Monday, May 25, 2009

Thanks for Serving

I, like my mother before me, was a war bride. Walker and I jumped right from college to marriage in thirty days time. The necessity for a commitment seemed more urgent to us because of the inevitable prospect of him heading for Vietnam sooner rather than later if he remained single. During Vietnam the prospect of not returning at all loomed large in all our minds. After forty three years, and four children, I’m thinking we acted wisely, if in haste.

Unlike during World War II, having a wife and expecting a child provided some reprieve from overseas duty in Vietnam for a while. Daddy left for the Phillipines before I was born, and then was gone for a year and a half or so. Walker left when Molly was five weeks old, eighteen months after our wedding, and returned a year later to resume our life as a family.

Although serving in the military provided both Daddy and Walker with leadership skills they might never have realized otherwise, I’m truly grateful that my sons-in-law avoided carrying on that family tradition. They have been around to form a loving bond with all their children as infants, while they're still adorable!

My heart aches every time I see young soldiers bid their families good-bye for a tour of duty. It’s really surreal for me to see mothers leaving children behind in order to assure a better world for children half way across the globe. I can remember holding my sobs in so tightly that my heart truly ached when Walker put Molly and me on the plane in San Francisco to return to Fort Sill. I navigated the unknown task of being a single mom with the support of my friends and family while he endured the jungles of Viet Nam with his squadron. I can't imagine how hard it would have been if Molly had been old enough to realize how much she missed her Daddy.

I can remember Walker’s attitude being, “Somebody’s got to do it.” while mine was “But what about US?” (Molly and me) He could understand the honor in serving much more than I, who would have happily escaped to Canada given the choice. His was the honorable choice for sure.

Yes, I’m thankful for their service and proud of the sacrifices they made. I do hope that history will prove that those wars and the ones we fight today had to be fought to change the world into a better place. My greatest hope, however, is that the day will come when nobody has to do it. A day when all people can respect the rights of others to believe as they wish and recognize the futility of trying to please God by oppressing others. That day surely must be around the corner. I’ll never be Miss America, but I too hope for World Peace on this Veteran's Day.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why Not?

Walker doesn’t want to go to camp this year. This had come up for discussion in years past, but had never gotten to the point where I really gave him much choice. Camp was as much for me as it was for him. It was a time to escape even the minor duties involved with caring for my man-child. But this year he was mildly adamant. He really doesn’t want to go.

I don’t think anything has happened to make him feel this way, he loves the leaders and always seems to come home happy, but somehow he knows he has outgrown the little crafts and dress-up nights, and the heat and mosquitoes, and most of all, the long week without his cell phone or his diet cokes. At least that’s the litany of reasons he gave me, which was pretty logical.

I struggled a bit with whether it was okay to allow him to choose not to go, because camp does provide at least some peer interaction. Walker has tended to want to hang with the counselors more than his cabin mates, though, so not sure that's a good reason. I finally decided to just let him choose to do as he pleases with his vacation this year. He's making some progress with making friends with his co-workers, has a couple of social outings a month, and goes out with his attendant, Theresa every week. If staying home sorting his polaroids is how he wants to spend his vacation, I can live with that.

He asked me a couple of days ago whether Nikki, the camp director, had called and had I told her he wasn’t coming. I explained that she wouldn’t be expecting him since I hadn’t sent in his application. “Well, if she calls, tell her I’m very sorry. Maybe next year.” Somehow, I don’t think so.

Giving Walker the right to make this decision comes after over forty years of mothering in which I have mostly gone along with my kids choices, unless there was really good reason not to. In this case, diet cokes and cell phones trumped everything else, so why not let him choose. I know I would want to if I were in his shoes.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

I know… it’s a Hallmark holiday, and I've already posted a wonderful piece someone else wrote about what I really want from my family...a bit more of their time, which I understand is the most precious commodity any of them possess. 

 I can remember being at their stages of life with children and husband and community and church all pulling at me.  I possess a box with a number of letters I wrote to my mother through the years, and most of them begin with an apology for not writing more often...not visiting more often.  I think the ones to my grandmother do too.

They always seemed to understand and never scolded, and truthfully, when I did descend on them with my brood of children, I think they heaved a huge sigh of relief that we didn't do it more often.  What they probably would have treasured was more of my undivided attention...something I only gave my mother for a few precious days and hours in the final months of her life.  I think the source of all my grief was realizing then that those days would be gone, never to be reclaimed and that no notes of apology would make up for them. So I made her custard that she had no taste for and curled up the hideous blue recliner in her den and rocked myself after she went to sleep.

The late afternoons when I'm waiting for one of my ubiquitous casseroles to cook are when I miss her most.  I would often pick up the phone just to check in, mostly because she was the one person in the world I knew would always be thrilled to hear my voice.  I knew it then, but I know it more now when the phone rings and it's one of my girls.

The gardenias she loved so much are beginning to bloom, and today I went out to see if I could find a few..I did, exactly three.  She sent one for me, my siser, and let us know that she still loves us on this Mother's Day.  If she were around, she's put on a suit and low heeled shoes and hose and go to church with a white rose pinned to her chest in memory of Mamo and expect us to do the same with a pink or red one to honor her.  Some of us will go to church, but not likely with the rose on our shoulder, but more likely with a gardenia in our hearts.

We miss you Mama.



Thursday, May 7, 2009

Praying and Serving

When “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks came up as the May selection for our book group, I needed to read it again with an eye for the discussion. And what a discussion we had!

I’m sure that a book about the plague set in 1666 is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and this book is not without it’s flaws. It does, however, pose some interesting questions of how a variety of people face a crisis of unimaginable proportions and how it affected their faith.

This story is based on limited documented facts about the residents of a small village in England who were convinced by their priest to quarantine themselves in order to prevent spread of the plague to other parts of the country. The priest seemed to intuit that people who were already infected, but not yet ill, would spread the disease in trying to escape from a truly horrible and almost certain death. This notion was a bit of a leap considering the lack of scientific knowledge about the source of The Plague (fleas!), but also plausible, as there is documented evidence available.

The underlying differences in belief systems within the small community were laid out. As the plague affected many families with various religious practices, they often abandoned their faith for more magical and questionable beliefs, hoping to save themselves and their families. It soon became apparent that the relative “holiness” of any one religion, or even lack of religion, provided no more protection than the other from the plague. The righteous were no less affected than the sinners. Plague affected almost every family in the town, leaving the survivors scarred in various ways.

Eventually, nature ran its course. About half the town survived and the plague faded away and people once again went about the business of living.

I still pray. I pray for myself, my family, and for those I know only slightly. I pray for my country and the world. Do my prayers make it to God’s ears and change the course of nature? I don’t know, but they make me feel better.

I’m thinking I need to get back to following the example of the most admirable characters in “Year of Wonders” and actually offer others more of my services along with my prayers. The effect could be far greater.