Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Sad Perspective

In recent days I have been pulled from the mire of my own personal woes – money and job related- into the reality of the cost of war and the loss of many young lives. People’s children are dying. Since the beginning of February, we have lost at least 25 US troops.

I signed up for the press releases from the DOD years ago- and year after year, I have watched the bad news slip into my email. I open each one- I read the name of every life lost. I think about their family and loved ones- their short life, snuffed out.

I used to reply to the condolence threads on the Marine Parents message board and then one day I realized that many of us, moms especially, had become obsessive – and living in constant fear that the condolences would be addressed to us someday. I had to stop. I continued to read the DOD releases and spend a moment in silence for the fallen and their loved ones. I know I’ll never forget- yet somehow- we move on. We have to. We have to because the living are depending on us.

In recent weeks I have read posting by parents regarding their sloppy, beer swilling, disrespectful Marines. Many of them blame the Marine Corps. I keep defending the smelly, mouthy, reprobates because they are after all-at least most of them, going to war.

They are scared and can’t really show it or they have come to terms with their possible demise and the fact that this may be their last chance to party, get lucky, get crazy- get lost in some fun. I’m not sure why they become disrespectful. Maybe it’s easier to leave your folks mad than sad. I’m also a firm believer that respect is earned- not a God given right given to parents. Generally- you get what you give. (I know there are exceptions)

So I look at all these press releases announcing the death of a Marine or soldier or sailor and I have to ask myself- how can these folks fight with their kids about anything when they are going to deploy to a war zone. A brutal warzone.

Normal parents- or parents of non-military children are also missing the point. I once wrote about a day I was missing my son terribly and I went to the Laundromat to wash my clothes. A mom came in with her two kids. She looked harried and unhappy; I imagined a fight with her husband or recent divorce. Or maybe the thought of doing 9 loads of laundry on a Sunday afternoon was the cause of her long face and tight mouth. Her older son who was probably 17, helped his mom bring her baskets of laundry in the door, and then I guess he was going to do whatever he had to do. He put his arm around her and sort of rubbed her shoulder for a minute and what just killed me is that she never acknowledged his loving gesture. It really disturbed me because I was longing to see my own son and touch his face and would have done anything to feel his bear hug – surely, I would have hugged my boy back.

My son joining the Marine Corps only exacerbated my fear that I would lose him someday. I was scared when I was pregnant, I was scared when he learned to cross the street and ride a bike and oh, the fear I felt when he went on a plane without me was crippling. When he started to drive and didn’t get home on time- I was calling the Highway Patrol and driving up and down the freeway looking for him. I don’t think I ever told him.

My great- grandmother told me the worst thing that can ever happen to a parent is to have their child die before them- and then when my brother died at 27 years old, I saw my parents disintegrate into zombie like shells of their former selves. What I really learned is – any mothers son, any father’s daughter can die anytime. Shouldn’t we love them as much as possible? Unconditionally? I have a few friends that practice this and always have. (Admittedly it’s not always easy)

I have a friend whose son is in Afghanistan right now- he just lost one of his best buddies and his mom, my friend, is so distressed, so worried and scared. My son’s old unit is there too- and one of his friends and brother in arms was just injured. I have more friends whose kids will be going to Afghanistan shortly. The perspective of the parents I know is in tact. They know the only thing that matters right now is that their kids stay alive. Even losing an arm or leg is an acceptable option over death.

My point- and I know I always take the long way around… is that none of us ever know. We really need to be kind to our kids – all of our loved ones yes- but especially our kids. Even the messy, beer swilling, pot smoking, mouthy little shits would leave an irreplaceable hole in our hearts if we lost them.

Try to remember that next time you get so mad at your kid you say something you can’t take back, because guilt on top of grief is a deadly combination.

My thoughts tonight go out to the families of the past and recent troops killed in action. Their sacrifices not forgotten- their gift of perspective, I cannot repay.

And to all my friends whose loved ones are in harms way- here at home or deployed…

I can only keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.