Night Time is the Hardest

Since my young Marine deployed to the Middle East a few months ago, I’ve worked especially hard to stay busy. I fill my days with activity, most of it worthy, or at least pleasurable to me. A typical week is filled with meetings, political events, dance lessons, committee meetings, dance classes, doctor’s appointments, political rallies, and dance parties.

When I get home, I work. I write a lot of stuff that I won’t show anyone yet. I set up or plan more meetings. I practice dancing. I do a huge amount of research every day. And I’m in the process of figuring out a way to get paid for some of this. I spend hours researching and writing.

But then it gets late. And my eyes get tired of staring at the computer screen. And the only stuff on TV is stupid or boring. And my back hurts from sitting too long. That’s when I realize how tired I am.

So I shut down the computer after finding some place to end where I can pick it up easily tomorrow. I turn off the television, and stand up to stretch.

That’s when it happens.

I start to think.

No one said that being a MoM* was easy. I knew when my son joined the Marine Corps that there would be difficult days ahead. Having been born and raised in a military family, I knew the days would be long and hard. It’s just different when it is your dad who is gone and when it is your son who is gone. The years between the two experiences make a difference, too. I didn’t know as much when dad was in Southeast Asia. Sadly, I know way too much now about the Middle East.

So I think.

Some nights I go outside and pace my long driveway. I’ve learned that, if you look carefully enough, and long enough, you can see the occasional meteorite. You notice that stars actually come in a variety of colors – red, blue, white, orange. I look at the moon and watch it pass through each phase of the month. Because I live at approximately the same latitude as that in which my Marine is located, I imagine that the night sky looked the same that evening in both places, just several hours apart from each other. I wonder if he looked up at the moon and thought about home.

And when my sadness starts seeping from my eyes, I go back inside my quiet house. There is a difference between quiet and peaceful. This is the former; it’s just quiet. I wonder if I was right to turn off my computer – maybe I should work a while longer. But my tired eyes say no, so I head to my bedroom.

Lying in my bed is no different. I turn on the diffuser and fill my room with lavender in hopes of relaxing enough to sleep. I read something that will keep my focus, but not important enough to matter the next day if I don’t remember it. In desperation, I reach for my cell phone to play solitaire, or watch music videos – anything to make me stop thinking.

Night time is the hardest.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

 

*Mom of a Marine

Peace AND Quiet

“What do I have to do to get some peace and quiet around here?” my mother would often ask when I was growing up. There were four children in my family; I was the oldest. From top to bottom, we were seven years apart, and I really don’t recall a time when there was ever both peace and quiet. I could be wrong. There may have been, and I just don’t remember it.

Instead, I remember my youngest siblings, a sister and brother, running through the house when they were still quite young. They loved to run through “naked as jay birds” after they had their evening bath. I remember the four of us having other kids in the neighborhood over to our large front yard and playing softball for hours. When we got thirsty, we really did drink water from the garden hose, and none of us died from lead poisoning. I remember Christmas mornings running through the house, waking one another, and screaming of Santa Claus and exciting gifts. I don’t know that there was ever peace and quiet.

When my own sons were young, at a time of which I have better recollection than my own childhood, there were many peaceful times that were quiet. But perhaps, there were just as many that were quiet, but not peaceful. Every mother knows that when the children are “too quiet,” there is not peace. They are up to something. The “something” was not always bad, and it was often funny, at least in retrospect.

My sons are grown now. This weekend the elder is at drill with his unit in the Army National Guard. The younger is serving in a desert far away as a young Marine. My house is completely quiet, except for the television and the occasional movement from the dogs. It’s not very peaceful though.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that real peace is much more than just “a state of tranquility or quiet.”1 No, there is a second definition. Peace also means “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.”2 When you have a loved one serving in a war zone, as is the Middle East, it’s really difficult to maintain a “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.” Instead, emotions come in like a flood.

Quiet is not all it’s cracked up to be. My house is located off the beaten path, and I don’t hear people in my own driveway most times. What I hear are noises that are insignificant – the cat scratching the back door, or the screen door shifting in the wind. I hear the tree limbs on the siding when the wind picks up strength. I hear mama cows bellowing when we are weaning their calves. Then, I also hear a million sounds that are equally insignificant, but surely seem very important. I hear a group of home invaders in the basement some nights. I hear them knocking things over and moving stuff around. I hear banging noises that sound like the house is caving in on itself, even though it’s really the water pressure tank. With all the noises, or lack thereof, it’s not really peaceful here, even though it is quiet.

