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Military Life - Survival On the Homefront

Updated on January 15, 2016

The Children

Natasha (visiting), Rachel, Alex, Robert, Hanna and Michelle
Natasha (visiting), Rachel, Alex, Robert, Hanna and Michelle

A New Sheriff in Town

Fort Bliss, Texas is currently home to my grandchildren. Hot, dusty, bland, or more kindly put, subtle, color is the landscape of life. The mountains look grumpy like long-suffering soldiers. However, I adjust. I will only say if my husband back in northern Colorado complains one more time about ninety degrees, I will fly home and give him the look.

My daughter is deployed to Afghanistan on a UN mission. My son-in-law is doing his Army work. Four young grandchildren need care, structure, and love. In fact my son-in-law is sufficiently in need that he calls me all by himself and buys the ticket to ride. Grandparents are respected care-providers in the military, along with the dog named Moose.

What do I hear from my grandchildren? I hear constantly:

"When my mom gets home we'll get chocolate for breakfast."

"My mom lets me pee outside."

"Mom doesn't care if I wear shoes. Mom doesn't care if I wear a pair of shoes."

"Mom doesn't make me brush my hair."

"My mom said I could play with the toaster."

While the mom word doesn't exactly work for them, using the mom word does have impact. I can't exactly call mom and ask if it is okay for the children to snack before dinner. Dad doesn't know for sure.

So, for now, while we wait for mom to come home, we have to listen to grandma. Yes, we do. On the rare occasions when grandma says the word, "No" she actually does mean it.

"No, you may not tie your sister to a tree. No, not even if she pleads to be tied from neck to ankle like a captured pirate princess, you may not do so." (What is a pirate princess?)

I adjust to the climate, and the children adjust to me, not only because I love them but also because I enjoy them. It is my mission to wait with them until mom gets home.

Wrap the Pig

"Mom will love the pig."
"Mom will love the pig."
Darth Vader cannot be wrapped.
Darth Vader cannot be wrapped.

Wrapping Presents

"Will you help me wrap this for a present for mom when she gets home." Five-year-old Rachel stands before me holding in one hand her stuffed centipede and in the other hand a box intended to hold in the least a piece of furniture. She later uses the box to make an entire play-house.

"Are you sure you want to wrap-up your toy"

"Mommy loves Centipede because he is so colorful and soft."

"We need a smaller box and paper."

Tireless in gathering the essentials to wrapping a present, Rachel climbs in the closet for wrapping paper. She empties a box containing embroidery thread and patterns. She locates the illusive scissors. Since she cannot find tape, she brings glue.

We wrap. I know where I hid the tape. Presto, we have a present for mom.

Now everyone is gathering stuff to wrap as presents for mom. Hannah, age seven, wants to give her mom a necklace that actually is her mom's. Five-year old Alex, Rachel's twin, wants to give his mom the TV remote. Robert, age three, has a stack of toys to give mom. The toys all belong to Alex who objects to wrapping-up his Darth Vader action figure or his robot.

Nonetheless an hour later we have a nice stack of presents for mom to open when she gets home in a few months.

"I need Centipede to sleep with. What did you do with Centipede?"

"Peppa Pig is on TV. Grandma, where did you put the remote?"

"Alex said I could play with his dump-truck. I can't find dump-truck." Scrunchy face.

"Daddy said I have to put mommy's necklace back."

Since I knew this would happen, I did not expend a lot of effort in wrapping. Centipede goes along upstairs to bed. Dump-truck is at home on the patio and filled with rocks. The necklace is returned to Hannah's room, and dad is watching the news about Afghanistan.

I squash the wrapping paper into the re-cycle bin. I try to return the embroidery thread and patterns to the box that is now too small. I am left with one remaining present for mom. I think the green psychadelic wrapping paper contains mint chap stick.

The Elephant is a Hit

The Zoo Has Maps!

There are two words that send chills down my spine and cause a cold sweat to form on my head. Those words are Zoo and Circus.

The children want to go to the El Paso Zoo. I decide to be grateful that no circus is in town. We must plan. We will require two adults. Our ever-ready and capable day care provider comes to assist. We will need food supplies, water and juice bottles, sun screen, swimming suits (everywhere in El Paso includes a splash park), aspirin, and the number programed and ready for emergency services, for me.

No one seems to notice how hot it is outside. Everyone is dressed and ready. We pack-up and head out. The children have military ID's so they are free. Grandma has to pay.

"Look, Grandma, we have maps!"

Again we must plan. Robert who is only three did not get a map. Grandma returns to the courtesy booth to fetch another map. Heads together, we plan the route to see giraffes, wolves, reptiles, and the Sea Lion named Sushi.

Grandma gropes for shade. I will look at the reptiles because the reptiles live in a dark cavern. Hannah reads all of the plaques and studies the information. Alex verifies that each animal matches the location on his map. Rachel argues with Alex regarding the position of his map. Robert follows behind examining each rock, structure and step. Grandma survives.

Lunch! The picnic tables under the roof are nearly filled. School children in uniforms are on a field trip. One little girl in pleated skirt, white blouse, socks and shoes is running through the water spouts. She is obviously rogue. I want to be her. Nevertheless, my grandchildren will have to change into their suits to play in the water.

Consult the map. Elephants first, then swimming. Then ice cream if we are able to walk that far though the heat. The adults find a place to sit where the spray from the water jets send over sprinkles. Robert sits down on a dormant water jet and waits. I wait as well.

The jet erupts. Robert looks stunned and runs over to grandma.

"How was that?" I ask.

"Very interesting," Robert answers. "The water went the wrong way up my butt."

Grandma has had enough zoo way before the children have seen enough. The maps are crinkled and wet, but places can found to which we have not traveled.

"No more," I say. I bribe them with ice cream once we are on the way home. They are still capable of running to the exit. Then like a sudden attack, their legs go out. They can no longer walk. They must be carried. I see the van. There is hope on the horizon. The AC takes life-sucking minutes to work.

Grandma is the only member of the family who naps.

Later, when dad asks what was the best part of the zoo, all four of them have the same answer. It is not the Sea Lion. It is not the snakes nor the llamas nor the splash park. They still hold onto their maps but the best part is not the maps.

"The elephant pooped." The excitement is almost too much to contain.


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