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
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Just Breathe!

I first heard about it when I pulled into the driveway tonight. I’d been at a class that I take each week. We’d had fun and learned quite a bit. As I pulled into the driveway and heard the initial reports, that the United States had launched a military airstrike on Syria, I stopped my car. After several seconds, I realized I had stopped breathing.

I’m still a relatively new MoM. My Marine only deployed last month. I wouldn’t expect anything less from this son– he had the mindset of a Marine years before he became one. He loves this country, and has a servant’s heart. And I knew this day would come eventually. You know, eventually – that day that is never actually supposed to get here. Well, it arrived. It blindsided me, and I’ve forgotten how to breathe.

I’ve been taught all the Marine Mom stuff. We’re the mothers of Devil Dogs! We’re proud and brave. We’re stronger than our sons – after all, we raised them! Semper Gumby is our motto – Always flexible. We know that nothing is a fact until it is released by the US Marine Corp and Department of Defense. We know that by the time we hear the news reports, the information is already hours, even days, old. We have been told that no news is good news. We’ve also been taught that if you hear it on the news, not to worry about it. The media excels at blowing a story out of proportion. Instead, we worry about what we don’t hear.  And there’s a lot of stuff we will never hear.

I forgot how much we should respect the family members of military men and women, probably because I grew up in a family of military men and women. I was quite young when my father was in Southeast Asia and am thankful that I’ve forgotten so much. It’s difficult to imagine all the details, and to consider how hard things are on your family when nothing seems out of the normal realm of family life for you. Until I was in high school, I never knew of a time when my dad wasn’t gone, just returning, or preparing to be gone again soon. This was our version of normal. I forgot about the days when we had trouble just remembering to breathe.

As I watch the various news channels tonight, I’m noticing how the discussion is on the geopolitical ramifications of the attack. Many comments have been made regarding President Trump’s first military strike. Social media outlets are already thick and deep with negative comments regarding the President’s prior comments (as in three years ago) regarding US response to Syria’s misbehavior. After watching reports for over three hours, I can now recite all the pertinent details regarding the strike. I know from where the missiles were launched, what they hit, casualties, potential follow up strike suggestions, the opinions of a few retired military leaders, and even which floor of the Pentagon still has people working tonight.

I know all of this, but somehow, I’ve forgotten how to breathe.

Three hours later, I’m still watching the news, trying to remember that until I hear from, or news about, my Marine, I don’t need to worry. I keep looking at the world map I have across the room, trying desperately to remember that the Middle East is much bigger than my living room wall – my Marine is surely far away from any danger. I’m trying to remember that he is just as safe wherever he is as he would be upstairs in his own bed. Where ever he is, God has him in the palm of his hand.

And I’m trying to remember how to breathe.

 

~Temerity Dowell

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