March 4, 2012

We Salute You.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , at 5:13 am by openendedcomment

Last night, my husband and I took our eldest two to see “Act of Valor.”  I’d seen the previews and was curious after reading that actual Naval Seals were among the cast. My husband was all in because the previews promised explosions and all sorts of cool “toys.”

Dog was at our neighbor/cousin’s home and Captain America was at a sleep over with a fellow boy-scout.  As we had deemed the absent two too young for the rating,  we took advantage of the opportunity to view said film without having to hire a sitter,

Girl child was not pleased with our decision. She had zero interest in a film dedicated to “boy stuff” and had a huge chip on her shoulder as her plans for the night had fallen through.   Our eldest son, as is his way, was happy to go to/see wherever and whatever Dad thought was a good idea.

Four tickets, four sodas, one extra-large with butter popcorn, three treats, one random twelve-year-old boy trying to pick the Girl up in the concession line, one Dad threatening one twelve-year-old boy later, and we were finally seated.

…two hours passed.  For two hours Girl had stared with rapt attention at something she had never seen before.  Our son, in a total departure from his normal state, was motionless.  My husband, stoic and silent, reached for my hand.

We were, in simplest terms, humbled.  In a silent theatre we wept.  Every. Last. One of Us. Not only my four…the theatre.  Not a dry eye.

We were not moved by the way in which lines were delivered, nor were we blown away by special effects.  It was more pervasive than that.  It was the eyes of the men on that screen who had been there and may go yet again.  It was the simple and staggering courage depicted which spoke more eloquently and stirred our souls in a way no perfectly crafted actor could ever dream to do.

It was real.  It was raw. And even the most jaded pubescent mouth was shut by sheer awe.  They’d had no idea. But then how could they?  They have not known this war, not really.  They’ve been raised with it but have never felt it.  It is not like other wars.

This is not our grandparent’s war. In their time, in their war, almost everyone had an immediate family member that went off to fight for Freedom. In our parent’s war they all had a friend or a cousin who had had a draft number that was too low.  In their wars, all were touched. Today, in our war, that is not the case. Today many of us only know of soldiers.  Today, we see it on the news in a way that makes the fighting, the danger; the sacrifice and the substance seem somehow less real.  Less personal.  My children, until now, knew no-one that had been a part of it all.

Our middle child, Dog,  plays hockey.  My husband coaches.  He is one of three Fathers that do. One is a Doctor and the other a Teacher.  On Tuesday, the Teacher goes to War.  Again. Our children, Dog and his team-mates, it’s as thought they’re not sure how to process this.  They want to send him care packages and videos and emails…and of course we parents will help them to do all three…but Dog has asked some difficult questions, too.  He wants to know that Coach will be safe.  Coach is (thank God) from what I’ve been told, in a very safe area.  I have iterated this to my sweet boy what seems like a million times.  But still, he worries.  He’s never known anyone who went to War and he loves his Coach.  We all love Coach.

Coach is a Father of four.  He is dedicated and driven and has been a blessing to all of our boys over the past two years.  He is a Husband, and his wife is…well, you know those people around whom you just feel…lesser and as though you need to try harder all at the same time?  Not because they say or do anything to make you feel that way, but because you know deep down that they are just a better human being?  She’s that woman.  All you can do is like her.  They were college sweet-hearts. They still hold hands.

He leaves so soon and she is so calm.  My God; they are so good.  Last night, in that silent theatre as names of Seals we have lost since that cruel September Day rolled over the screen, and as the tears fell from my eyes and the eyes of hundreds of strangers around me…the thought was as clear as the New York sky that fateful morning before our world changed.

I owe them so much.

My daughter was 2 that day. My youngest not yet born and my other sons not yet mine. If not for those men; those women…this man…this woman…would I lead the life I live?

I owe them everything. We owe them everything.

My children learned last night.  They were taught a lesson I’ve never had the power to convey. The Girl had a million questions as we filed out of that silent theatre. She was assured that Coach’s role was and is nothing like what she had just seen, as we passed Veterans quietly nodding and whispering to their companions that yes, what they’d just seen was all correct and no, it was not dramatized. If anything, they had chosen not to portray some things that could be hard, for we who do not see with their eyes, to comprehend.

The Eldest, my sweet son who sees only the good in everything around him, he knew somehow how to move through all of the questions swirling through our heads to the thought that rose above them all.  As he passed a man wearing his Navy Hat, leaning on his cane, though he was younger than my husband…”Sir, is it OK if I say thank you?”  He said this shyly; nervous as he raised his hand to a salute.  He is the best of me.

Coach D, if you should ever happen to stumble upon this, we pray for you, we are proud to know you and we salute you.