The last 5 days have been a whirlwind. Ilaiy's in town; we spent 2 days running the ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago, taking photos and stuffing ourselves with great food.
Our friends, Melissa and Joey got married Saturday night; one of the funnest weddings I've ever attended. We ate, drank, and merried until 2 a.m. Sunday morning.
A dinner party at my house last night, with Ilaiy serving as Guest Chef: A roasting pan full if Indian rice & lamb (Biryani) made the way Mami makes it. Old friends and new in attendance for food and reunion-izing.
And in the midst of all of this merry-making was laced fear, tears and heartache. Maybe it will get easier as we adjust, but having a loved one newly in Baghdad...it's hard to explain the emotional rollercoastering.
You do what you can to stay strong, and move forward with hope and strength, and then suddenly the rug is pulled out from under you, and you find yourself on your face. And all you can do is get back up, dust yourself off, straighten out the rug, and start walking.
I am blessed to have remained friends with Brian's dad, Jeff. We have a pact: If you hear from him, let me know.
We are still handling this situation differently. Since Brian left, I've been watching the news like crazy. Watching War Zone Diary, and The Soldier's Heart, a documentary on PTSD. Jeff, on the other hand, has had to change the channel, throw away the newspaper, and turn off the radio; he's cut himself off from the media.
It's not a bad idea. One of my friends recently chided "shut that off! You'll make yourself crazy!" I promised him "when I can't take it any more, I'll turn it off."
Three nights later I dreamed that I was driving my car down a road with landmines exploding left and right, and that I could smell gunpowder in my car.
Hm. Maybe I will make myself crazy. But how can I not look? You don't send your kid to college without checking out the campus! How can I wave mine off to war, and choose not to look at where he is? I simply can't. For now, I'll take the nightmares along with the education.
Anyway, I was in Chicago's Chinatown Friday afternoon, heading back to the car after eating rice out of a pineapple, and taking photos of old men scooping live shrimp and big fat frogs out of giant aquariums, and shopping, and laughing all afternoon with Ilaiy, when Jeff called.
He'd just gotten off the phone with Brian. His first mission is tomorrow night, 2 a.m. He is "scared to death." Two other companies had been hit this week, by bombs with cone-shaped disks meant to tear through armored vehicles. No one killed, but men hurt. Their conversation still raw, I can hear that Jeff is crying while he tells me that Brian sends his love. I was, by then, sitting in my car in Chinatown, crying along with him, consoling him as I consoled myself: "he's going to be fine. This is so tough, he'll call on Sunday, and he'll be fine." We know it. We KNOW it. But we cry anyway.
And then I start the car and drive back to Champaign, where we meet friends for dinner.
Brian is fine.
I got email from him yesterday:
I'll be calling a bit later. I'm waiting on my friend to get back from his mission because I dont like walking around here by myself when its dark.I responded "don't do anything you're not comfortable doing just to get to a phone!"
He got through few hours later, while I was driving to the grocery store. I pulled over and turned the car off in front of a "never ever ever park here or we'll haul you to jail" sign. They could cuff me for all I cared; I wasn't going anywhere.
First mission went fine, Brian told me. He's been to a few Baghdad Memorials (The Unknown Soldier, and the Swords of Victory). The Architecture is amazing, palaces and small street shops alike, though don't vacation there to check it out. He can't think of anything he needs right now, will call again on Tuesday.
And a P.S. in another e-mail:
Oh yeah, I swam in Saddam's pool too. Crazy.Good God. Crazy is right. In my mind he is 4 years old, and I am squawking, "you get out of that nasty man's pool! I don't care if he is dead, you're not swimming in his pool! He's dirty! Bad!"
In summary...having a kid in Bagdhad sucks Saddam pool water. But he's fine. I was infinitely relieved and lighter of heart after hearing his voice, and got right to conferencing with his Dad, who also feels better. For now. Whew. Only 17 more months to go.
And I know some of you have been waiting; I have his mailing address for any of you that are interested. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will give you the particulars.
He, so far, is in want of nothing, but I'll post ideas when I get them.
Oh, and love to you all, from me and my kid.