Peace.

I need peace far more than I need quiet. There was another missile strike in the Middle East this week. You probably didn’t hear anything about it unless you were looking at every news article. This one was directed at dissidents aligned with Bashar Assad. Because I homeschooled my sons, I have maps all over my house. I’m very familiar with the national borders in the Middle East, but I don’t know exactly which borders surround my Marine. And even though I know that the area he is probably in is as big as the Louisiana Purchase, when you look at it on a map, it all seems so close together, as if a missile in one place could affect the entire geographic area. No amount of quiet in my house can give me peace about that.

For the last two months of his deployment, I’ve tried to stay remarkably active. I’ve walked 3 miles a day 3-4 times a week. I’ve spent 12-14 hours every week at a dance studio. I’ve been to more political meetings than I cared to attend. And I had classes to prepare to teach every week. But summer is here, and school is out. An injury is preventing me from all active walking and 95% of dancing. And the state legislature has recessed. In other words, you’re getting to read this because I have nothing to do tonight and decided to write. Misery loves company, huh?

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.” 3 Tonight, this MoM is just not buying it.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peace
  2. From the poem “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann http://www.davidpbrown.co.uk/poetry/max-ehrmann.html

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

 

Thank You for Your Service

“Thank you for your service,” the gentleman said to the young Marine.

“Thank you for your support,” the Marine replied as they shook hands. Yet, that was not what the Marine really wanted to say.

He’s heard the words spoken to him quite a few times in his very short tenure as a Marine. Of course, prior to joining the corps he’d said it to airmen, sailors, soldiers, and Marines at every opportunity he’d been given. Most of the time, the men and women did not know how to reply. So this young Marine figured out quickly what he was going say if those words were ever spoken to him – “Thank you for your support.”

And still, that was not what he meant.

What he wanted to say was, respectfully, “What are you doing in service to our country?” or “What have you done to make your neighborhood such a great place to live?” or maybe even “Is your town a better place to live because you live there? What are you doing to make it better, to make it worth me fighting to protect?”

This Marine understood that not everyone was cut out for military service. He knew that there are any number of reasons that could prevent someone from having a job that involved protecting their community or serving it in other ways, like teaching or being a policeman. He also knew, though, that there were a million little things that anyone could do for their town, community, or neighborhood.

Alexis de Tocqueville stated nearly 200 years ago that, “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”* He had visited our nation and compared it to his native France. Here he saw people who were genuinely kind to one another, helping each other in times of distress or during an illness. He witnessed fiery sermons from pulpits across the nation that stirred people to repentance, to stand for what was right and good.

There are still young men and women who are willing to stand for what is right and good, to protect us from enemies, both foreign and domestic. But are there still people who are making America worth fight for?

It really happens through the smallest things. There’s the army veteran who lives across the street who mows the grass for the widow down the road. There’s a neighbor who sees when the farmer’s cows get out of the fence, so he stops to herd them back up, then he helps the owner to rebuild the fence. We see the goodness in the small business owner who agrees to teach some homeschooled students how to dance so that they can truly enjoy their high school prom. He and his wife go to a social dance held each year at a school for deaf children and dance with them. There’s the friend who comes to care for the woman who’s had serious surgery. She stays for days and cooks, cleans, and makes certain that the woman is on the road to recovery. It’s in the woman who writes letters to a friend who has been incarcerated to encourage him. These things are not as big as wearing a uniform, carrying a weapon, and defending freedom, but sometimes the small things really are quite great.

America is great because America is good.

This is such a difficult election cycle. This writer has been overwhelmed at the animosity and division in our nation. Depending on who is elected and how they choose to run the nation, we could end up better than we’ve ever been, or in an ash heap of ruins. While America may not be great, we can still make it good. I, for one, am going to work toward that goal.

~Temerity Dowell

 

*Yes, de Tocqueville said it long before Hillary Clinton and Dan Quayle even thought it.