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Hopefully I didn't wait too long to repost this entry from last year...
Vietnam veteran and author John Harriman returns to Mudville with the eighth installment of his series Warrior to Warrior, letters from a Vietnam veteran to our soldiers in Iraq. See the intro to the series here).
Don't Blunder into Mother's Day
Dear Warrior . . .
Here's my Mother's Day message to all our uniformed men in Iraq. A warning, actually.
First the situation: Your wife, the mother of your children, asks you via letter, e-mail or phone, "What are you going to get me for Mother's Day?"
Next the advice: Do not blunder with your reply, as in, "What are you talking about? You're not my mother."
I know a guy who said that. I'm not allowed to be his friend anymore.
If you ever do feel an urge to say, "You're not my mother," tell it to the first sergeant. Never speak the phrase to the mother of your children. Got it?
Good, good. Now a personal war story. On my second Vietnam tour, I set out for Montana and arrived home in the dead of winter.
Sometime after midnight the temperature dropped to 40 below, a 125-degree swing from the 85 of Vietnam. This was January 14, 1972. You could look it up.
The reason I know the date so well is because it's the birth date of our third child.
The hometown doc knew I was back from Vietnam on leave, so he discharged my wife after a day in the hospital. This I remember with great joy.
All else is a blur of memory. We had children. Three, I think. Yes, three, as I recall, all under the age of four, by their birth records.
The two older children seemed nice enough. Happy, I think, even boisterous. And busy, very busy. Clingy, too. I remember the three-year-old and the one-year-old were very attached to their parents. In the sense that an octopus gets attached to a dead mackeral.
The youngest, the newborn, the infant was on a timer. You could set your watch by her diaper changes and feedings and crankiness--if you could open your eyes long enough to see the face of your watch. I think her cycle was about 20 minutes, yes, a feeding every 20 minutes.
Toward the end of my leave, I remember waking from a nightmare at 3 a.m. or so, the infant in my lap, an empty bottle still in her mouth. Both of us were soaked, and it wasn't spilt milk.
I propped this glorious child on my shoulder and coaxed a burp from her. It was a wet and wild sound I did not hear again until my son was 14, the age where he and his soccer team would each eat four burgers and drink two super-sized colas and fill the air with the sounds of bull elephants trumpeting their dominance over each other.
I changed my infant daughter's diaper and hugged her to me, worried. Worried that my wife, just days from now, would have sole care of these three children who had worn down both of us in only a week of leave.
I got to go back to Vietnam, where I could regain consciousness and get a night's sleep. She had to remain in Montana, locked in winter, locked inside that apartment.
I don't know how she did it. She herself certainly doesn't remember how--another of those blurs of memory. But, years later, the one time I said the words, "You're not my mother," something snapped in her. She made me very afraid.
And I felt ashamed that I said those words. Ashamed that I gave so little thought to her role.
Think about it. When you're away, you're not the only one in your family serving our country. Your wife, the mother of your children, is serving it as well by clearing the decks so you can serve better. She gets so little thanks for that role. She deserves better.
The least you can do is remember her on Mother's Day. And the worst? Well, now you know.
Till next week . . .
God bless you and Godspeed.
John is a veteran of two combat tours in Vietnam and a member of the American Legion. These columns are excerpts from an upcoming book. His current book, Delta Force #1 : Operation Michael's Sword is a fictional account of the 9/11 attacks and the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom.
(Original post 2005-05-04 20:10:19)
What a great anecdote. You know, it would never cross my mind that a guy would even think those words for the mother of their children. I have 8 siblings and I can tell you that my Dad bowed at the altar of Mother's Day for my Mom.Posted by Toni at May 5, 2005 01:17 AM
I've never forgotten an anniversary, birthday, or Mother's Day in 39 years of marriage and five overseas tours, two of them unaccompanied. Lord help me if I ever do! I sympathize with the "new father", even if it was his third. I think I saw my new daughter a total of 29 days in the first 13 months of her life. You regret missing those times...
I can also understand the trauma of plopping down in Montana after Vietnam: I left Panama in December in 1968, with the temp 106+. We landed in Mexico City at 2:30 in the morning, and it was COLD. I got to Denver at 5:30 in the evening, and there was a major snowstorm in progress, and I was still in summer uniform! It all counts for twenty...Posted by Old Patriot at May 5, 2005 06:05 AM
What he said.Posted by ArmyWifeToddlerMom at May 5, 2005 03:56 PM
"The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world."Posted by THIRDWAVEDAVE at May 7, 2005 06:57 AM
Sometimes us guys can be sort of dumb. I think the man who said that was the brother of a guy who I worked with at Loring AFB. After morning sickness, and three weeks of his wife saying "I'm fat," and he replying 'you're not fat, you're pregnant.' He gave in to the dark side one cold Maine evening and said "okay I give up you are fat."
He slept at my place for two weeks till we were able to get it all sorted out.
God bless the ladies who wait, where would we be, and what would we be without those saints among us.
John is wise beyond his years! Heed this advice!!
Your baby's momma is on call 365/24/7!
God bless the men that bless the women that raise the boys to be the men whom turn around to bless them. :)Posted by Rosemary at May 11, 2006 09:33 PM
""You're not my mother," "......men have lost important body appendages for less......Posted by Edward Lunny at May 11, 2006 11:56 PM
And never, NEVER fall for the "it's OK... it's not that big a deal. You don't have to get me anything" bait.
I cannot state it plainly enough: that statement is a lie, and a trap, and the woman uttering it is engaged in a mendacious ploy. In the event your spouse utters those words, you should absolutely come up with something over-the-top and creative.
It was my mistake to take my professional "career woman" wife at her word when she uttered that phrase (she'd never lied to me before... why wouldn't I believe her?)
Do. NOT. Make. The. Same. Mistake.Posted by TheNewGuy at May 12, 2006 02:53 PM
Of course a quick thinking NAVY man who had uttered, "You're not my Mother..." would have quickly followed up with, "you are the beautiful woman who is the mother to my children, the mother that holds this family together while I am away, the mother who makes this place a home for the children and me to come home to and most of all, you are the mother who is raising children I am proud of and for all your efforts you go through while I am away, I love you all the more. You're not my mother, but you mean the world to me and the children we had together to make "us" a family. Thank you my beloved and Happy Mother's Day!
USN 1981 (didn't know that did ya, thought I was
LIBERAL WEENIE?) HA!
A statistically independent event