Operator, operator, I'm so glad you found me home...
I think back to the days before he was injured and was still in Iraq. Each hour that we didn’t hear -- whether the instant messenger was silent or the phone didn’t ring – one drip from a faucet into a million gallon bucket – not fast enough, not soon enough, not often enough. It’s a bucket that can never be filled. And we suffer these terrible addiction-like responses, too – you crave and demand and NEED to hear from your soldier. And when you hear that voice or get the beep or moooo, you get butterflies in your stomach and your heart soars – and the adrenalin rush is second to none and you sometimes actually give a “whoohoo” right out loud. You feverishly talk or feverishly listen -- whichever mode your soldier is in – afraid they will have to sign off or hang up before you are ready (and you’re never ready.) Hearing from them means they are ok, they’re safe and the reports of injured soldiers or worse can not be your soldier, your Marine, your son, daughter, your spouse. Then open the drain on that bucket and the slow drip begins again as the wait begins anew… and the ache returns until you hear the ring, the beep, the boop, the mooo. It's a vicious cycle that wears on you, but one you accept if grudgingly. You don't want your soldier to worry and I'm sure they can never fully know how those calls, emails, IMs affect us and how very much they mean to those back home...
From the first day of the deployment you realize that even if they called or contacted you once a day or twice a day, it would never be enough because the need to know they are ok -- and that they are thinking of you as you are thinking of them -- is ever present. It doesn't matter what you talk about -- even the most mundane information about their day -- their existence -- is treasured... You're like a sponge soaking up details and names and events and descriptions of where they are and what they do and what they need. What they said in the last contact plays over and over in your head, the questions to ask in the next contact in the front and then the back of your mind. You perpetually watch the clock and the calendar calculating how long it has been since you last heard from him or her and how long it might be until you hear again. You get into a rhythm of when they are typically online or the time you have arranged to speak. But when that time comes and goes and now the worrying is added to the anticipation. You reason in your head, “It’s a war. Wars do not have schedules.” When hours stretch to days and weeks without hearing, you console yourself with, “No news is good news” and as other military moms reminded me often, “and bad news travels fast.”
You move your pc to some place you can hear those noises when they logon; your IM and house phone are forwarded to your cell phone and your cell phone becomes your constant companion – on 24 hours a day and when not attached to your hip, it’s being charged. If you happen to not be online when your soldier comes online, you might even get a call from another soldier’s mom to tell you… You check the web site of the brigade or the FRG (family readiness group) for news and newsletters… for pictures that might include your soldier. You make conscious efforts to distract yourself, but it becomes torture waiting for the beeps and boops or moo. Those drips of passing time into that massive bucket that will never be filled. The other people in your household share in your anxiety, but you’re certain that couldn’t possibly understand why you are like this. The Moms know, the wives know, the husbands know. Even if you hear today, there will be tomorrow.
So here’s hoping that you all get that call… or the beep, the boop, the mooooo…
Operator, operator, I'm so glad that you rang my phone
Operator, operator, I'm so glad that you found me home
I can hear my long gone lover
I've waited such a long long time
So please, operator Put him on the line,
I want him on the line
I want him on the line
I wanna talk to that long gone lover of mine
Operator, operator, there is static in my line
Did he say that his love was true?
Did he say that his love was mine?
Did he say he was coming home?
Did he say where he has been?
I can't hear a word he's saying If you keep buttin' in
You keep buttin' in
I wanna know if he's comin' home again
It shouldn't take this much time
To clear my mind, ease my mind
Oh operator, please get straight
It's unfair to make me wait any longer
My curiosity is stronger
Don't you know that it's wrong, oh so wrong
Operator, operator, this is very strange
What is the holdup here?
Doesn't he have the change
Oh please operator, if he don't have another dime
Reverse the charge to me
Put him on the line, I want him on the line
I want him on the line
(“Operator” by Mary Wells)