March 08, 2012

The Unbearable Absence of Lex

I have a routine in the morning. I get up, make the boys' lunch, putter around the kitchen, help them get out the door (now that I don't drive anyone) and then I come through, check my email, and read Lex.

From there my day begins. I did it again this morning. I think his blog is on 14 pages. Sometimes Lex would go out of town and he'd tell us to talk amongst ourselves. I didn't always participate, but I always grinned as his other commenters ran amok in his comments. I'd typically chime in as we'd try to get his blog to another page. "How many pages do you think his blog will let us get to in comments?", as we'd push for page 4.

I don't want it to be at 14 pages. I want it to be at a single page and I want a new post from HIM. I want to know how yesterday's flight went or his take on something that our government has done or something about his family. I want to see the high school graduation of his youngest, the college graduation of his middle, and the one day marriage of his eldest.... and maybe grandkids one day.

But I can't have it.

My work life and my home life are delineated. I am the master of compartmentalization. I do not bring the stress of work home nor do I take the stress of home to work.

So good am I at this, that at the end of every day at work, I write down exactly what I did and what I need to do the next morning, for if I don't, I'll log in the next and stare blankly at the screen. I do a complete and total brain dump every day before I leave.

Why?

Coping. If I brought home the stresses of my job, compounded with the emotional needs of three teenage boys, and the drama in their lives, and then the drama of any volunteer work I do, plus dealing with the ins and outs of running a house, I'd have a brain freeze and be unable to function.

But Lex was the one thing that bridged the two. If the system was too slow at work, chunking through to log me on, a 10 minute ordeal, I'd pop open my cell phone and go to Lex's blog and look for updates in posts or comments.

In the mornings, sometimes someone compiles for us a bunch of defense articles, from around the globe. We get stuff on corporate espionage, the newest jets or propulsion systems, the Chinese, what's going on in congress as everyone wrangles for money for their pet projects, space exploration... all of it. Someone takes the time to put the highlights in an email and then sends it to us. It wasn't uncommon for me to sift through it, pick out the things I thought Lex might like and forward it to him, always with the understanding, "No hat tip" and a quick, 'No need to reply. Just FYI".

I figured he got the stuff from scads of people, I was just one in hundreds who sent him email, and it was irrelevant it came from me.

There were times I was afraid he'd quit blogging. Things went sideways at home or at work or both, and he'd vent a bit and ALL of us would say, "We're fine. Come back when you're ready. We'll wait as long as it takes." I figured if I fed him stuff, it would help him find something to quickly put up when he was riding the tail of the tiger of life... and he'd keep the doors open.

Sometimes an item might make his blog. Sometimes not. I didn't care.

I logged on yesterday to check my email and there sat the newest defense assessment. I didn't even open it. I felt my heart squeeze and I hit delete.

He didn't read me; I'm not sure he even liked me. And neither of those things mattered to me either because I only wanted to read him and *I* liked HIM and what came out of his head. It was a one way street and I was completely and utterly content just basking in his brilliance and being privy to how much he loved his family and his Country.

I'm reassessing my life... again. I've lost more than a blog I read every morning. I lost someone I felt I'd gotten to know over the past eight years as a guide of sorts. His blog was the wake up, get a good cup of coffee, sit down and either be prepared to be amazed by his mad writing skillz, to laugh, or to just... be.

I think that's it. His place was a place... I could just be. It was safe.

I got a call yesterday from the lead engineer coordinating my May trip. I listened to her message and all I could think of is, "I don't want to go anymore." I want to just... be.

I need to be comfortable with where I am. I'm not going to climb the corporate ladder. That's behind me and for the young people. I don't need to be relevant in the workforce. I'm in a cube, that is fine. Just let me give my 200% when I'm there, pay me my honest wage, and let me go home.

I've been debating giving up blogging. And I might. I didn't start blogging because of Lex, but I think I may have continued a lot longer than I would have because of him. His writing motivated to write. His blog kept my toes in the water when I was just mentally done with life and this blog felt like cement shoes.

After 9.11 I turned off the TV. I'm very honest about it. I couldn't cope with what the media was constantly throwing at me. I was going into sensory overload so I switched it off. In turn I've wondered if Lex's death will be the catalyst of turning out the lights here. I always checked his blog before I checked mine. Now it hurts and coping is a struggle.

