Friday, October 25, 2013

My Grandfathers Land

I visit my grandfathers land once a year or so. I like it there, it’s so peaceful, quiet, and I will sit under an old Oak tree near his property line and gaze out over the rolling hills, the tall waving grasses near the edge of the wood and the big blue sky above it all, the clouds seem to slow down as they pass over this place, as if to respectfully splash a little shade upon my grandfather and all of his friends here, a little respite from the hot summer sun.

We talk him and me, about my little girls, the state of things today and sometimes I will just sit and listen, I’ll lay beside him in the cool, neatly trimmed grass there and close my eyes and remember when he used to push me and my cousin on the swings when we were just little.

Sometimes I will walk across the field to visit with my grandmother from my dad’s side, she just moved in this month. Her voice still echoes in my ears on Sunday afternoons.  I give her some freshly cut flowers, tied with a ribbon, tell her I miss her.

As the sun begins it’s decent on another day, and casts an amber glow over everything, highlighting the sea of white stones that blanket these hills, I pay respect to everyone I wander by. Then, as I pass the flag pole and continue on through the iron gates, I pause, giving thanks for the tremendous and inspiring sacrifices of all of the residents there.

One day I will go back to visit my grandfather, but I won’t leave, and my family will go to visit me there. And though I’ll be sad to see them go, I will be in a good place; I will be in the company heroes.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When you walked away

          You walked away, slowly; I could tell that you wanted to look back but didn’t want to see the tears on your daughter’s face.  Your son stood proud, strong, believing you’d come back soon.  He said just before you turned to leave that he would take care of mom and his sister while you are away. 

            We miss you now, every day we think about you, your daughter has stepped up and if it weren’t for her I don’t know what I’d do.  Your son speaks about you and your job.  He tells his friends that you are his hero.  At night he lays awake in bed after dinner, alone, praying for you. 

I miss your smell; it has worn off of all of your clothing and it no longer lingers in the house.  I tried spraying your cologne around the house but it just doesn’t smell like you when you wear it.  I miss the feel of your powerful shoulders below my chin as your arms wrap around me, holding me tight.  I close my eyes some days and pretend you are with me, I can see your beautiful brown eyes and the shape of your soft lips and I picture us sitting under the Birch trees in our yard, and I feel the strength in your hands, your warm hands. 

            It’s amazing how a person can take for granted all the little things their partner does for us, when you’d come home from work, you’d lean in and kiss me with your strong warm hand placed at the small of my back.  What I wouldn’t give to feel that now…it’s been so long though now that I almost can’t remember. 

Your son lost another tooth and got into a fight with another kid at school who said what you were doing over there was wrong.  Your son misses you; he lies in his bed at night wishing you would sneak in and snuggle with him for just a moment, until he fell asleep.  Your daughter got another “A” in her class today and prays for you and all of your co-workers each night before bed.

            Darling I miss you also.  I pray that you come home safely, I know what you are doing is right; I know you feel that you must protect everybody.  I know that your conviction to do what is right is strong and I love you for that. I just wish you could come home and protect me, protect me against the bad dreams at night and the hurtful pangs I get during the day wishing I could see you sitting next to me at the dinner table.  The kids said we couldn’t have pork chops until you come home because it’s your favorite.  I want to have pork chops again.

            I know I am not the only one who feels this way.  Your mother cries when we speak, so she doesn’t call too much anymore.  Your brother drives by the house periodically to check on us, he’s sick and tired of the people that protest your position, that he’s having a hard time taking that in the news on a daily basis.  I just remind him that your being there serves to protect their rights to protest. 

            There are so many of us left behind here at home, we know you believe in what you are doing, and we support you in spite of the fact that we don’t hear reflections of your sacrifice expelled in the news, more often than not it seems it’s just the oppositions views we are subject to, just the bad stuff, just the vanities in people that try and make a name for themselves under the guise of free speech.

            I am your wife, your mother, your father, your sister and brother and your son and daughter.  I am your neighbor who raises a flag in your honor every day.  I am the student from another country, an immigrant family who knows that without your service, the freedoms we enjoy here might not exist without your service. I am your kid’s teacher, who sees the pain of your absence in the faces of your children, and the pride in their eyes when asked “why the tears”.   I am a soldier who paid his/her dues and came back home…without you and now must move on with my own life, wishing I could be by your side, as brothers and sisters. 

            I miss you.  I love you.  I thank you.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Key Lime pie

OK, I know this has nothing to do with the military, but circumstances being what they are, I felt obliged to honor my grandmother. I hope you will allow me this.

