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3 Homefront Adjustments
Not About Me
When children call, mom answers. When a son-in-law calls, mom answers the call.
My daughter is being deployed to Afghanistan. Can I come to Texas and help with the children? Of course I can (gulp).
First I must maintain perspective. The call for help is not the worst call a parent can answer. I've had one of those, and this call pales in comparison. I tell myself this situation is not about me. This situation is about my four small grandchildren ranging in age from three to seven. This call is about my daughter who is serving her country and must also keep her children safe, happy and loved.
When and for how long? We know approximately when and approximately for how long. The military life is not exact dates until the day before. We establish a start date, we can't establish an end date. I tell my spouse, "I will let you know. Carry on."
It is not like I have a job. I'm retired. It is not like I have social commitments or volunteer work at the homeless shelter. It is not that I enjoy peace and quiet, walking under the trees, reading my book. I have no real reason not to fly to El Paso and stay with my grandchildren for months. I must move beyond what I like. It is not about me.
The first adjustment is to understand that family really does come first. I am able to delay my own small pleasures, my own kitchen, my own bed, trees on the mountains and grass in the yard.
I ask, "Am I able to hook my computer up to your internet?" In what world did I visualize having the time or the energy to work on the computer?
I ask, "Is there someone who can drive the children to their activities?" I visualize driving around lost in El Paso until I end up in Mexico and the children are kidnapped and held ransom.
"Will you pick me up at the airport?"
Not About Me
Their Life, Their Climate
I am from Northern Colorado where we have winter and summer as defined seasons. When I arrive in El Paso it is summer, and the children are out of school. Of course, they are.
I must say that the first thing I see is four excited faces. The children are happy to see grandma, and my heart nearly bursts with love for these precious, little people. The second thing is the heat.
Fort Bliss,Texas, is hot. Fort Bliss is the color of unrelenting sandstone relieved only by a green parade field and green parks with trees. How the grass and the trees survive the blazing sun is a mystery. I credit the genius of men and women who believe that where there is a will, there is a way. We must have something living, something green to survive. And the soil is good.
The second adjustment is to adapt to how life is, not how I feel it should be. I wasted precious days fighting what could not be changed rather than accepting how life is and adapting to it.
There will be heat if one ventures outside. And there will be noise inside. Did I expect my grandchildren to rise from their beds at a reasonable hour, brush their teeth and their hair, walk quietly downstairs and gather their stuff for their activities? Then they sit and read a book until I call them to sit at the table and eat a healthy breakfast. At the table they discuss what they learned at play group.
I do not know what I expected, but it was not what I came to understand as reality.
"Rachel, close your mouth when you chew. Robert doesn't want to see your toast."
Alex says, "Knock, knock. What did the fart say?"
I say, "No potty talk." No one can hear what I say above their raucous laughter.
Despite the fact that everyone enjoyed link sausage on Monday, today no one likes it. No one is dressed, no one wears shoes and no one, ever, sits quietly at breakfast.
Robert is only three years old, but he is a force to be reckoned with. He is extremely intelligent, has the vocabulary of a college graduate, and states, "I am not eating today."
I say in my reasoning tone, "Who does that hurt? It only hurts your body if you don't eat."
He sits with arms crossed and mouth shut tight.
I allow him to carry seedless grapes into the TV room.
Survival depends on adapting to the situation as it is. I have to conserve my energy for stage two: getting dressed.
One incident stands out as a threshold of adjustment between expectations and reality. Dad is taking us all out for dinner on Sunday evening. Everyone is dressed, brushed and ready. We love to eat out.
Dinner goes well. Dad knows to pick a booth, and we block the ends of the seat. We have minimal crawling beneath the table to sit on the other side. At one point all four children are squeezed on dad 's side and unable to lift their forks. We look like an unbalanced boat about to go down.
Nevertheless we balance out. We enjoy dinner. Not until time to leave for the van did I get my attitude adjustment. Dad goes one way to pay the bill. I go the other way to start for the vehicle. I glance about and count four heads. I am leading them and presume they are following.
Not until I hear dad's angry voice yelling at Robert, "Come here!" do I realize that Robert ran into the parking lot and was chased by Rachel. A horn honks and vehicles jerk to stop.
I had forgotten that three year-olds can not be trusted. My expectation of children walking meekly in my wake was not reality. Survival, literally, depends on adapting to the reality of the situation. I never again forgot that.
Almost always I am able to stand back and see the humor in it all. Not this time.
Laughter and Fun
I shoot hoops. I run the bases. I take Rachel shopping because her arm is broken and she can't go to gym. I loose some weight.
The point is the third adjustment on the homefront is to allow yourself to enjoy what you have. Of course we worry. Of course we are stressed. Life is unfair. We can't do this. It is too hot.
The splash park is always fun. Let's go. Bowling is fun except that grandma always wins. Let's go anyway.
Hannah throws a corkscrew, hits the bumpers and laughs like crazy. Alex, always the serious competitor, uses steps like grandma and gets some pins. Arm pump. Rachel has an overhand throw that begins by balancing her bowling ball on her cast. Amazing to watch and several minutes later, she hits the ten pin. Robert uses the kid's stand that allows him to roll the ball down the stand. He watches. Steps back, hand on hips and checks the score board. He adjusts the positioning of his stand to roll for his spare.
It uses two hours of our day to bowl one line. I enjoyed every minute of it. I try to teach some bowling etiquette such as not running onto the lane while the bowler on the next lane is focusing, to keep their bowling shoes on between turns no matter how long it takes Rachel's ball to reach the pins, and not to step in the spilled juice before stepping onto the lane.
While bowling, was I worried about my daughter's safety? Yes. Was I stressed about the noise, the cost, the wellbeing of spouse and family? Yes. I learned to compartmentalize. I learned to enjoy the moment I was in.
When a child is in harms way serving her country and you are trying to help on the homefront, fight to create moments of enjoyment. It is okay to laugh.