4 Pairs of socks

My son and I have a special language we share around the issue of deployment.

It involves his sock drawer.

When I know we are getting close to the time, I ask him, “how many pairs of clean socks do you have today?”

I knew we were getting close before I even asked the question this day.

“Around 4 pairs mom”.  I know that I’m not allowed an accurate count, but it gives me a “range”.

He’s barely been back in the states and already he is returning to a place that doesn’t want him there.

Since he returned, there have been unspeakable losses on both “sides”.

Barely home 12 hours, he learned of the tragic loss of a friend and several other peers.  An “accident”.

The news had little to report regarding the deaths of other mother’s children that day.

Because I understand the importance of his military family, and honor my place as 2nd to that family, I felt that he was sucker punched twice that evening.  The first time for the loss itself, the 2nd punch because he was here visiting me as an obligation prior to returning.  Here to comfort “me”, take care of  my needs, rather than being near friends who could properly  share his grief.

We drank a lot of coffee the morning after.  We communicated the loss and the grief in our silence with each other.

I asked him “will this make a difference when you are looking to re-enlist next year?”

He replied that it would, but stated it could go “either way”.

Barely one week later and back in the arms of his military family he got the news that a mentor of his had been killed.  Taken from his mother, his wife and his children and taken from two communities who loved and respected him.

Each week I read the names of the dead.  I read where they were from, and take a moment to just “sit” with the loss of someone else’s child, and then I release it with a special prayer for her/his mother and father.

Until now most military mental health research has focused on the effects of deployment on the soldier. Finally attention is being given to the deleterious effects of deployment on those left behind, spouses and children.  Progress.

But there are mothers, fathers, grandparents, adult sisters and brothers aren’t included in the research.  Where is our support going to come from?

By the time that I post this entry, we’ll be down to fewer or no socks.  The cycle will begin again.

Trader Joes for tuna curry, bed bath and beyond for his favorite coffee pods, a note of encouragement that makes me sound so much stronger than I am.  Ending with standing in line at the post office where I will hand the package over to the person across the counter and state:  “I am the proud mother of a member of the United States military, please handle this with care”.

Healing prayers this week for the family of  the fallen.


Top 5 stupid things people said to me when they heard my son was enlisting 5 years ago::

  1. Why?
  2. When will he get out?
  3. I don’t believe in war.
  4. How could you let him do that?
  5. Will he have to move to the middle east?

People meant well, but in the field (psychotherapy) that I currently work in, people’s children don’t just decide to enlist in the armed services.  I couldn’t breath when he called to tell me.  I had just announced my engagement.  Perhaps this was the “permission” he needed from me to move forward with a decision he had contemplated since high school.

This blog is my attempt to stay in the present moment during a difficult time for all military families.

No more projecting forward into “worst case” scenarios at every deployment.   No more anger towards the powers in Washington who can’t feel the pain of a million mililtary mothers.

I am the proud mother of a member of the United States military.  This is my answer to all of the questions above, you freaking idiots.