Andy came thru the sugery with flying colors...he should have full use of his neck and that "blasted" brace is gone. Can I get an AMEN to that?! :) He is resting.
Thanks be to the Lord.
As you may have noticed, Daddy and I deal with stuff by writing it down. It's a therapy of sorts, I guess you could say. I have spent my life believing that the stories of our lives hold immeasurable value--that our stories are woven together in a tapestry that extend down through the course of time and that there are things to be learned from every story and every experience. We are not simple observers...we are each characters in every story, to varying degrees.
All the world is a stage...and all that.
That's what "Love Letters Illustrated" was about before Andy became the focus. Preserving the stories...
With that in mind, I'm dividing the rest of this post into two sections. Here's part one of some random, back-story thoughts that I've been writing:
The term "Wounded Warriors" is common-place at Walter Reed Army Medical. It's on the walls, on the signs, used by the caregivers and staff and is even found on t-shirts and mugs. The first time I saw it on the WR website, it hit me in the chest like a load of bricks. It just seems like those two words are the most unlikely pairing of words imaginable.
While I understand cognitively that Andy is wounded, as his sister--particularly his older sister--I have trouble (still) with the warrior part of that phrase applying to him. I saw the film at his bootcamp graduation 2 years ago showing clips of his class preparing to fight a war--preparing their minds with the strategies and equipment of war and training their physical bodies for the rigors of combat. It was not particularly graphic, but it was very personal as even to me, they seemed so very young. Thoughts plaugued the back of my head like flies...do they really know what they are getting in to, I wondered. Do I really know what he's getting into? Probably not.
Andy is 13 years younger than me so in some ways I still have some motherly feelings towards him. He's 6' 3" now and weighs about 190 but when I say "he's my little brother" it's mostly because that's how I think of him. He was 5 when I got married and in some ways he "got stuck" in my head as that cute 5 year old boy with the flaming crazy red hair who would go and go and go until he just crashed out. When Andy ran out of gas, he would simply sleep, wherever that happened to be. My mom has a picture of him asleep in the dirt under a tire swing...that's just how he has always been. He goes full-tilt.
On that hot day in June 2006, as we gatherred in Lawton to witness his bootcamp graduation, I cried sweet tears of pride for his first real Army accomplishment, while at the same time I pushed away the fear that had started growing on Thanksgiving Day the year before by telling myself "he's going to be a medic".
My brother will be the medic.
He will jump out of the belly of a plane wearing a parachute for kicks but his main job will be to patch up broken soldiers. He will be the Band-Aid Boy. (Sometimes older sisters have the right and responsibility to be disrespectful, right?)
He's a medic.
He's a medic.
He's a medic.
This was the mantra I clung to. And then the photos started to come in via his myspace page and his facebook page. You know me...I craved photos. His first assignment was Italy. "The photos will be so cool", I thought. He will visit Venice and Rome and spend his downtime enjoying being abroad. He did those things...he even surprised me with photos from a snowboarding trip in the Alps, but he also started sending back photos of his men.
Other soldiers...groups of soldiers.
On tanks, with big guns.
And progressively, the guns got bigger and bigger.
The smile on his face changed...and then finally disappeared altogether.
No more smiles.
No more Italian sights.
As his crew was deployed into Afghanistan the photos slowed and each new one that did appear, showed somber serious, grown-up Andy with other somber, serious grown-up guys and guns that looked way too big for one to carry while being a "band-aid boy".
My image of him as a medic wasn't withstanding the test of time very well. I wanted to think that his guys would protect him because they needed him. I knew in my head that I wasn't getting the real picture of all he was doing. I felt like a slackard sister for being content to wallow in my lack of accurate knowledge. I was afraid to ask and Andy didn't volunteer. Our IM sessions were jagged. I wanted to know he was OK...but we couldn't get past the small talk. Whether that was for his security or for my lack of guts, I just don't know.
I don't blame him--I know he thought he was protecting all of us by keeping quiet about his "job" and the inherrent dangers. I have a feeling that this is a common theme among Army families and maybe it's not completely unjustified. Maybe he needed to feel like he was protecting us from the knowledge of things that we have no ability to process.
I think I knew that there was more going on than Band-Aids by his first visit home. I knew but I didn't ask him to confirm it. Denial can be a very cozy place.