Wednesday, September 5, 2012
What I Should Have Said to Evan
Thanks to my youngest brother's visit last weekend, our Labor Day festivities were extra special! Evan has been in the Army for about a year now, and he's been stationed in Tacoma, Washington since the spring. He is a well-trained infantryman, and from what I can gather, he has one of the Army's most dangerous jobs. He goes in first. No fear, all guts. I was very afraid that when he came home he'd be all hard and scary. But he wasn't. He was....grown up, confident, and eager - just all around mature. It was weird to see him that way, because he's always been so little to me, but now he's larger than life.
We had the luxury of spending every day with him during his long weekend leave. After my parents picked him up from the airport, they brought him straight to our house! He met Margot for the first time and played with Sylvia, who must have seemed twice as big as the last time he saw her. We all met for dinner at Dad's house on Friday, then again on Saturday with the extended family and lots of friends. On Sunday, we had some people over to our house to watch the UK game (what a bust, it's gonna be a long season) and on Monday we went to the airport to say goodbye. I feel so fortunate to have spent so much time with him, but this weekend seemed to just slip right by us and I found myself clinging to him extra tightly on Monday afternoon. I made sure to pay attention to his shoulders when we hugged. They're so much higher now than they ever used to be. And I put my hand on the back of his head, trying so hard to say all the things I thought I'd be able to say, but only getting out the words, "I love you so much," and "Be careful."
You see, Monday was extra hard because this fall, he'll begin his first (and I pray ONLY) tour of duty in Afghanistan. Writing those words sends chills up my spine. I'm so excited for him and so, so scared. I know it's what he wants. I know he is well trained. I know that nine months will fly by. Speaking of a nine month deployment - I think the only thing scarier than waiting for a baby to be born would be waiting for your baby brother to come back. All this time, I've been so glad that our troops are leaving that place, but as soon as I heard he was going to AFGHANISTAN I wanted to shout "WAIT!!!!!!! Everybody go BAAAAACK! Get back over there! Evan's on his way now, so every single soldier who ever left needs to go back and make it safer for my little brother, okay? Thanks." The rational side of my brain knows that he can take care of himself, but the crazy emotional side of my brain thinks, "How in the world will he survive without any of us there to take care of him?"
On Friday night, he and I were pushing Sylvia in the swing in the backyard. We were talking about his deployment and he said that when he gets back from Afghanistan, he plans to spend most of his time in that backyard. I think that's a really good plan. I wanted to tell him, "Look at Sylvia's face. Look at how happy and content she is to sit in a swing and stare at the trees and feel the breeze in her hair. When you get homesick, and you will; when things get tough, and they will; when war gets messy, and it most certainly will; just close your eyes and think about pushing Sylvia on a pink plastic swing in the backyard. Listen for the crickets and the cat climbing the swing set. Swat the mosquitoes away from your skin and let your eyes land on that little girl's smile. Know that what you are doing is for her. For me. For all of us here who love you so, so much. You'll be there and we'll be here, but you can feel us and we can feel you. When your nine months are over, I expect to find you here. Ready to push a swing and drink a beer and chat with your sister." That's what I should have said. But I think all I said was, "We'll miss you, Ev." And that's the truth, too.