There were some great people commenting over at his blog. They raised the bar in conversation. I'm not near as smart as most of them and so I'd watch and listen. And we've lost that too. I'll probably never run across them again. I don't have the type of blog they read, I'm not the type of person they'd probably hang with in real life, and I don't visit political or Mil-blogs.

Lex was a conglomeration of everything.

After the shock of his death started to become my new norm, after the sickness I felt for his family had settled in, I started to think about his commenters. My first blog thought was "OMG. Marianne Matthews..." A longtime commenter of his, an octagenarian from what she has said, wise and wonderful and who I knew regarded him as a son. I was sick for her too. She is tough and has dealt with some horrific losses in her life... but I just didn't want this for her.

I am going to miss everyone over there. They all brought something different to the table, in particular Fliterman, who they were all over for his vast different views, a man who stood his ground, and who the commenters were quick to point out... they may disagree with him, but they respected him.

The toughest comment to read, of the nearly 1000 comments, was from his commenter Airmail. It read simply, "Lex was my friend." I choke up when I think of it.

I suspect I won't be going over anymore... unless of course someone can convince Lex's son, SNO, to take the keys. Otherwise, it is too painful.

I will more than likely continue to blog, although I do know the end is nearing. It won't be the same. Things change. But I started to blog as a catharsis for me and to keep my parents informed as to the ongoings of my children, their grandchildren. I have always blogged for me, not concerned about readership or comments. But it is difficult to log on... as I never wrote until I read Lex first.

The morning I knew his death to be true, I said to my husband, "He is gone. He really is gone." And my husband replied, "Bou, hun, we saw the picture last night of the accident. We knew it was his tail number. Yes... he is gone."

And as Lex would say... 'Tis to weep.

Posted by Boudicca at March 8, 2012 07:39 AM
Comments

Maybe what hurts is knowing you'll never meet (in this life, anyhow -who knows where blog spirits go?). There was a blogger I loved to read once. I think I may have even found him through you! I had always hoped that at some point I might meet him in person, just because ... I think I would have liked him even better in the flesh. He died of cancer, and I wish now I had at least copied and saved some of his comments. His partner ran his blog for a while - long enough to give readers a chance to have some closure. I hope that you have that good fortune.

Posted by: PeggyU at March 9, 2012 01:49 AM

Great post my friend. Like you, I'd stop by his crib every day. I have a great deal admiration and respect for him, and always will. Probably my favorite blog, and I wish our paths had crossed. He was at the top of my list of bloggers I'd like to share a meal and conversation with. We both know flying is a dangerous business, especially fighters.

May God rest his soul, and watch out for his family.

Posted by: Yabu at March 9, 2012 06:02 AM

It's funny, but I never expected to meet him. I know people who did and I've asked, "So? What's he like in real life?" And the response was always, "He is like he is on his blog..." That was enough. Bloggers can be so different from their blogs. I've met people who were disappointed when they met me. I'm not sure what they were expecting. I'm a middle aged Mom, average in looks, sub average in height, and unless I know you, I'm rather quiet. (Get me with my sister and it's different. It's a two person party.)

But Lex came across as quiet and reflective, readily able to laugh.

I used to like when he'd put little stuff out there in French, just to see how much I remembered. I almost went back to college this term to go back and become fluent. It's on my bucket list to be bilingual. That'll be the easiest language for me as I've already had so many years of it.

I think to myself... if it is such a hole in our lives and we didn't know him, how absolutely suffocatingly sad it must be to his family.

Posted by: Bou at March 9, 2012 07:16 AM

Bou,

I have been reading your words here every morning since Acidman sent me over here on a link many years ago. There are those of use who feal about your blog, the way you did about his. I dont comment much, but I read every day. I read Milblogs. I read Political blogs. I am an information junkie, but most of the news seems to depress me about the human condition. I then come here for common sense, compassionate, yet take no prisoners attitude that allows me to begin to restore my faith in humanity. This is your Blog, and I know that any decision you make regaring it will be the best decision for you and your family, but the day you stop bloging, at least this little corner of the internet will be poorer for it. Bou, I belive you have a gift, and I thank you sharing it.

Posted by: Web at March 9, 2012 07:51 AM

When I first started reading Lex I was living in Tampa. He posted about midnight my time so I would wait for his post. It was how I ended my day. Just as you describe, it was my routine. For me, it was always the perfect way to end my day.

