Soldier on…

i couldn’t sleep…on a night when i really needed to be sleeping. Thinking about a woman named Doris. A woman i’d never met. Somewhere out there, she was also not sleeping when she should be sleeping.

Making plans for a trip that she didn’t want to take. A trip to a hospital in California… to see her brain-dead son before the machines keeping his body alive were disconnected, one by one…

When The Boy joined the Army, i also joined an ancient club – Mothers of Soldiers*. Since humans organized to fight, we’ve shared that feeling of pride and terror in our militarized progeny. Proud that they are willing to fight and die, at the behest of chieftains who don’t know their name… for causes that they may not believe in… But simultaneously terrified at the thought of outliving a child… Staring directly at The Very Real Risk of Horrible, Painful, Bloody Death.

They train as they fight. Not quite as dangerous as Real War, but… shit happens. When he shipped out to field training earlier this year, i knew he’d be off-grid for about a month. i also know enough about his line of work that my blood pressure jumped a few points thinking about possibilities.

A few weeks after they were packed up, i was working a volunteer gig at a local festival. i got a call from an unrecognized number. Excusing myself from my booth-mate, i took the call…

Caller: Hi, this is Ashley, from mumble, mumble, grrrble, ramblefloxen…. Are you The Boy Fae’s next of kin?

daisyfae [wide the fuck awake]: Yes! What? What happened?!?!

Ashley: He’s fine! Oh, god, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you…

daisyfae [not. fucking. breathing.]: Holy shit, child… Give me a second…

Ashley: I’m SO sorry! I’m with the family support network, and now that your soldier is without his phone, we are supposed to call everyone to check in. I guess I should have started with that…

daisyfae [air returning to lungs]: Yeah… So, i’m your first call? OK… what’s up?

It was just a courtesy call to give us a point of contact for non-emergency communications. The family support network has to train as well. Turns out, Ashley is a good friend of The Boy – married to one of his platoon-mates, and is a lovely young woman. Before hanging up, i schooled her with a suggestion on how to handle such calls more effectively…

daisyfae: Next call? How about you start with “I’m Ashley with the family support network at Ft. Courage, and your soldier is FINE!” Let that sink in for a few seconds before saying another word…

My heart rate and blood pressure eventually returned to something approximating normal, but as long as The Boy was training, i was edgy. Two weeks later, around the time they were to be packing up and heading back to Ft. Courage, i had a voicemail after returning from a bike ride.

VM: This is Faith, part of the family support network at Ft. Courage. Your soldier was not involved, but there was a serious incident in his platoon during training. If you’d like more information, call me back at…

Immediately returning the call, Faith read a prepared statement from the commanding officer. There had been a vehicle accident, and a platoon sergeant was critically wounded – he would not survive. We were asked to “Please keep his mother, Doris, and his children, in your thoughts and prayers through this difficult time…”

No shit.

i still can’t get Doris and those kids out of my thoughts…

CPL Fae

The Boy will pin on his first Non-Commissioned Officer stripes soon. Corporal Fae. The bottom rung NCO, but i’m still incredibly proud… and still incredibly terrified.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

* It could be “Parents of Soldiers”… not really any difference in the way a mother or a father feels about this…

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The Circle Game

i love my children.

Not just because 10 million years of biology has programmed me to care for, and protect, my offspring to assure proliferation of my genetic code. Come to think of it, that certainly is a factor… but not the primary factor.

i love them because they are smart, funny, thoughtful and good citizens of earth.

With the holidays, they were both able to visit for about a week.  First, The Boy arrived – stepping off a flight at midnight, completely soused, having learned the joys of holiday travel with a military haircut.  People just love buying drinks for our servicemen, even when not in uniform.

On Christmas day, the two of us headed for the airport to retrieve The Girl arriving from across the Atlantic.  A happy reunion, with a stop near The Trailer Park to pay respects at Mom’s grave.

