Sunday, August 15, 2010

Soldier Baby Coming Home: Counting Down, Second Time Around

25 days. My kid is scheduled to finish up his second tour in Iraq, and head home in 25 days, but who's counting? We are! 25! Twenty Five! XXV! Two-ty-Five-y! If I knew exactly what time his helicopter would lift him out, I'd calculate the hours and keep track of them too.

(My cell phone.)

Oddly, once again, the closer we get to the big day, the more nervous I become. I remember feeling like this on his first tour. I'm usually not prone to irrational fears or superstitions, but they somehow grab me by the heart and shake me senseless when it comes to Brian & Co., in Iraq. There's this weird aspect of counting down that makes me nervous, as I can't shake the "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades" mentality.

Once that little cliche goes through my head, I always think how jacked up it is that I actually have to worry about "hand grenades" or the equivalent. When I mapped out my life, this was not in the brochure!

Still, one of Brian's facebook updates this week read:
dear guy that just shot mortars, you are a bag of asses. F yourself. yours truly, me.

I'm perpetually logged into to several social networking sights, so I caught this about 2 minutes after he posted, found him on G-mail chat and asked if everyone was ok. They were, no one got hurt. They were just all pissed off that they had to run for the bunkers, and squirrel up in the heat.

After 4 years and 2 deployments, I'm still learning. Sometimes I get the idea, but realized I have no idea what he's talking about. "What's a bunker?" I asked him. He explained to me: a waist-high concrete tunnel covered in sandbags, strong enough to withstand mortar fire.

"Take a picture," I told him. Of course, that's what I always tell him, and his typical response is that there's nothing to take pictures of. "It's boring," he says, "nothing but desert." I argue with him: "Show me the chow hall, I can't imagine it. Show me the shops and the base, and the places you go. I hear about it, but I'd like to see it." I guess he feels dorky [My Mommy want to see the chow hall, folks]. Apparently the shutterbug gene isn't passed down from generation to generation.

Bunkers were doable though; while we were chatting, he took a quick break, and came back 5 minutes later with these photos:

It was, that day, "2300 degrees" outside, he told me. I have no idea how many guys shove into one of these tunnels. I imagine 3 or 4 waiting out mortar fire, and I imagine the "how many people in a phone booth" contests from the 1950s.

(I wonder how many of our soldier babies have never seen a phone booth.)

Anyway, Mama no likey mortars. I still sometimes wonder how the world would be if we could just turn over our conflicts to its Mothers. We could grab our kids by the ears when they bombed the other kids, cuff them across the head and yell "what in the hell are you DOING?!! Go say you're sorry!" We'd ground them for a week, and apologize to each other, saying we don't know what had gotten into them, we didn't raise them like that.

That kind of reminds me of a story Brian told when he was home on leave. While driving down a road on one mission, a little bitty kid ran out of the house and stood defiantly in the front yard, giving them the bird with both hands. Moments after, little kid's dad came racing out and grabbed him, paddling his little butt all the way back into the house. Can you imagine your 4-year old kid out in the front  yard, flipping off a bunch of guys with guns and bombs?!! I can only think what I would have done, as a parent, if I had been in that guy's shoes. Besides having a heart attack, I mean.

Ah, I'm rambling now, reflecting. My kid is coming home, and to say that I'll be happy to have only to worry about horseshoes is an understatement. I probably keep repeating that I hugged him goodbye 2 days after my sister died, but the fact that I immediately replaced one constant worry with grief and more worry with another has resonated with me greatly for the past year. Having him home for 2 weeks on leave is wonderful, but that time is still laced with dread that you have to put the kid back on a plane to a war zone.

Still, I'm grateful to be living in the era that we are, one in which I can have near-daily communication with him, and with some of his buddies, through e-mail, phone calls, chat, Facebook, or Skype.

I am fortunate enough to live in an era in which I can carry a wireless modem in my pocket, hook up a netbook, pull my kid up on camera, and talk and laugh face-to-face with him from a campground out in the middle of nowhere. I can call friends he does not know over to say hello, and I can surprise him with a few he does, to give him a taste of being back home.

I reiterate that I cannot imagine having been mother to a Vietnam soldier, or in any other era that we were in conflict with another country. Waiting weeks or months for a letter to make it across the world, little or no phone calls. Seriously, I don't know how they managed. You know what gives me a coronary every single time? When Brian calls, there's always a delay on the phone. Once I know it's him, I'll ask "how are you/how is everyone?" I ask this, and there's silence. There's enough of a pause that, every single time he calls, my stomach flips over before his voice clicks back in and he says "Fine. We're tired, ready to go to chow."

If the things that undo me are this minor, I think I'd just have had to find a fainting couch, and lie down for a year, had I been a soldier-mama in the 60s.

At any rate, I'm ready to have him home. I'm ready to have them ALL home. I'm ready to stop worrying that he's calling with bad news. I'm ready to stop worrying about mortars and bunkers and about how they always return from their missions 15 minutes after chow hall closes.

I am READY, people, to gather around and have a beer or 3, and hear about camel-spiders, and all of the other stories, good and bad, they didn't have time to tell on the phone.

I'm ready to hug them and spoil them and feed them spaghetti.

25 Days.


  1. I'm ready too. I don't have a soldier boy anymore- but my heart still jumps into my throat whenever I hear any stories. Love you!!! Can't wait to see pics of the two of you together again. xoxo

  2. Spaghetti and beer sounds like a dream come true compared to that bunker and a**bag with the mortar. Hopefully we can leave that particular sandbox to its own devices here soon. They can keep the camel spiders. Yech!

  3. *swallows lump in throat that isn't really there, of course*

    25 days. You can do this. More importantly, so can he.

    Love you.

  4. Anonymous8:05 PM

    Woohoo!!!! I am happy to hear that. Hugs!!!!

  5. I forgot what that felt like, and suddenly I'm somewhere else... It is my most sincere hope that, very soon, you too shall forget what that feels like.


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