And now all I can think of is how very blessed we are for having the opportunity to share all these years with him. He touched so many lives.......

Posted by: Tammi at March 9, 2012 08:14 AM

Damn it, it's hard to type with misty eyes. There are something like 1,000 comments on Lex's blog, but this is probably THE most touching ones. I hope you don't mind, but I posted a link to you on his site so others can read it. Lex was part of my daily routine too and I'll miss him greatly. There's talk of naming a ship after Capt. LeFon, an awesome idea.

Posted by: George P at March 9, 2012 08:22 AM

This is tough, Bou. Lex was a daily fixture for me also. The kind of guy I would have liked as a commanding officer and the kind of commander I would love to have been.

At one time, a former flying buddy of his was trying to talk Lex into comming to Gulfstream Aerospace as a Pilot. I had my fingers crossed that he would uproote and head east. Would have been too cool to work with him as a Flight Test Engineer on a "G" that he flew.

Yeah I disagreed with Flit, but bottom line, he was a gentleman and had hung his ass out for this country on many occations.

I will miss neptunus lex as a site. It was an incredible learning experience. That and the comradery.

Best

Steven K. Gilliam

Posted by: Aero-bracero at March 9, 2012 09:02 AM

If you had told me in the 80s that I would be so crushed by the death of someone I met on a little electronic box, but never met in person, I would have walked away shaking my head wondering if you'd dropped Acid.

But it is where we are. How does one explain to others who had not read him? It is an impossible task. I don't even bother to tell people how I knew Lex. I just say, "Somone I know and respected died in a tragic accident and I struggle."

Today is worse again than yesterday. It comes in waves as grief does. I am apt to say, 'The seven stages of grief are not linear. They are mixed in a cess pool, each taking a turn rising to the top."

I hurt so badly for his family. I hurt for his wife. I told Tammi how I ache that his wife was unable to hold his hand that one last time or brush the hair from his forehead or whatever pet idiosyncracy she had with him. I think I struggle with that the most.

His turn of a phrase stays in my head. 'wrestling with snakes'... I suspect it will make my speech pattern. It has already started to echo in my head when things have gone poorly the last few days.

And Webb? Thank you, my friend. And George... I don't mind at all...


Posted by: Bou at March 9, 2012 09:03 AM

Steven- Funny, I did think eventually he and his wife would come back East. I only knew what he allowed us to see, but he seemed to love the East. I figured they'd settle there eventually or find some quiet little place he could fish.

Odd I thought we'd all read about it finally happening.

Flit never made it personal. He was always good about his comments, as irritated as he could get.

Posted by: Bou at March 9, 2012 09:07 AM

Bou: I am not a blogger but there are several that I read daily, yours being one. I am a father, grandfather and retired from the corporate rat race. I have been there and done that! I enjoy reading about how you deal with all the good things and BS of everyday life. Your blog is very human. No pretense or smoke and mirrors. I too will miss reading Lex's blog and understand how you must feel. I just hope that will not keep you from continuing to share yourself with those of us who enjoy your words, feelings, and life. God Bless

Fred G

Posted by: Fred G at March 9, 2012 09:45 AM

Bou
Don't stop blogging. Lex wouldn't agree. You've read "Rhythms" and we all thought "best-seller", yet to him it was not all that it could be and so he improved and re-wrote toward better/better/best. Lost more than few friends over the course of a career, but the thing that makes Lex different is the dailyness of him. Even his cryptic comments on off days were gems to cherish, and when he was on, boy was he good. You've got balcony people out there rooting for you, you'll never know them, or talk them, and we're so high in the cheap seats you can see us, but we're here cheering you on. If you are passionate about writing then write. We'll be part of your journey to success.
All the best.
J

Posted by: G-man at March 9, 2012 11:50 AM

The Unbearable Absence.. indeed. I was pretty pissed off at the man this week. For getting back into the tactical jet business, I mean. Putting himself (back) in a place where this could happen. Even though, at the time, I told him it was a no-brainer. And yeah, many of us (particularly those of us of his vintage) lived vicariously by it. The 51-year-old who was still mixing it up. But that really isn't what I miss. Yeah, the flying stuff was cool. But what hurts is losing all the things you allude to in your post. He grew on you.. always there.. eventually he became a friend. A friend you looked forward to hearing from every day. So yeah, he pissed me off this week. For once. Because he couldn't not be himself. He couldn't not be in that cockpit anymore than the starfish could get out of the way of the binicle. He lived true, he did, and he truly lived.

