I just talked to my brother, Travis. He is currently stationed in Iraq, on a Coast Guard ship patrolling the Gulf against belligerant Iraqi gunboats looking to blow up the oil derricks. At least that's what he can tell me. I suspect there may be more to it.
They are out for 21-day cruises, then they come back into dry land for 6 days. He is currently in Bahrain, enjoying his short stint of freedom.
I love talking to him, but as much as he entertains me with funny stories, we have been ignoring the big white elephant - how we both are handling what life has chucked at us.
I want to know how he's doing being so far from home for so long. How he's doing being on the front lines of a war. A WAR, people! I don't care how grown up he thinks he is being married with a child, he's my little brother. The one I cut out of a tree. The one that busted my head open by body slamming me into the couch. The one I locked out of the house when he wouldn't take out the trash, so he threw a rock at me and broke the front door and I got in trouble while he ran off into the woods to hide with a bag in which he'd packed a handful of Tootsie Rolls and clean underwear. The one that took Jessica and Kelli to the beach and taught them to boogie-board and the fun of an underwater camera. The one that taught Jessica how to drive a go-cart. The one that did donuts on the jetski until Kelli flew off, and she came up sputtering and demanding "Do it again, Uncle Travis!"
The one that put on his dress blues, white hat and gloves and carried Jessica's coffin to the limo, and never once stumbled through his tears.
He wants to know how I'm doing, facing the rest of my life without two of my children. He wants to make sure Sugar is treating me right. He wants to make sure I'm treating myself right. Am I ready to go back to work? He wants to know how Maddy is handling things, and would she like to come to California when he comes home (Um, I'm going to go with Hell Yeah on that one).
He told me today that he wears a patch on his Kevlar vest which has three roses and the girls' names on it. When he gets back, he's going to give it to me.
Today we finally talked about all this, and he started to cry. I had to go in an empty office so I could cry too. He cried because he's tired of being there, and he misses his family and he wants to come home. I cried because I miss him and I want him to come home, too. We cried because the girls are gone. We both sat on the floor, leaned our heads against the walls and cried into our phones, wishing we were half a foot away from each other instead of half a world away.