Didn’t Think I’d Cry - By Martha Blakeman
A few months ago I watched Jake Rademacher’s documentary “Brothers at War”. His hometown is
Viewing his journey to find the reason behind two of his brothers’ service with the U.S. Army in
One facet of the story I made mental note of is the probable effect on parents having multiple children serving. Since the release of Jake’s movie a younger sister has graduated from Basic Training, bringing the number of his siblings serving to three out of six. When I heard this I thought, “Wow. That’s a lot of worry to spread around.”
This particular worry is familiar to me. My oldest daughter joined the Illinois Army National Guard at 17 and works full-time at
Future deployment for either is always a possibility.
When I read of Jake’s sister following her brothers, my thoughts immediately went to his mother and father. As I said, “Wow.” At one point two of their children were in theater, and now technically, they have the possibility of three. I didn’t know if I could ever grasp that depth of emotion.
As of now, I believe I have a fairly good concept.
Several days ago the younger of my two daughters (my only children) followed in her sister’s stead and was sworn into the Illinois Army National Guard. She had talked about the possibility for some time, so this was nothing unexpected. It’s what she wanted, she’d thought it through. It was by no means a rash decision.
On Wednesday of that particular week her recruiter took her to
I had considered myself prepared; maybe not so much. I didn’t think I’d cry.
Upon learning of her completed mission, the malady which had proven my nemesis most of those two days subsided-for about twenty seconds. Reality settled upon me and the cycle began anew: head, stomach, out of sync. She passed. I wanted her to, really I did. I hated to think of the blow to her self-esteem if by some quirk of fate she had not. It would have been devastating. Yet, lurking deep inside was a teensy voice that said, “Damn. She passed.”
I’m excessively proud of my girls, don’t misunderstand. What an honor to have both my children serve their country. Still, that knowledge didn’t help the overall feeling of anxiousness.
It took me a couple of days to identify the root of what was leaving me bereft, besides the obvious; I’m not oblivious to the fact it is the Army and we are engaged in a war. Yet, somehow I knew that wasn’t all that was affecting me. Then, as I was talking to the love of her life about his feelings, the proverbial light clicked on.
When my oldest joined (she’s 9 years older than her sis) I had the youngest left on “my side”, the civilian side. The one that has no idea what my daughter is talking about, and could not possibly comprehend the job she does. Their world is alien to the rest of us; she provided a kindred spirit in my alien status.
Yet, our alliance was being removed from the equation and this frightened me. Suddenly I felt more alone than I had in a very long time.
Through the years I never addressed the element of detachment I felt from my elder child’s life.With my youngest as my comrade, we could turn to each other and feel content in our ignorance.Given both my children would now be living lives so foreign to anything I’m accustomed, the time had come.
Laughingly, I told my girls I would “now have two children I couldn’t understand”, though the truth of that is of epic proportion. With this realization, and in order to maintain some semblance of future sanity, I expressed my fears to my girls.
For lack of perhaps a more eloquent explanation, I told my oldest I felt like I was losing her sister to her realm. In response, she offered up her understanding: “As soldiers, we live in a different world. It’s a world in which, unless you’ve been in residence, you can’t quite comprehend.”
Those may not have been her exact words, but the impact is the same. No matter what, I will forever be out of the loop.
I told my girl, “I know you get irritated with me when I ask you questions, but I want to have some understanding so I feel closer to you.” So, I asked (for probably the 10th time) what her drill unit was. “Mom, you don’t need to know that stuff.”
I turned and said, “But I want to.” She smiled. “Joint Forces Headquarters”
Given the nearing departure of my newest solider, I’ve made a conscious effort to spend more time together. This past weekend as we were traveling I commented, “Will you try to be patient with me when I ask you questions? I talked to your sis and she said she was going to do her best.”
“I’ll try, mom.” And she smiled.
I thought I was prepared; maybe not. I really didn’t think I’d cry.