I expect more than a few of us will be looking for a place to hang out, so forgive me if I come by a little more often.

Posted by: flatlander at March 9, 2012 12:31 PM

Bou,

You'll always be a wingman of his. You had his respect, even with barfbag in hand. Best wishes,

Dust

Posted by: Dust at March 9, 2012 03:38 PM

Well writ, Bou. Lex would have been pleased. As you will, I will miss Lex immensely, in a way I have not felt since the passing of my own father. We never met, but as many have said before, he was a dear friend that I never met. I was proud to be one of his regular readers/commenters. I shall miss the banter, but most importantly, the LEARNING.

And still today, I weep.

Posted by: ZipprSuitdSungod at March 9, 2012 03:43 PM

I wish I had words of wisdom - sadly I do not. We all grieve in our own way and our own time. We've lost the voice of a man we admired and respected. Some have lost a key part of their lives whether or not they ever met Lex. That makes it a double loss.

When a voice is silenced. When a person who has always been there, is there no more. It's nearly unbearable. There are any number of people I know only via the internet who have lost someone in this way. I grieve for all of them. It's the hardest part of being on the internet and exposed to such a huge community of people. Back in the day, we only had to deal with the lives and losses of a small group. Now the group is so large, there is always a loss to bear, something going wrong, a person who is in a bad way and needs help. It's overwhelming.

I understand the need to "turn it off" to walk away and not have all the bad stuff pushing down on you and crushing your soul. I too turned off the tv after 9/11 - at least the news portion for exactly the same reason.

I have, for my own sanity, tried to turn to blogging fun stuff. That I have to search and look for the humorous (or what I think is humorous) keeps me from sliding down into a depression over how much is lost to so many on a daily basis. I could walk away from blogging, but I have met so many wonderful wonderful people, that far outweighs the bad. It keeps me going... going slowly, but going.

I hope you find peace and a way to re-balance whether it includes blogging or not. The important part is you and being able to cope and be happy in your life.

Posted by: Teresa at March 10, 2012 12:46 PM

A fine tribute to a great man.

Lex; Officer, gentleman, family man, and fighter pilot, and mastefully word-gifted. Came over from Lex's place, long time lurker, near daily reader, and a Sailor from his era, just to read and say thanks for posting.

A great job reflecting the mournful sentiments of so many of us.//

Posted by: DM05 at March 10, 2012 05:52 PM

I've spent the last few days reading all the tributes to Lex I can find.... mine would always be the least, but yours is definitely the best I have seen. You let us into your world in a way that is a fine tribute to Lex. I hope you keep writing, because I will definitely be reading if you do. God Bless.

Posted by: SS Newk at March 10, 2012 10:05 PM

I'm sticking around. I'm realizing... whether I want to or not, it is a habit to be doing something and writing in my head. I've been doing this for the past two days. I've written posts about cake soup (it's coming), the kids and how I am losing hope that they will ever acquire planning skills (that one is coming because I need to hear from everyone that it WILL happen), some funny weird work stuff (may not come because sometimes the funny is only to the geeks).

But it's a way of thinking. I see something and think,"I think I gotta blog this". I just have too many words that rattle in my head. This is a place I can let them out.

Therapy I guess. Y'all are the recipients of the crazy lady's thoughts.

I don't know if it'll be sporadic. I'm trying to figure out how to push through this and it will occur. Also, work is on a fast track to the 10th layer of hell, and I think I'm going to be working more on weekends. And then there is that leadership seminar I'm supposed to give, which is a whole dang funny post in itself...

I'm here. Y'all are stuck with me.

Dang, I miss Lex.

Posted by: Bou at March 11, 2012 12:37 AM

While I try to comment so as not to be pushy and make people feel they must do something because I'm expecting it... (especially when it's something they do voluntarily) I'm really glad you are sticking around. Really really glad.

Planning skills... once I read that one I may have something for you ;-)

Posted by: Teresa at March 11, 2012 12:01 PM

It was only when I got to the end of that post gasping for air that I realised I'd held my breath as I read it. I'm sorry for your loss. xx

Posted by: Shaz at March 12, 2012 09:45 PM