Monday, July 4, 2011

Red, White and Blue

Songs about America always bring a tear and cause me to pause and feel all mushy and philosophical, as I should. Yesterday in church was no different.
I wonder why I get to pursue my dreams, make my own way, have lots to eat and endless resources when so many do not.
I wonder why I appreciate so little, sing those songs only once a year when they should be my daily heartsong.
"Glory, glory, Hallelujah,"
"Glory, glory, Hallelujah,"
I wonder what compels folks to support us with their time, education, energy and life, in this pursuit of happiness.
I should know. I have one of those folks. Well, I birthed him anyway.
How strange, those mom emotions that flit between pride and terror.
When 1st Lt. was fifteen, I worked with a teacher who flipped houses and needed a dependable kid to pick up shingles. 1st Lt. was the most dependable kid I knew, so I hooked them up. Oh my. In addition to teaching, flipping houses, buying a restaurant and seventy two other things, this teacher was in the National Guard.
So, my kid starts with picking up shingles, then mostly managing said restaurant, and probably some other activities I don't know and don't need to know about, in the shadow of this teacher.
1st Lt. finished college, never had trouble finding a job, ending up in the roofing business. I should have known he'd have some climbing job as he was always as surefooted as a goat. But, alas, that did not satisfy and one fateful day he came home to announce that he had joined the National Guard.
Stab! My kiddos have done a lot of things I've loved and few I haven't. Handy Man and I have tried to support them in any endeavor, regardless of how we feel about it. So, we smiled, sort of-you know, pride and terror all stirred up, and wondered where this would take him.
This is where my faith gets all mixed in with the military. He joined the Natl. Guard in the middle of a war. I'll be blunt and say that when your kid does that, I think it's heroic, when my kid does it, I think it's terrifying. I love a lot of people and I thought I loved them a big ol' bunch, but when it comes down to my son's life or yours, sorry. If it were dependent on my feelings, I'm keeping my kid! I'm not sure a day went by that the newspaper didn't sport a picture of a handsome Natl. Guardsmen on the obituary page. I have no words to describe my angst. Brings that whole picture of God's gift and grace into a much clearer perspective.
Unbeknownst to him, or any of us, life would take some unusual turns in the 8 months between when he signed up and when he left for training. This is the week he left seven years ago. That year it was a big 4th of July celebration. His first baby, Bean, was born three weeks after he left.
Bean contracted a rare bacterial infection at the ripe old age of three days and was in intensive care for three weeks. At the time, I was finishing my Masters in teaching. For all intents and purposes I lived those three weeks at the hospital with Ceece and her family, wondering, worrying, praying, grieving.
Wondering how it would feel to 1st. Lt. to be so far from home and only get information about his new son piecemeal.
Worrying that he might never get to see or hold this precious boy.
Worrying that this precious boys only knowledge of his Daddy would be that he was a war hero.
Grieving that this first baby experience for a new mommy and daddy was lost for Ceece and 1st. Lt. Have mercy, it was a trying time.
Books talk a lot about the importance of bonding early on with an infant, and I support that, but I needn't have worried about that part. From the first time they finally met, Bean has believed the world began and ended in his 1st. Lt. Daddy.
Praying, praying, praying, "Lord, keep him out of the war." Each time I prayed, I felt guilty, because what mama would ever want that for her child. Every time rumor started about them readying another unit to ship out, I would look at Bean and Miss Bugg and have a broken heart over the thought of Ceece having to raise them by herself.
Thankfully, home he remains. Still, there are sacrifices though for him, Ceece and the kids- nothing comparable to the laying down of one's life, but sacrifices.
As Bean soon celebrates his 7th birthday, I'm so hugely grateful that he has known the great love and influence of his Daddy.
Still, those pictures in the paper continue, all these seven years. Thank God, not as much. I don't need that kind of reminder, but I make myself look and read. I believe that kid deserves me think about him. That mom deserves a prayer and a tear on her behalf.
When I teach America's history to my students, I try to help them understand the sacrifices all of America made when we went to war in years past-rations, factories, etc. They don't really get it. This war has been raging for the most of my fourth grader's lives and they are pretty unaware that we are even in a war.
It's awful enough that our freedom must be maintained by the cost of our young men, but worse that we go on as if it isn't happening.
Bet you are hoping I don't feel too philosophical often in this space.
I do hope you have happy celebrations with family and friends. I hope you laugh, spit watermelon seeds, and clap for the fireworks. I also hope you remember all the 1st. Lt.s out there, their families, and the fact that the sacrifices you hear about are real and happening as we speak.
To leave you on a lighter note. I tried to keep something going out to 1st. Lt. daily during his Boot Camp. He had just adopted a new weim Grace not long before leaving. His beloved first weim, Gandee (Gandalf) came to stay with us for boot camp. Handy Man and I are pretty boring, so trying to write a full letter every day was hard. So, I tried to be humorous, in sending a letter from his dog.

Dear Dad,

Where in the hell are you? I just thought I was having a little break from Grace, but you left me and never came back. You were hardly gone any time before this whole house was in a big stir about something. Doggone it, I think I’ve figured it out. You have a new puppy!!!! I remember when I was a puppy, life revolved around me, everyone oohed and ahhed over my pictures, how could you dad. I sneak and look at those pictures when everyone is in bed. He isn’t even cute. Barely has enough fur to cover the top of his head and none anywhere else. Pathetic!! With all this attention he is bound to be a wuss dog and I know how you hate that. And that Grace is so stuck up now that she hardly acts like she knows me. I just treat her nice because you like her so much, but I draw the line at Mom treating her nice. When Mom tries to pet her, I shove her out of the way. I heard a rumor that will turn you green and set your head to spinning. I hear she’s taken up with a new man named Dan and you don’t even cross her mind. That’s what you get for falling for a stupid girl dog!

And Addie, well she is just Addie. She’s lost weight. Mom says she always does when I come back home. Poor thing, got three baths this week. I got the message and am trying to stay out of all the sweet smelling goo in the yard, but it’s hard. Since the new puppy came we don’t spend much time in the garden, but I love when we do. I play jungle wars and run and jump and crawl, terrorizing bunnies, snakes, bugs and toads, It is so fun. I tried to eat a butterfly today, but Mom reacted a little different to that than when I catch flies in the house. Women, honestly you can not figure them out!

I look for you to pull in everyday, but life isn’t too bad here. I eat a lot better than I did at your house and I get to run two or three times a day. I am trying to make up with these weird field dogs. Some are bigger than me and some smaller with white spots. They are brown and eat a lot of grass, guess they don’t have a Mom. I mean I eat grass, but just enough to keep the bacon going through if you know what I mean. They are sort of clannish and skittish. I tear out to introduce myself and they run like their butts are on fire. Don’t you hate unfriendly neighbors?

Speaking of running, Mom said we were going to do boot camp with you and run. I get all excited about this and we take off. Within about a half a minute I have left Mom in the dust. By the time I get back she’s not running anymore, but is all out of breath trying to gimp along. Good grief!!! Can’t I come to real boot camp with you and some people who can run further than two car lengths?

Wherever they’ve taken you I hope your dogfood is good and that you get to run and play. Can’t wait till you come home again.

Your faithful partner,


Happy 4th of July


  1. 7 years. oy. sometimes it seems like 70, sometimes it feels like yesterday...

  2. Great post and you hit a lot of things right on the head. Most of all I loved the letter. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Ceece, I bet it does. You've been a staunch supporter of the military.
    KC- Thank you muchly.