Missing my Boys

This week my younger son left home to deploy on his first mission with the US Marine Corps. I’m proud beyond belief. I also miss him greatly.

Earlier today, my older son, who serves in the Army National Guard, headed off for an extended drill weekend. Due to storms last month they had to cancel their scheduled activities for safety reasons, so I assumed they would be making up those things this month. As my soldier headed to his car, I asked, “Will you be jumping out of planes or helicopters?” His reply made me smile. “If we do, I’ll remember to take a garbage bag, Mom.”

Back story: Somewhere between a hundred years ago and yesterday morning, my sons were young. And they were very typical boys. Because we homeschooled them, they had many hours each day to find things to do on our family farm. We never owned video games or had a lot of movie channels, so entertainment sometimes involved rocks, sticks, ropes, and imaginary characters. Games of cowboys and Indians were common. Their adventurous spirit led them up trees, to the woods, in the pond, and down the zip line into a tree. It is truly a miracle that they both made it through childhood with little more than a few stitches.

One time my future soldier decided he wanted to jump out of the barn loft with a parachute. Parachutes being difficult to find for the average 10 year old, he decided to use a plastic trash bag instead….more than once. Obviously it was completely ineffective, but he really didn’t care. For all I know, he listed it under “Experience” when asked by the Army if he had ever jumped from a high point. Today, he does have his jump wings, and loves every opportunity he gets to jump from perfectly good airplanes and helicopters. And today, he uses a real parachute instead of a garbage bag. Go, Army!

I knew from the time he was young that his mind was on the military. When he was only 12 years old, we went to a local Civil Air Patrol meeting. At the end of the evening, he looked at me awkwardly as he showed me the emblem that they had given him when he “joined.” I should have known. He loved every weekly meeting, wearing his uniform, doing the physical training, taking tests to advance in rank, and even saluting superior ranking students and leaders. He was made for the military.

My young Marine, however, never showed one minute of interest in Civil Air Patrol. He wasn’t interested in the military; he was interested in cows. Somehow I managed to get it in my mind that he would graduate from high school and work in the agricultural field, perhaps as a feed lot buyer, a 4-H agent, or artificially inseminating cows (he was trained to do this by the Agricultural Extension Agency in our state when he was only 16). He had become a Master Beef Producer when he was just 14. He was supposed to grow up, live nearby (if not at my home), raise cows on our property, and eventually get married and give me the granddaughters that I so richly deserve to spoil.

My uncle was a Marine veteran who had served in Vietnam, spending part of his time in a North Vietnamese prison camp as a POW. A brain tumor, possibly caused by Agent Orange, was what took his life when my son was 16. My sons grew up around veterans. Both of my parents served in the military. My husband served, his father served, and his brother served. Three of my uncles served. Even though he had never given any indication that he might be interested in the military, my younger son decided when he was a teen that every young man should serve his country. So he became a Marine.

Someday, all my dreams for my younger son may come true. I’m especially believing Jesus for that last part, since I think I possess great potential at being a grandmother. But for now, he is somewhere in the world on a ship for the US Marine Corps. Oorah!

Forgive the ramblings of a sentimental mother. I am really missing my sons tonight.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

How’s Your Christmas?

How bad is your Christmas season?

Have you spent all your money? Were you not able to get the perfect gift you wanted for someone special? Are you completely exhausted from all the shopping, cooking, baking, wrapping, decorating, holiday greetings, and gay happy meetings? Have you already started to gain those extra pounds, and it’s not even Christmas yet? Are you already beginning to dread January when the decorations come down, the credit card bills roll in, and the weight has to come off your hips somehow?

Christmas, and the holiday season in general, is not always a happy time. There are real, legitimate stressors that come with the season. Each of us is guilty of a time when we slapped on a smiling face and endured some event, dinner, party, gift, etc. that we didn’t really want to deal with. Just how bad is it really?

I know one mom whose daughter was killed in a tragic car accident just a few weeks ago. She was so excited about celebrating Christmas with her daughter this year. How bad is your Christmas?

One dear friend is walking through just the second Christmas without her husband of nearly 50 years. A young mom of three sons is also facing her second Christmas without her husband. Just how bad is your Christmas?

A new wife is spending her first Christmas alone. Her husband of just seven months is deployed and is serving in the Middle East. How hard is this season for you?

A former business owner, who was highly respected in his field, is in jail this year. He was guilty of the crime and has accepted his punishment, but he has lost his business, his prestige, influence, and many of his friends. So, how bad is your Christmas season?

His wife has spent this time determining how to pay the mortgage, how to eat, who she can trust, and which family members should not be told about the situation. How tough is it at your house?

One sweet mother of four children has recently been diagnosed with a mental illness that includes symptoms of severe and inexplicable anxiety. The lovely Christmas holidays her family has come to appreciate in the past are now impossible for her to replicate. She cannot endure sitting in a room of people during the Christmas programs her children are in at school. She cannot have a lot of people in her home for a party. Christmas shopping at the stores and a cup of coffee with a friend are out of the question now. How difficult is your situation?

One fellow MoM* lost her Marine last week. He had a heart attack. He was the picture of health (He was a Marine!) and was on his way home to see her. How bad is your Christmas now?

This sounds so depressing, and I apologize, dear reader. My intention was not to make my readers feel guilty. I truly hope you are celebrating the best Christmas season you’ve ever had! Along the way, I encourage you to be sensitive to people around you.

As people are grieving, they go through different phases, or steps, of the process (grief is a process). While you may not understand where they are in the journey, try to be sensitive to their needs. This can really be as simple as catching her sitting in a quiet corner at a party, rather than visiting with friends. Walking over with a warm cup of cider and an encouraging word would be appropriate. If you see her trying to escape before the tears start flowing, helping her with her coat and bag would be very helpful. Sometimes just taking his hand and giving it a squeeze is enough to let a friend know that you care about him. A wink at a friend across the room can speak a thousand words of comfort and encouragement.

Nearly everyone I know has admitted to having to endure, rather than enjoy, something at Christmas. Some of us have had to do more than endure, but have had to bear, the Christmas season. Keep your eyes open. Sometimes, they may just need a smile and hug to help them get through the day. Hugs and smiles make great Christmas gifts.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

*Mother of a Marine