Friday, September 09, 2005
Still, I felt bad that I burdened her any further. She's got plenty enough on her plate.
She had a husband at home, not any super husband or Mr. Mom or anything, but I try to help (laundry and homework was my thing), and more than anything else, my wife and I have always had each other to talk to. Share our troubles. Commiserate or comfort or just be a willing and quiet ear for each other. We know each other well, we are mirrors for each other when need be. We have love, and deep friendship too.
So our separation isn't just the distance between husband and wife, it is the loss (at least for a very long while) of the immediacy of a best friend. Which just makes all the other troubles and heartaches worse.
Mrs. Dadmanly has suffered the loss of both a sister and a dear cousin to breast cancer a few years apart. Her father, the WWII vet who we have often said must be a cat because he's survived 6 lives already, is having trouble again, and not talking about it. Her mom, of strong Polish stock, has always shrugged off concerns and scares before; she's worried this time.
Family separation is the hardest thing about this mobilization and deployment to Iraq, for me and mine. Far worse than any dangers or risks, far harder than any grueling training, more uncomfortable than Iraqi heat or dust, more austere than General Orders or an isolated FOB.
Mrs. Dadmanly feels alone. Little Manly's sobs, when he's down about his Dad away, break her heart into tiny pieces that don't put back together well.
I wish I could say family and friends have worked hard to make up the difference, and while some have, and many want to, the results just don't compare. Sometimes their good intentions backfire, such as when they say things like, "You must be pretty excited, he'll be home soon," yet react with surprise and shock when she's not okay, not excited, and "soon" isn't soon enough (and certainly not now.)
Some have let their own ambivalence or even negative feelings about the war color their interactions and poison their good intentions. "This really is a stupid war, there's no reason he should be over there," or "I get so mad he even has to be over there." Each time these misguided editorials zing past her ears, it really doesn't matter what else was said, offered, or given. "Why don’t you just shut up and go away," is the thought that blackens any good intent.
By the way, that is why one cannot be against the war but support the troops, because every one of your negative comments hurts, depresses, angers, and weakens the resolve of both the troops and their loved ones, whether they personally agree with the war or not. Such talk, when publicized, boosts an enemy's propaganda effort, and whittles away public resolve, which of course is the real intent of the criticism anyway, isn't it? But more dangerously, such talk, when incessant and without real substance, contributes to poor morale. And poor morale and ebbing public support will eventually weaken families, embolden failing enemies, and kill Soldiers.
Now I have spoken of my wife and her struggles and difficulties, the burden she carries while I am in Iraq. But there are others who also carry a burden, too heavy for their ages.
My eldest, Jilly Bean, missed having her Dad attend her College graduation, or be home when she went on her first job interview, or get her first full time job after graduating. She misses our silly talks, our deep and serious talks, even just our time together when she gets to absorb all that family time.
My vagabond, Spud, missed having her Dad at her High School graduation, a very serious and artistic affair put on by the arts-oriented school she attends. The one where she got to make a very serious statement about life, her goals, and her own sense of her future and what it holds. She missed having her Dad see her in The Runaways, probably some of her best work to date, and missed too those last awkward moments between child and young adult when probably neither of us would have known what to say, but at least would have held on tight until something came out that sounded half way appropriate.
Ah, and my Little Manly. The young man who carries so much weight for such a small guy. At a critical time, as he learns so much more about the world of both children and adults. As he grows in awareness of the awkwardness of the very social boy, caught between playing with the kids, yet wanting to relate with the adults. This boy who must understand everything, and does not rest until he has satisfied his curiosity. The kid who needed to understand everything about 9/11, and Iraq, and why I thought we had to be there. The young man who knows more about armaments than I do, has learned an impressive amount of history (thanks, History Channel), plays war games and Risk and wants so much to be like his hero, his Dad.
There is nothing I can do about the hole that grows in his heart because he can't hug his Dad when he is sad. There is no Dad to comfort and console him when some young boy won't be his friend. There is no Dad to tell him stories, or play with him when Mom is busy, and besides, it's not the same with Mom and games.
Mrs. Dadmanly dreaded going to a banquet for baseball the other night. Little Manly's league had been outstanding, and Little Manly had been offered a slot on the All Star Team that played post season in area and state championships. Little Manly had a choice to make back then, accept the All Star slot and commit to all the playoffs, or let us all go as a family with Jilly Bean, Spud, his mom and I to Cape Cod for a family vacation while I was home on R&R (Leave).
Little Manly chose for us all to be together, and not risk inevitable conflict between his sister's work schedules, my Leave slot, and his games (especially if they kept winning).
They kept winning. And winning. They took a state title this year. And at that banquet the other night, you'd think these young boys had just come back from the moon (our town takes sports a little too seriously I suppose).
Now Little Manly was okay with all that, he was excited for his league. And there was no trace of regret, I'm not sure he even realized that that might have been him up there accepting awards and trophies and all that attention. I don't know if he was thinking it, but I know what I was thinking. Even if it had been him, he and I would have traded it all for a few hours spent together, now that we're apart.
A few weeks ago, Little Manly just lost it, sobbing uncontrollably, crying out, "Why does my Dad have to be in Iraq? Why couldn't he stay home?" I think that was the start of a more difficult time for Mrs. Dadmanly. This sacrifice is a great one, but it is far greater on the more vulnerable soldiers in this fight: the children of all of us in Iraq.
I will remind him as long as I have breath, how much I honor and appreciate the sacrifice he's made for his country, and how noble it was to give up so much. Democracy and liberty and freedom are advanced concepts for a young man (and difficult even for some misguided adults). And perhaps it isn't necessary for him to fully understand National Security and Foreign Relations (although he is well on his way).
He knows his Dad is fully committed to our cause. He knows his dad loves his country. He knows many of the heroes of our Nation, a fan of Presidents (and even a few Generals). He knows ours is the greatest country on earth, he’s heard of the old Soviet Union, and he knows what it means to be free. He is beginning to understand what evil is, what cruelty is, what loss and sorrow is, he's had loved ones close to him die, and he knows what that means.
And he knows who God is, and why we need to put our trust in Him. And how that can help, when we miss each other terribly.
But oh, Dear God, that you might comfort Him in his sorrow and cover him with Your love when he feels alone. Be there for me, God, until I can be there for him.
Links: Basil's Blog, Outside the Beltway, Dawn Patrol at Mudville Gazette, bRight & Early, Wayne's World 2005
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