We enjoyed a great visit, they had places to go, friends to visit, and spent time with their dad and his wife.  They spent time wrangling the manimals, eating shitty food, and yakking late into the night.  The Girl did a bit of shopping, as she needed to take 100 pounds* of America back to Turkey.  The Boy farted around with his pod of sk8rboyz.

As it got closer to departure time, they were ready to go home.

The Girl has a job, a serious boyfriend and a life back in Turkey.  The Boy has made some incredible friends in the Army, and it was clear that he missed them and his routine.

i had to smile with complete understanding, and just a bit of melancholy.  i remember that feeling…

When i was married, we’d make an annual trip to visit my in-laws.  People i genuinely adored!  Since they were 1,000 miles away, we’d spend a week.  They made an effort to keep us entertained, with excursions and adventures so we wouldn’t get bored, but we were often just happy to hang out and visit.  But after about four or five days, i was absolutely itchy to get on the road and get home.

Home.

i remember when i left home – 18 years old, leaving for university, and knowing…. KNOWING that i’d never go back.  Not because my parents were bad, or i’d had a horrible experience, but because i wanted my life to be my own.  Of the four of us, i was the only one that never ‘bounced back’.

When i’d visit my old home – now the home that houses my niece and her family – it was comfortable and ‘known’ in a way, but it was never my home again.  There were only a few weeks i stayed – maybe in the summer after my first year of university.  A few nights spent in the recliner in the living room, looking after Mom in later years.  But i never went back… i loved it, but didn’t miss it.

While my children will always find a sense of comfort coming to visit – wherever i may be – it will never be their home again.  As a minimum, they’ll stop by to eat my food, drink my booze and wrangle my critters….

There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through…**

family

* It’s less expensive to check an extra bag than to ship. i’d say most of the weight was bourbon and peanut butter…

** Joni Mitchell.  The Circle Game.  A song i did at open mic nights when i was 20, thinking “wow, this is, like, sooooo deep.”  Now when i do it, i can’t finish without breaking down in tears…

Spice Girls

When i was her age i was working full-time, while pursuing my graduate degree.  i was married, had a house in the suburbs, two small children, two dogs and a mini-van.  The concept of ‘free time’ was beyond my comprehension – let alone travel.  That there was a world beyond my schedule-driven existence barely registered.

She started taking Arabic while still in high school, on top of three years of Spanish.  As an undergraduate student, she was baptized as a citizen of earth during her Semester at Sea.  A solo trip to Morocco the following summer, and a semester studying in Beirut before graduation.

It was in January of 2011 that she decided to get her teaching certification, which she’d completed by the end of May.  She had accepted a job offer in Turkey and left the country two months later.  Knowing no one there, she was up and running in no time. A few bumps and glitches along the way, she navigated them all without much assistance from the parental units.

Studley’s daughter is cut from the same cloth.  Spent two years in a remote village in South Africa working for the Peace Corps, she’s now doing a graduate internship in Laos.  With just about a month notice, she loaded a backpack and left the country – not knowing the language, or what the summer would bring.

On the trip to Istanbul, we compared notes on having “Danger Monkeys” for daughters.

Studley:  Don’t you worry about her?

daisyfae:  Of course i worry!  There’s just nothing to do about it.  It’s her life.  One of the main reasons for this trip is to meet her friends, get a feel for what it’s like there… and get a feel for whether she’s really happy.

Studley:  I had to press my daughter to provide me with contact information for the organization she’s working for this summer!  Explained to her “Look, I’m no Liam Neeson!  I need to know where you’ll be!”

For the past two weeks, The Girl has been out front again – this time with Studley and i as her “Turkish Toddlers”. Translating menus, ordering food, teaching us basics in Turkish, haggling with vendors… and keeping us from getting hit by speeding taxis.

It was on one of our excursions that we needed to grab a taxi to get back within reasonable walking distance of the hotel.  Studley and i hopped in back, and The Girl rode shotgun.  She let the driver know where we were headed, and we pulled away from the curb.  They continued to converse in Turkish, but of course Studley and i were pretty clueless.  i realized something might be up when the driver half-heartedly whacked the meter and shrugged.

