in Viet Nam and after coming home.  So, no regrets about Coffman being seen off by Jason Crow.

It was not all blue sky, though.  At the same time voters supported Jared Polis and other Democrats, they also rejected ballot measures that would have helped fix the pitiful state of our roads, and the pitiful state of our schools.  Perhaps with Democrats in full control of the state government, something can yet be done about that.

Elsewhere in the country, it was amazing and encouraging to see so many women running for office – and winning, often against Republican incumbents.  I don’t know to what degree women helped Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives, but I suspect they had a strong hand in it.  Amid the wreckage that is the Trump presidency, we can now find reasons for hope as we move through the next two years, toward an election in which Mr. Trump will actually be on the ballot.  Forward!

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Tuesday Morning in Colorado

It’s difficult to believe, as I sit here at my table with a cup of coffee, looking out the window at a beautiful Colorado autumn morning, that the fate of our country so completely depends upon what happens today.  Millions of people I’ve never met, millions of people they have never met, are deciding the course of our collective future.

So many dark, fearful, absurd things have been said these last two years – mostly by Donald Trump and the Republican Party which he has taken hostage – and so many frightening and violent things have been done – especially over the last several weeks, by aggrieved white men who have been stirred to action by the faux-angry rhetoric of Trump.  In 2012, at the Republican National Convention, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said of the Republican Party, “The demographics race we’re losing badly.  We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”  In Donald Trump’s Republican Party, that no longer seems to be a problem.

The results of today’s elections in cities and counties and states across the country will not just be about what kind of country we want America to be.  It will, in fact and deed, be about what kind of country we think it has become, especially over the last two years.

Only the most innocent among us would believe that racism, xenophobia, and misogyny have, like small pox, been eradicated from America.  Those behaviors, those fearful attitudes about life, have always been among us, but not in a long time have they gained such prominence, nor such overt encouragement from a president of the United States.  Past occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have generally at least pretended to being president of all the people.  Trump, who is so good at lying about everything else, doesn’t even make an effort to pretend.  He’s quite happily and openly president of a minority of our fellow citizens.  The question we face this morning, a question that will be answered tonight, is what the rest of us think about Trumpism and whether we want to continue living in its ever-deepening shadow.

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22 October 1968

Fifty years ago today, also a Monday, at the age of twenty-one, amid a deeply unpopular war, in a decision created out of a haze of depression, patriotism, and a deep yearning to free myself from the distrustful control of my mother and father, I got in my car, drove downtown, and signed the next three years of my life away to the United States Army. 

Looking back, knowing what I know now, it might not seem like the best choice I could’ve made, but on that day, in that time, it seemed like the only choice that would get me out of Dallas and on the road to determining what my life would look like, who I really was, and whom I wished to become.  It was a stark example of Newton’s Third Law of Motion:  so lost and stuck and unknowing about myself did I feel, that only some extreme and violent action would get me unstuck, help me find my way, set me free to learn what I wanted in my life, as opposed to who my mother and father told me I was (not quite competent, not quite loveable) and what I should do with my life (get a “useful” degree and join the business world).

I was, as trite as it is to say it, trying to find myself.  As if I wasn’t really here, but rather, out there somewhere, in the midst of an out-of-body experience wherein I had mislaid myself, and forgotten where I was.  But I hadn’t misplaced myself so much as I had simply not understood or recognized myself to begin with. 

And so, I engaged in a radical act of desperation; an irrevocable escape plan that no one could undo.  I needed answers, and I wasn’t going to find them in Dallas. 

Like most radical decisions, it had unintended or unforeseen consequences.  Some of them could’ve been foreseen.  My patriotism and fascination with the military and war, for example, somehow blinded me to the reality that choosing to join the infantry, in 1968, could get me killed. 

There were beneficial consequences.  The knee-jerk racism I grew up with in Texas was slowly worn away by my experiences with Black, Latino, and working class White kids in the Army. 

Like racism, so it was with politics.  I had unquestioningly imbibed the conservative world view of my mother and father, a world view that led me to believe that the war was a just cause, while my idealistic patriotism led me to feel that I had a duty to go to that war.  The Army and the war, far from destroying my idealism and patriotism, rebuilt how I saw the world, sparking a true interest in politics, and completely turning around my views of the country, the world, and life in general.  One hundred and eighty degrees.  For that, I remain ever grateful. 

There were other consequences that took longer to become clear, if in fact they have become clear, fifty years on. 

