color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: Happy Days

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Happy Days

Sleep did not come easy. Even after all the primping around the house and baking and cooking, 5 o’clock in the morning (0’dark:30 as the Commander calls it) just didn’t want to get here. The 2-hour drive from home to the airport was filled with happy chatter at times, and then long periods of silence as we anticipated our son’s arrival. People congratulated us and asked us to thank our son as we made our way back from the airline check-in counter where we were given escort passes to meet our son at the gate. While there was a huge line at the security area, the TSA agents and those travelers waiting waved us through and also asked us to thank our son for them.
We waited on pins and needles for the plane to taxi to the gate, for the door to be opened and we peered anxiously down the long hallway to catch a glimpse of his face… THERE HE WAS! A cheer went up, and suddenly the last six months dropped away and I had my youngest son in my arms, in a bear hug, and the tears wouldn’t wait!! Six months of worry and anxiety and sleepless nights flowed into the muscles of my arms, the spread of my smile and the river of emotion that wrung out my eyes… His Dad wrapped us up and the aunt and uncle piled on as strangers clapped and smiles beamed all around!! The same heart wrenching emotion I had felt when I last held him filled me but in reverse. I may not have felt such overwhelming joy since I first held that tiny soul 20 years ago…
The drive home was filled with talk of whom he had seen in New York, what he had done, what he wanted to do during his visit with us. His best friend Mike had made the journey with him and we spent some of the drive pointing out cactus, damage from the wildfires… I spent some of the journey just listening to him talk and filling up that “child is present and safe” reservoir that all parents possess. It was the most at ease I have felt in many months.We spent the afternoon settling in all our guests, having a leisurely lunch and greeting our friends. After a lecture about how the SUV was not a HUMMVV and that he was not required to drive at breakneck speeds in an irregular pattern to avoid IEDs, the guys went out in the evening to meet up with some local girls that our son had met over his Christmas visit and with whom he had stayed in contact. After not having children in the house for a while now, it is always a little hard getting used to the increase in noise and energy that accompany visits – like going from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds!
We woke the "boys" for a lavish homemade breakfast on Independence Day and greeted friends before heading off to the rodeo. The soldiers from the local National Guard unit looked quizzically at us as we laughed when they asked if either of the younger guys were interested in taking a crack at a climbing wall erected inside the stadium and anyone interested in joining the service? After some good-natured ribbing, the old folks walked off to find our seats while the NG guys chatted with our son. While the rodeo did not acknowledge our son personally, they did offer a salute and a thank you to the active and veteran service members in the audience. As usual since our son deployed, my twin sis and I cried by the time we got to the end of the national anthem.
Over the next few days, they shopped for new sunglasses, got massages, visited gun stores trying to locate a particular brand of shooting glasses and shooting gloves to take back to Iraq, visited the spectacular red rocks of Sedona in the 105+ degree heat (while Mike was incredulous that it could be 30 degrees hotter in Iraq), spent a day jet skiing on Lake Havasu in the 120+ degree heat (his friend Mike remained totally overcome that not only could it be 20 degrees hotter anywhere on Earth but that soldiers had to be fully dressed in it!) In the evenings, the guys drank beer, rented pay-for-view movies on the big screen TV and stayed up into the wee hours being 20 year olds. We ate well, told lots stories and reminisced into the early hours of each day. Our son did not offer much information on his life in Iraq, but he honestly and willingly answered all our questions no matter how inane they may have been or seemed. No one here asked him whether he had shot or killed anyone. I don’t know if anyone else asked.
For the time he was here we laughed, talked, sang, laughed some more, took pictures... We talked, we planned, we asked questions. I spent a lot of time observing our son. His language was rougher, his voice much louder than before, and he had a quick temper but cooled off even quicker... I watched him a lot. I couldn't help but peer at him as he slept or to stand in the doorway just watching him watch television or talk on the phone or play with his dogs... I was soaking up every minute into memories I will always keep and treasure until he's home for good.
Early Thursday afternoon, after having once again picked through his clothing and belongings (which was no less emotional than the same exercise at his initial deployment), we began the journey to once again see him off. We stopped to visit his grandfather who had triple by-pass surgery since the grandson deployed. Although his grandfather asked the questions, our son’s well-screened descriptions of life on a FOB seemed to worry his grandfather and it’s unlikely that his efforts to reassure him met much success. He held his grandson for a very long time, looking frailer than ever… and he implored him to come home safe. After a wonderfully relaxed dinner, we waited patiently for the clock to tick off those last few minutes before they had to head down that hallway to the waiting plane. Of course, I cried. (I think our son is getting used to it.) Although he is back in New York for two days before he makes the long trip back, it was still very emotional for me. I urgently wanted him not to go…

