Sunday, November 18, 2012

Calling Home

[Mike sent this to me and asked me to post. It's a soldier's story (his), from Afghanistan.]

Yes! I can finally call home…

There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to call home when I can afford the time. Phones and Internet access, for those who don’t know, get turned off in a way that is unpredictable. It always seems to be at the time I either have the time to call or am in dire need of hearing my wife’s voice, or, oftentimes, a combination of the two. The brief moment I can call is what gets me through the day sometimes, and it is crushing when a perfectly fine phone and computer are just sitting there and I can’t use them.

I work hard throughout the day, the night, and the wee-morning hours. It never stops. There’s never a lack of problems, whether my own or somebody else’s, and the problems never stop coming.  There’s no procrastinating…problems have to be addressed and solved regardless of the time of day or day of week. This is a nine-month-long workweek and it is a workweek where you get the joy of working all shifts. And when all I want is to hear my wife’s voice and the voices’ of my children, is it too much to ask for the damn phone or Internet to work?

Of course, I would prefer to rest my head on my wife’s shoulder as she sleeps, like I ordinarily do before I depart for the day. At 515 in the morning, the house is silent. I can hear her breathing and feel the gentle rise and lowering of her shoulder as she takes in and expels air. In those few seconds, I feel secure and absolutely sure that everything is right in the world. I can’t do that now and I have to rely on those too brief phone calls to be reassured that, despite all the craziness of life and all the frustrations I am faced with throughout the day, all will be right in the world.

Thankfully, the outages can’t last forever. They turn the phones and the Internet back on and I will make the time to call and hear her voice. I can hear about the craziness of her day and the funny things my kids said or the trouble they got into. I will finally get that sense that everything is right in the world again.

Life is filled with little doses of reality that seem to strike you at the most unexpected moments. Like when the phone and the Internet come back on. They are turned on because somebody back home completed another ‘successful’ notification of a family member that their loved one will never call home again, they’ll never IM over Facebook, they’ll never see them again on Skype.

As I dial the phone I am struck with an overwhelming feeling of guilt. I will get to talk with my family tonight and even hear from my kids about the crazy things each of them are doing. But some family somewhere, some kids maybe, will never get to do that again. I wonder what their Thanksgiving will be like. What will they find in their lives that they can be thankful for?

I can’t be home on Thanksgiving with my family. I accept that. It is a sacrifice I knew I might have to make ever since I left home as an 18-year-old for a career in the military. But in all likelihood I will be able to call or maybe Skype or, at the very least, send a nice note that my wife can read when they sit down to eat. But what about that other family who’ll have an empty seat at the table for Thanksgiving that will never be filled again?

I am calling home. I will hear my wife’s voice and in a moment I will get that sense that all is right in the world. But below the surface, and imperceptible in my voice, will be that oppressing feeling of guilt that all might be right in my world even though someone else’s world has been shattered.