February 26, 2009

"Always Ready, Always There"

Statistically, women cry about five times per month. At some point, I was a part of that equation. Things in my life have calmed down quite a lot in the last six months, though. I can count the last three times I have cried, and the earliest I can remember was a few months ago. One time was leaning against my car in the driveway, taking a deep breath and having tears fall about a guy grasping for my hand, and feeling torn about reaching for his. The next time was this past weekend, when I cried out of anger about losing the apartment I had set my hopes on. And the last time was tonight, crying about the thought that my brother may not be okay.

I can't describe this feeling. The weight and the sickness in my stomach was overwhelming. I saw a headline on the local paper's website- "Two Illinois Guard Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan". I lost it.

I grabbed my cell phone from my purse and called my dad right away, asking him which brigade my brother Andy is in, and found out the soldiers that died were the same as his. The paper said it wouldn't release the names until the families were notified. I hung up the phone in terror and felt the room shrink. I choked back sobs thinking about him. I remembered the letter sitting on the table at home, waiting to be packed in his boxes and sent, and wondered if the letter would get to him, if it would be read. The thought consumed me that he may never get it. My mind raced with the possibilities, with the panic that only a soldier's family member can feel.

There is nothing more I wanted in this world than to see him right in front of me and know he was okay. My dad called back a few minutes later after further reading from the Chicago Tribune, and told me they weren't from Champaign. Breathing out, I thought I could relax a little, but I was too shaken up, and bawled on the way to a store. I don't remember the two hours I spent wandering the aisles and flipping through clothes. Finally, I left the place when I realized my hands were shaking from not eating dinner. The drive home was more serene until I saw a huge, imposing billboard. $20,000 for college, and all you have to do is risk your life (and have everyone you know pay the price of worrying about your life). A huge flag waved behind the outline of a soldier. My country, 'tis of thee. The tears came back, and the rest of the signs on the way home were too blurry to read.

The fact is, Andy is probably fine right now. He is most likely lying under a dingy green wool blanket, just showered and taking another nap before waking up for a mess hall breakfast. He'll probably spend the day sitting on top of the truck, looking through dusty windows and drinking a Gatorade, thinking about where he will be when he gets back, and swinging his gun slowly every so often. It's just hard to convince myself of that. I'm still not calm enough to think that way. The reality is that it may not have been my brother that was wounded or worse. But someone's brother or son was, just a few towns away from me. Someone had that sinking feeling that turned into a brutal truth, one that can't be reversed.

I haven't prayed for a long time, not seriously. I've felt a little apathetic. But tonight, I whispered a few words in the hope they will be heard, because it is all I can do. My little brother needs to come home as close to the way he left as possible. He's not another guy dressed in camos, gun in hand. He's the one on the right in this picture. He's the 5 year old blonde kid who skinned his knees and split his lip from a bicycle ride. He's family.

2 kind comments from you:

Dena said...

I don't know how you feel...I can't even imagine! I love Andy and I too want him home safe!

Nicholereo333 said...

I'm crying at your words and the obvious affection you have for your brother, but hopefully everything will be OK

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