Was the depression I felt and the drinking I did in 1968 a result of how unhappy and dissatisfied I was with my life in Dallas, or was it simply an early manifestation of the depression that has become a permanent feature of my life?  Did the bi-polar mood disorder that is also a permanent feature of my life play a part in my seemingly rash decision to leave the safe environs of college and sign up for the infantry, in the deadliest year of the war, in the face of everything else that had happened in that year, both in America and in Southeast Asia?  Which came first: the depression, or the PTSD?  Those are questions without answers.

There are other questions without answers.  For example, was that war worth the deaths of Richard P., Tom S., or Hugh S.?  I didn’t think so then, and I don’t think so now.  Was the war worth the deaths of another 58,315 young American men and women, and at least two and a half million Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians?  What did all those deaths accomplish, what did they gain, for this country, and for Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Lao?  I’ll have to leave it up to you, to answer that question for yourself, just as there are similar questions today that you must answer for yourself.

I was caught up in a surging wave in 1968; a passionate, conflicted, unpredictable wave, which carried me into a new life.  It was a life I sought, even though I had no idea then what it would come to look like, any more than anyone else ever does.  It is a life full of joys and love and adventures, but also a life full of unforeseen consequences, strange turns, and unanswered questions, all of it shaped and directed by the decision I made on Monday morning, 22 October 1968.  Be careful what you wish for.     

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#Who’sNext

#MeToo

It began with women who spoke up and said, “Me too.  I too am a victim of sexual assault.  I too have been raped, and never said anything about it.”  But there’s no reason why #MeToo should exclude men who are victims of sexual assault or rape.  They’re out there, those guys.  Straight or gay, it happens to men, although at a much, much lower rate than with women.  Well, as far as we know, because we don’t know what the rate of male sexual assault is, since that too is not talked about. 

If you’re a seriously manly man (to which I make no pretentions myself), how unmanly is it, after all, to be sexually assaulted or raped?  Those same men who criticize #MeToo – saying now they can’t even look at a woman or their life could be ruined, just like poor Brett Kavanaugh’s – those same men would laugh and mock some guy who said he was sexually abused by a woman, or, worse yet in their eyes, by another man.  (It’s worth noting that poor Brett Kavanaugh’s ruined and destroyed life seems to be recovering quite well, thank you, now that he’s on the Supreme Court.)

The evidence of men’s lives that have been unfairly ruined by false accusations of rape or sexual abuse is pretty thin.  On the other hand, there is (growing) evidence of men’s lives that have been ruined because they did in fact rape or sexually abuse a woman; a woman who was brave enough to step forward and make the accusation; a woman who was believed when she made that accusation.  Being believed, when the memory of her assailant is still very clear, is more than you can say for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who is still unable to return to her home because of threats of one kind or another.  Her bravery has not been rewarded, but she has become an icon of bravery, and I hope that brings her some comfort. 

 

#HimToo

This is a movement, if movement it is, for all the guys who are now afraid to look at women, or offer to buy them a drink in a bar, or tell some woman they’ve never met how sexy she looks in that short dress.  And maybe give her a little squeeze on the breasts, because what woman doesn’t like to have her breasts squeezed every now and then? 

Yes, as our boy president, D. Trump, noted a few days ago, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of.”  I guess we have to give him some credit for using the word “may.” 

Still, you never know when some woman you don’t remember meeting at a party that you don’t remember attending comes along years later and accuses you of sexually assaulting her – without her permission, even though she was drunk, and wearing that sexy short skirt.  And yet she professes to remember you, and the room where it happened, and what song was playing on the radio while you tried to pull her clothes off.  Even if something like that happened, which it didn’t, she was drunk, so she obviously mistook inoffensive boyish hijinks for something awful and regrettable.  If it happened.  Which it didn’t.  Because she’s clearly mixed up.

So, under the banner of #HimToo, you can stand up to the obvious unfairness of all this #MeToo-ism, and fight back against the braying apparatus of politically correct, anti-man, entitled feminism that can come down on you, without warning, like a load of pricks – I mean bricks.  Bricks.  Your spirit can be crushed and your life ruined.  Just because you’re a guy who wanted a little consequence-free fun.  Man, what has the world come to?

 

#YouToo

This hasn’t gotten off the ground yet, but I think it has potential.  So, while we’re waiting for that to spread around the internet like a prairie fire, let’s close with a little music, shall we?  Cue Lynzy Lab

 

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