I wasn't sure whether saying goodbye this time would be easier than the first time, but I discovered it was just as hard this time to unwrap myself from that last embrace and to not collapse when he said, “I sure love you momma. Don’t worry, I'll be OK.” It was all the more difficult because we learned that just as he departed Iraq, his unit relocated to an area of extreme activity and high casualties. Living conditions at the new place will apparently be pretty austere – even by the Army’s standards. He does not know what the communications capabilities are at the new camp (it doesn’t even rate a base name… just a camp), but he has already been informed that there are only limited kitchen facilities and most meals are MRE – and shower facilities are even more limited (back to bottled water showers!)… there is no PX or even regular access to one.

The only good news is that he has decided not to re-enlist (at least for this week) as he would like to start his college studies – already lamenting that his friends will be graduating just as he is getting started although he does take pride that he will have accomplished things his friends will never understand… Quite a few of our conversations over these past five days revolved around what he wanted to study, where he wanted to live… what his future holds. We told him we didn’t care what he wanted to do when he got back or where he wanted to do it – as long as it was in the good old US of A!

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.


At 7/09/2005 11:01 AM , Blogger Al's Girl said...

I'm so thankful that you got such a wonderful visit from your son. I appreciate his service so much and it warms my heart to know that he got such a good trip home. I will be praying for his safety during his remaining months in Iraq.

Thank you for all you do as a military mom to support him too!

At 7/09/2005 1:13 PM , Anonymous Lori Johnson said...

It sounds like a good time had by all while your son was home. Your blog about his time home had me in tears. I hope that he has a safe trip back to Iraq and a safe trip home when the time comes. I can only imagine the happiness of my family once my nephew is back. I know I will be grinning from ear to ear. Lori

At 7/09/2005 4:20 PM , Anonymous Andi said...

What an eloquent post, as always. Thanks for sharing your son with us. Use these memories to carry you through the second leg of his deployment, and never forget how your heart swelled when he told you that he loved you. He's in my prayers.

At 7/09/2005 5:18 PM , Blogger Stacy said...

I know that you had a wonderful visit with your son. I was hoping that you would not say that this time was as bad or worse than the first time you saw him off. That is the only thing that I am dreading about Michael's R&R.

Thanks for sharing your story with us all.

At 7/10/2005 12:28 PM , Blogger Call Me Grandma said...

It sounded so good. I am so happy to see your post and to know you had such a wonderful time.
You said it that so well. Your story made my tears fill up.
Your son will be home before you know it and I will be praying for his safe return...God Bless your soldier and all of our troops.

At 7/10/2005 12:31 PM , Blogger Jen said...

Thank you for sharing your R&R story! Glad your son's trip home was relaxing and enjoyable.

I'll keep him in my thoughts as he returns to "that place." May he remain safe and come home soon!

At 7/10/2005 6:16 PM , Blogger Mom said...

I am glad to hear he still acts like a 20 yr old. As I have a 20 yr old (with health issues unable to enlist.) I know how precious this time is. He is still a child to you, yet he feels he is a man. I had tears reading this. I could actually visualize the hug.
the next 6 months will go fast and he will be home bugging you in no time.
God Bless him you your family and the good ol' USofA.

At 7/10/2005 7:06 PM , Blogger Melinda said...

Oh, my belly hurt reading some of that! I remember those feelings so well, but with my's hard to put myself in your place, but it seems like some of those raw emotions are related to each other.

I'm so glad you son had fun and that you were able to soak up alot of him while he was home.

I have some adopted fellas who are in the sand now, but I am always happy to send a care package to someone new--if you know of some things that would make your son's new digs less generic, please e-mail me via my would be an honor for my family to send you something to send your son. :)

Thanks for sharing your story with us so eloquently!

At 7/10/2005 8:20 PM , Blogger Army Wife said...

My husband is home, and I read this and had tears in my eyes. Yep it is tought isn't it.

I will promise you this, the rest of the deployment goes by fast...even for the soldiers...


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