A busy mother worries on the homefront
By Jane Flanagan
Recently, while traveling, I met a woman whose life could not be more different than mine, or just about anyone I know. Her son, a 22-year-old sergeant, just completed two tours in Iraq. Her son-in-law was, at that moment, headed over, and her daughter, the mother of two small boys, could be called up at any moment. I met this woman at a hotel on Lake George, where she worked at a kids camp.
We were sitting in the playroom, watching my 6-year-old son and other boys play with toy soldiers. I mentioned how my son always seemed drawn to them. She said that yes, she understood. It was then she told me what her grown children were up to.
Soon, she started showing me pictures of her handsome kids, including one of her son that was taken in Iraq. She told me about a family group she started that met once a month. Along with collecting items to ship to the soldiers, it was also a support group. Sometimes at the meetings, people would try and interject political discussion, but she would not allow it. She said she respected that everyone had a right to their feelings and opinions but that it was not the place.
I understood her policy completely. While I cant imagine the degree of fear and dread this woman lives with every day, I vividly recall the closest Ive come to it. It was on 9/11. On that morning I was two blocks from the World Trade Center with my then 3-year-old son. It was a terror like none I had ever known. And in the days, weeks and months afterward, I was unable to discuss politics in any way. Every ounce of energy was devoted to getting through the day.
I also remember desperately needing to believe the country was behind me. In fact, although never a fan of the current administration, I rose to my feet and cheered during President Bushs address to Congress a week later. And I told friends, We are all Americans now.
Its the way I felt then and how I got through that horrible time. I put one foot in front of the other and was grateful to the country for rallying around me. Friends from all over the nation telephoned their support and it made a difference.
I met this military mom on a Friday afternoon. That weekend she was planning to have a sit down talk with her daughter. From what I gathered, the daughter would have an option to waive a call-up notice, because her husband was already deployed and she had young children. But this mother had a feeling her daughter would go if called. My kids have a burning in them, they cant sit back, she said. If her daughter went, this woman would have to stop working and care for her grandchildren full-time, which she was fully prepared to do.
In addition to the kids camp, this woman also drove a bus, shuttling guests to and from airports and around the grounds. While no doubt the money came in handy, its not the reason she worked two jobs.
I have to, she said.
That evening at the hotel, my son and I waved down a shuttle bus and as it approached he said excitedly, Its the lady from the kids camp. We climbed in and took our seats behind her as she told me the news. I had the talk with my daughter. Its as I thought. She will go.
When I first met this woman, one of the things that struck me was how outgoing and upbeat she seemed. I remember being so surprised to learn that her children were in Iraq. But when she showed me the pictures of her family, tears broke through.
I wake up every day with death, she said. Then she apologized. Im sorry to be telling all of this to you.
And I thought I should be apologizing to you.
My feelings after 9/11 were mild compared to the daily terror this woman must live with. Daily, she faces the fear of something happening at any minute, day or night, to her children who are in harms way far away. Yet, because her life is so different than mine, or anyone I know, I cant help but wonder how lonely she must feel.