Well, my friend, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but this week there will be no baby dolls, no flower garden, no road trips with the boys, no autumn leaves, no memories of Sunday School, no home-cooked meals at the kitchen table. Reality has shattered the domestic bliss of my household at this most highly divisive time in our country, and I can't deny that I have never been more politicized in my life. In truth, I've gone a little mad.
Last Wednesday, we received notice from the U.S. Army that my son, turned 20 in September, is to be deployed to Iraq. He's off training now at an out-of-state Army base. We're told he will return home around Nov. 17 and can expect to ship out a week to 10 days after that. A reservist, he's ordered to 260 days active duty.
We've begun frantically sending letters, photos, books, good luck tokens, anything we can give him to see him through. I imagine him strong and resolved though I haven't spoken to him. He has been preparing for military duty since he was 17, the summer before his senior year in high school, but really since long before that. He has always been part soldier. I respect and deeply love that about him.
Past the initial weeping stage, I am now in the stage of obsessively channeling love and prayers and hope to my son. And I am enmeshed in a quagmire of anger and despair I cannot shake. It's not my son or his convictions or even the actions he will take in the service of his country that are irreconcilable to me. It's the disastrous failure of leadership under President George W. Bush that I cannot ignore.
I don't need to revisit the American-wrought tragedy in Iraq that has made the world a more dangerous place since we invaded. You've heard it all. And don't talk to me about 9/11. I see another 9/11 in every month that passes in Iraq.
I can only conclude that any thinking person, at this point, will weigh the evidence and go to the polls determined to put a new commander in chief in the White House. This one, by any standards, deserves to be fired, as does the secretary of defense.
But this week, I have heard voting stories that make my skin crawl. One friend told me about a co-worker who said that she didn't really like Bush much, but she just couldn't bring herself to vote for Kerry because she couldn't stand Teresa Heinz Kerry. Teresa, she said, was a loose cannon who said whatever was on her mind. What if she said something offensive and embarrassed the United States in front of the rest of the world? Imagine America offending the rest of the world or being embarrassed in the face of the international community.
When I hear stories like this, my heart breaks at their utter lack of seriousness. At the same time, over the past few weeks, more than any other time in my life, I have read articulate, serious testimonials, from friends and strangers alike, explaining why we so desperately need a change of direction in the leadership of this country. I have witnessed a seriousness about the election that humbles me and gives me faith.
A few years back, I wrote a Domestic Bliss column about lying on the frozen grass in my back yard, watching the eclipse of the moon with my three sons. We huddled under blankets and sang moon songs, waiting for the darkness to come. The oldest, the one now preparing to go to Iraq, went inside and brought out pillows for all of us. He was always an expert at nesting, the kind of kid who bundled himself in tents and blankets, sheltering himself from the night.
Tonight, I will ask my two sons remaining at home to watch the eclipse with me. We will watch together as the moonlight fades and the face of the moon turns dark and crimson. We might speak of it and we might not, but we will all be sending our thoughts across the plains to the deep woods of Missouri, to our soldier, wondering if he, too, is watching as the earth moves between the moon and the sun, momentarily blotting out the light.
I know the light will reappear in the October sky, and I pray it will reappear come Election Day, next Tuesday.