I can't believe it's been a week since we hit the road. There's so much more to tell about last weekend, and so much going on in my life. Still, I want to get everything down while it's still...well, quite honestly, raw. I'm not sure I'll even be able to string things together sensibly. If not, we'll just consider it "free writing," yes? Humor me. Or skip to the pictures at the end, if I begin to bore you.
Here are a few of the pix I managed to snap before, during, and after the plane came in on Saturday morning. I'll admit to feeling shy about posting photos of myself falling apart. It's a little scary revealing this...well, Oprah calls it "The Ugly Cry." On the other hand, I also wanted you to "be" there with me, and if you'd been there...well, there was no lack of tears anywhere.
Saturday morning consisted of...let's say 1000...people coming together to wait for one of theirs, and oddly enough it felt like we were all at one big family reunion. I talked to, hugged, and wept with people I will never see again.
As the soldiers departed the plane last weekend, Clint monitored the plane outside, and I watched the screen inside, along with another Mother, Wendy, who was waiting for her own 22-year-old son. We were leaning on one another, shoulder to shoulder. So many men and women. Similar haircuts. Same clothing. Streaming by on the screen as our eyes darted over each of them.
When it was over, I grumbled, "I didn't see mine!" A soldier standing next to me overheard me. Rodriguez, his name was. "You didn't see yours? What's his name?" he asked, and whipped out a list. "Jolley? Yes! Brian Christopher!" he said, "he's here!" Wendy leaned in then, asking him, "Chambers. Is there a Chambers?" Oh, we squeezed hands, hoping Chambers hadn't missed the plane.
Chambers was stateside also. Wendy and I cheered, then ran back out to wait at the fence. When her son approached, she began to yell for his attention. Only one voice, I joined in to help her. CHAMBERS! CHAMBERS! LOOK OVER HERE, CHAMBERS!! She videotaped and waved her heart out, then approached me after: "Was that you, helping me yell?" she hugged me "I didn't want to take my eyes off him."
So it was, until each of ours moved inside; we helped families cheer, as they held children to the fence that hadn't seen their fathers in a year. We made the most noise, and laughed at one woman that didn't need our help at all, screaming "There's my baby, that's my baby, Hi baby!!!" I'm unsure if it was her son or her husband she was cheering for.
At one point, before the plane doors opened up, Clint moved to the end of the fence to get a better photo. A woman, wearing a dress and heels, also moved down for a better view, and made small talk with him for a moment. She quieted then, and said, almost imperceptibly, "My kid's on that fuckin' plane."
Yeah. We all knew exactly how she felt. There weren't too many feelings expressed that weren't universal. We laughed at ourselves: Oh, we'd been crazy all week! We'd all mentioned, in passing, to every stranger we encountered, "My son is coming home this week, you see, so that is why I'm here, buying this shampoo." No, it didn't make sense, and we didn't care that it didn't make sense! Over and over, "yes, The Son is coming home. From Iraq. Yes, this week." I stopped in for a cheap manicure last Thursday, and yammered on and on to a woman that could on only speak Mandarin! "Leaving tomorrow morning, my son home from Iraq," I gushed, as she removed the old polish, nodding and smiling politely. Where in the heck was my English-to-Mandarin dictionary anyway?!!
And, universal to our anticipation, our love for our kids, husbands, brothers, sisters, wives, was an overwhelming sense of gratefulness. We fell apart, when ours came home, not only because we missed them, and because we could let go, now, and only now, of our fear. We say goodbye to our hearts hitting our breastbone when the phone or the doorbell rings when it shouldn't.
Shortly after Brian was deployed, I came home to find a police officer filling out paperwork in his squad car. Parked right in front of my house. At the end, but not blocking, my driveway. I sat, paralyzed in my car for a full minute before getting out. I walked to the back of the car, and then froze. Did I really want to know what he was waiting for? Who he was waiting for? I turned back around, walked into the garage, and froze again. I moved in crazed circles, trying to decide what to do, before I finally called Brian's dad, also a police officer.
Feeling ridiculous, I told him "there's a cop here, at the end of my driveway. Is he... could there be...do you guys ever...." Jeff picked up on my fear immediately and answered the question I couldn't ask, "No! No, no, no, don't worry, it's ok, it's nothing, nothing happened."
I closed the garage door then, walked into my house, and cried my heart out.
It was little things like this that would blindside you, when you thought you were doing just fine.
Speaking for myself, and imagining that many of my emotions would be mirrored, as so many others seemed to have been last weekend, we fell apart on Saturday morning because although we are so happy to have ours home, and to let go of our fear for their safety, we also know that 32 in Brian's brigade did not make it home alive. We are grateful—my God—so grateful, to be here, and yet we grieve, and we fall apart, for those 32 families that are not.
And I'm not sure how to wrap this up. When you get to be about 40-ish and some, you get to thinking that you are who you are, and you'll always be who you are, and that it's unlikely that something will come along in life that will change who you are. Actually change who you are.
My son's being a soldier has changed who I am.
I am grateful to have him home.