My son is coming home.

I was awakened Monday morning by the phone.  I recognized my son’s voice on the other end. He has been serving in Iraq for the past year, and a phone call at an ungodly hour was nothing very unusual. But even in my groggy state, I sensed something different. There was no static on the line, and none of that annoying 3 second lag that usually marked our conversations. Before I had a chance to ponder this further, he set me straight: “Pops! (yes, that’s really what he calls me) I’m in Atlanta! I’m home!”

Well, this woke me up in a hurry. After over a year of worrying about him every waking minute, I can now sleep a little easier.  And while I realize that my suffering is nothing compared to what he’s gone through, I must say that a year of non-stop worrying has taken its toll. My hair, already prematurely gray, is quite a few shades whiter than it was a year ago. I have gained at least 30 pounds because I have the unhealthy habit of dealing with depression by eating.  Frito’s Corn Chips have been my friend.  If you own stock in the Frito-Lay company, I have been your friend.   

Sleep has not come easy the past year.  Some nights I would become obsessed with the idea that I would get a phone call in the middle of the night from someone in the Army who was not my son.  Thankfully, that call never came.  But I have developed a dependency on sleeping pills that I wonder if I will ever overcome.  

The irony of it all is that he left home for Iraq last March 20th, my birthday, and it looks as though he will return home on my birthday.

But now he is back stateside, and I wonder what he will be like. I know he has seen things that I have only seen in movies. I know he will be different. The little boy I played Nintendo with is gone forever. 

I spoke with him by phone for about an hour last night.  I was struck by the difference in his voice. The reckless teenager I used to quarrel with is also gone forever.  I know he has now become a man in every sense of the word.  There was a confidence and even a calmness in his voice that I had never heard before, strange perhaps in someone who had just spent a year in a war zone.  He told me to pick out a new pipe for my birthday.  “Make it a good one”, he said, “It’s also your Father’s Day present.”

Many people have asked me why I didn’t write more about this during his time in Iraq.  The truth is I often started to write something, only to have the thoughts go dead inside me.  For some reason I simply could not confront this issue head on, let alone write something worthwhile.  The idea that he might come home in a flag draped casket would overwhelm me, and the another potential post went into the recycle bin.

But now he is coming home.    When I see him I will tell him how proud of him I am.  I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer have that constant knot in my stomach. 

Maybe it’s because I’m eating less Fritos.


8 Responses to “My son is coming home.”

  1. 1 Red
    March 15, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    You should be proud of that boy. I thank him for what he’s done.

    I am extremely proud of him. Volunteering to serve one’s country in a time of war is an ancient and honorable tradition, and not everyone can say they’ve done that.

  2. March 15, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Ah, Smith, I am so happy to read this. I had been expecting this post, since you mentioned it awhile back. I hope you two have the best reunion. You can happy dance those extra pounds away, now! Yee ha!
    You’ve made my day.

    Thank you!

  3. 3 ~m
    March 15, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    ‘Home’ and ‘Brendan’ : two words I know you’ve been dying to use in one sentence for sometime now.
    Nice post, Smith.
    I pray the sleep will be deep and healing.
    No need for the sandman anymore.
    Welcome home, soldier…
    I really like the sound of that.

    Thank you. Those kind words mean a lot.

  4. March 16, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    It seems not only you have gotten somebody back, in a way we all have…..

    Interesting observation!

  5. March 18, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    MoR, I saw your post over at Nuke’s and responded, but coming here and seeing this thread, this is the best spot for my reply.
    God Bless your son, and all of his family.
    Please thank him for me, for his service to a great and greatful nation.
    While the young boy you remember so fondly, is now a young man, he has become the young man he found as his model in you.

    Very kind words. Thank you.

    Coming home…dang! I remember that sensation, and my experience, those thirty two years ago.
    I wrote a little piece about it, if you haven’t seen it, it was one of the early segments in the tales of a Sweaty Young Man.
    Welcome Home, G.I.! (or parking diagonally in a parallel universe)

    I just read it. Great piece! But whatever happened to the book?

    Get a bunch of hugs, and lose the drugs. LOL!

    I’m working on that part. 😦

  6. 6 anabelsmith
    March 19, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    This almost brought tears to my eyes, congratulations! How awesome!! I, too, would like to thank your son for his dedication and service in the military, and you for supporting him. I’m no stranger to the hardships that families undergo when they love a soldier. Again, happy birthday, you’ve been given the greatest gift! ~anabel

    Thank you for those kind words.

  7. March 20, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    I send my appreciation of all that your son and all his comrades have done for the nation. I am glad that he comes home safe and sound. I wish him the best now that he is home.

    Thank you!

    And stay away from the Frito’s that shit will kill you.

    As quickly as cherry pie? 😉

  8. May 28, 2007 at 2:54 am

    i got the same call on thursday of this week. My son is coming home in 9 days for 15 days. He has been gone for the same time. I will hate to send him back to that hell hole but I am proud of all our soldiers. I know the feeling and I can relate to you so much

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taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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