The Girl became more vocal, gesturing toward the meter.  She finally told us “We’re getting out!” as the driver pulled to the curb, still protesting.  She handed him a five Lire note then slammed the door in disgust.

The Girl:  Bastard was ripping us off!  He never turned on the meter.  I kept asking him how much it would cost to take us to the bridge, but he wouldn’t answer me directly.  He finally said “Thirty-five, forty lire…” which is BULLSHIT!  Should have cost us no more than ten!  God DAMN it, i hate it when they pull that shit.

She flagged down the next available taxi, and we continued on our way. i looked at Studley – “Do you see why i don’t really need to worry?”

Spice Girls

The timing of our visit in Istanbul worked out for us to meet up with a friend of hers, Jackie.  Having spent time teaching English in South America, she decided to take a job in Istanbul as a nanny for the summer, before returning to the U.S. to go back to school.  Another “Danger Monkey”…

The Girl and Jackie had only met briefly, but bonded instantly.  They are members of the same tribe.  Sharing stories, offering insights and advice to each other, they were fun to watch.

As they led us into the crowd at the Spice Market, it occurred to me that i want to be just like them when i grow up…

all growed up...

We sat at dinner one night, at a table filled with her friends.  Lively conversation, laughter and good food shared at a table by the sea.  In that moment i realized that it’s highly unlikely she will ever move back to the United States.

daisyfae:  You can’t live in the U.S. again, can you?

The Girl:  Doubtful…

i am proud of, and amazed by, my daughter. Here’s to all of the adventurous young women of the world!  Long may you run!

Turkish delight

When my children were entering their ‘double digit’ years, i had an opportunity to take them to Germany to visit a niece living there. Wanting them to learn to be citizens of the world, it was a good opportunity to take them overseas.

My ex-husband was not particularly interested in going, so it was just the three of us. With assistance from my niece, i did the planning and logistics. Flying into Frankfurt, i rented a car. And the adventure began… It was up to me to get us there, and back.

Doing my crash course in “German for Tourists” in the weeks before the trip, i was reasonably prepared for navigating in a foreign country. Didn’t hurt that i’d been there a few times before. It also didn’t hurt that in southwestern Germany, most people speak English. Together, we worked on a few important vocabulary words. Mostly, the kids would tail behind me like ducklings, eyes wide open, taking it all in.

The next year, they wanted to do it again, so we went to England. On that trip – without a significant language barrier – we did a lot more improvisation. Four days in London as we decided where to go next. A conversation with a taxi driver led us to a train station, and a few days exploring Devon and Cornwall.

Our spring holidays continued, with visits to San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Arizona before they were out of high school and far too cool old to travel with their mother. It was great fun to share some of my favorite places with my own spawn.

Arriving in Istanbul early Thursday morning, The Boy and i made it through the airport and found our driver at baggage claim. The Girl had arrived Wednesday, and was waiting at the hotel. After a short siesta, we headed out into the city.

Although she complains that after living in the country for six months, her Turkish should be better, The Girl is out front this time. Ordering meals, explaining the history of the Turks, navigating from a map in her iPod, translating ancient Ottoman hieroglyphics.

And teaching us important words and phrases…

“Hello”

“Good Morning”

“Thank You”

“Three beers, please”

Tonight, at the Grand Bazaar, The Boy fell in love with an incredibly goofy lovely hat. Taking advantage of closing time, and her newly acquired skills, she was able to haggle with the vendor. From his original offer of 110 Turkish Lire, she got him down to 70. And The Boy joyfully collected his wares.

Tomorrow? Another day out. Since it will be raining, she’s taking us to the Blue Mosque, and then off to see the art museums on the Asian side of the city.

i will continue to follow behind like a duckling. Practicing my new vocabulary. Eyes wide open. Taking it all in.

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