She’d lift the fork to her mouth and close her eyes as she did her lips, setting the fork on the table she would then pause, savoring the creamy, lime filling; she often told me how the taste reminded her of the warmer sun of Florida.
We used to play Cribbage, but it had gotten difficult for her to hold playing cards; her fingers knotted by time and years of hard work. So as of late we just sat and ate Key Lime pie and debated the state of the world.
Ilo and me had a special relationship, it was not based on or tied to any outside influences, it was just her and me and that was all, it was simple and it was uncomplicated. Some days I would talk a little too much and she’d never interrupt. Sometimes she would talk and I would listen, I’d watch her eyes roam around the room as she fumbled with her blanket and flatten it upon her lap. Sometimes I would roll her outside and we would just sit in the sun and watch the leaves skid by, carried on a late summer breeze. Nothing need be said between us, her thin gray hair would fall over her eyes and I would brush it back for her, she’d swat at me and tell me she liked the wind and to quit fussing with her hair.
We didn’t always see eye to eye on everything, but she always seemed to consider an alternate view, and she never persecuted me for mine. There was an acceptance between us, we could be completely honest with each other and neither of us felt bad, judged nor uncomfortable. I loved that about our time together; there was no editing, it was honest and real.
One day I visited her on my motorcycle and brought Key Lime pie and tea from the café where I always bought it. This time though, under the excited anticipation gleaming in her tired eyes, I opened the carton and to my dismay and embarrassment, the lime green filling had vibrated and mixed together with the frothy, white, whipped topping; It was a huge globby mess. As I began to apologize and stated I’d take the car next time so it wouldn’t happen again, she swiftly stuck her fork right in the middle of the pile. She looked at me and said “Tracy, it’ll taste just as beautiful as it always does…”, then as she placed a helping in her mouth and closed her eyes, she continued “…besides, I have already punched my ticket and given it to the conductor, so don’t bother with pie next time”.
We ate in silence until all of the crust was gone, she sipped her tea and I gazed at her. She was intensely calm, quiet, beautiful. We sat for a long time that day, side by side staring out the window through her row of flowers sitting along the window sill.
I went to Birchwood Café this morning, when I placed my order for a single piece of Key Lime pie at the counter, the girl that knew me paused, she struggled to maintain her smile as her eyes began to well, as did mine. As I sat among the flowers on the patio, in the sun and the wind, I lifted a forkful of pie to my mouth and closed my eyes. I sat there listening to the leaves rustle, feeling the sun caress my face, imagining Ilo sitting across from me…I knew then, that Key Lime pie would never taste as fine again.
I will miss Ilo, I loved everything about her, I loved her honesty, I loved her smile, I loved her level of integrity, and I shared her love of Key Lime pie.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Honor Thy Sacrifice

It’s easy to tell others they ought to honor those who’ve sacrificed, but have you, one who’s made the sacrifice, honored yourself? It’s difficult for many of us who’ve sacrificed so much, to be ok with giving ourselves a pat on the back. I know I know, we are supposed to remain non-celebratory about our sacrifice, our service, but we deserve it, you deserve it. But look around, there are so many service members, they go without so much as a hand shake, a thank you, they go without recognition for the sacrifices they have made. They have sacrificed their lives, their friends, brothers and sisters.

Those that have made the ultimate sacrifice and have died have their memorial; they have family members that cry for them, they have friends and comrades who pray for their souls. But those who’ve come back without their partners, friends, fellow veterans, who prays for them, who cries for them? Much of the time these vets come back changed, they feel bitter, they feel guilty, and they come back alone. Often they are difficult to understand or deal with, so those around them step back and give them room, they are treated like they have some sort of contagion. Let me be clear here when I say that this is not the case for everyone, however, if it the case for one veteran, it is the case for too many.

So as a veteran, I say be ok with slapping yourself on the back, and to honor those whom did not make it back, or those that are stuck in turmoil, celebrate the sacrifices you have made. Recognize those sacrifices; look them in the eye as you have so many of your adversaries and say thank you. Be proud of those sacrifices you have made, can you do that in the mirror? Can you look yourself in the eye and say thanks?

Don’t allow the Meagan Lyn Mays’ of this world to disparage all that you have given to this world, even to her. And I for one will stand beside you, proud to be your brother in arms, to be a fellow veteran, I for one will be grateful. I cannot and will not lose sight of those that have made the ultimate sacrifice, I think of them daily, I will remember them; I will honor them by honoring myself and by celebrating their service and sacrifice. I will do this by telling others of their service, of their heroisms, of their decision to stand the line, to protect our freedoms.

And to those like Meagan Lyn May, to those that oppose our way of life and our means of servitude, to those I say you are welcome. Come forth and speak your mind, for I have stood toe to toe with my enemy to preserve the right for you to do so. Whether I follow your line of thinking, your beliefs or not, and I will not persecute you for them but celebrate your freedom to speak them. This is how we honor those that have sacrificed. I would also ask that in return, whether or not you agree with my line of thinking, or beliefs, come stand next to me, share your beliefs with me, let’s come together and commemorate our freedom of speech, lets honor those responsible, lets honor our children in your name, and in the names of our brothers and sisters let’s pay tribute to those individuals. Then ask yourself, what sacrifices have you made, what sacrifices will you make?