As I stand on the front porch, watching them on the sidewalk, it strikes me I am performing an age-old female ritual: I am sending the men off to war.
He’s my great-nephew, and his dad is about to drive him to the airport, for a return flight to the base where he is stationed.
He’s just a few months shy of 20, and it sounds like he’s doing a great job at his post on the other side of the country. He’s been a Marine for more than two years now, and if you know him, you know how smart and personable he is.
He’s scheduled to be deployed to the Middle East in about six months. He seems to be taking it in stride and even to be looking forward to it. I guess for a young man (no names, please, we’re military, to paraphrase the old British gag) — I guess it would be exciting.
For me, as I linger on the porch, I notice that I haven’t gone back inside and shut the door. Instead, I am standing still, not speaking, standing watch in an odd but unmistakable way. That’s when I think of how many centuries of women have stood watching and waiting.
The men linger there quietly talking, smoking, commenting on how warm it is for a winter day. His dad observes it feels almost as if a hurricane is brewing, as the wind from the west stiffens.
But this is January, the first day of the new year, so there will be no hurricanes. They’ll drive to the airport, about 50 miles from here, and he’ll be gone until his next leave.
And maybe by then we won’t be fighting wars on distant continents. Perhaps … I can’t even think that far ahead in these days when our president has, and then has not, decided to do whatever he will do next about Syria, immigrants, the so-called war on terror and a bunch of other stuff. Right now, I just can’t think about any of it.
They finish their cigarettes and walk to the garage, take the Subaru out and are gone. Dad has his eyes on the road; son is leaning back, his eyes closed, likely to slip into another short sleep before the airport. They don’t look back.
I return to the house, clear the table, clean up the breakfast dishes. The day and the year stretch ahead. May it bring us all, as I like to say, good health, good friends, good fortune. And I add, safety and some sanity. Peace and justice. Compassion and perhaps some wisdom, while there is still time for this old world of ours.