Through a Mother’s Eyes


Like anyone who watches the news, the recent event at Fort Hood, the killings of young men and women, brought tears to my eyes and pain to my heart.   The news reporters always refer to the  young men and women of the military, but to me they are still children, grown to adult size to be sure, but these victims in their early 20’s are not fully grown in my mind yet.   Their childlike nature, full of idealism and invincibility, likely played a part in their decision to enter the military.    And I am glad they put themselves out there to do what they feel is right.   But the sacrifice saddens me deeply. 

When the planes hit the Twin Towers years ago, my son Matt was a member of the military.   At the time he was stationed 50 miles from the DMZ separating North and South Korea.  Far away from the tragedy happening in New York, he still felt the impact.   The base went on high alert, into lockdown.  As an applied geophysics technician, Matt’s responsibilities went into hyper drive, using satellite technology and seismic monitoring systems to monitor weapons installations – weapons of mass destruction.   His top secret security clearance prevented him from ever disclosing the tiniest details of his work, but that sliver of a job description always set me on edge.    The time zone difference made email our primary method of communication.   But on September 11th, I sent him an email, “Please call me when you can.   I need to hear your voice.”   And he did.

I planned to drive Matt to O’Hare the November morning years agowhen he was scheduled to report for duty.   When he enlisted the plan was for him to report for duty the following February, but the second you sign that paper, the military owns you.   The Air Force, despite the agreed upon date, took him right away depriving us of the opportunity to spend the holidays with him.   Together we went through the list of what he was allowed to bring to Basic Training, what he had to bring.   The Walgreens List I called it, so short and basic we picked up everything for a few dollars at the local drugstore.    Knowing I would not be able to send him a Christmas gift that year, I bought the best quality items possible.  I wanted to buy him a nice gift in advance but Matt told me it would be a waste because he would not be able to take it with him.

I tossed and turned that night, restless and ill at ease.   Around 2 a.m. my gut clenched.   Jumping out of bed I raced to the bathroom.   My body revolted with vomiting and diarrhea.   I crawled back to bed only to return again and again to the bathroom.   My nightgown and bedsheets grew damp with sweat, I shook violently with chills.  In the morning my legs refused to support me.   Standing upright nauseated me violently, I was incapacitated.   Matt’s dad had to take him to O’Hare.   My guilt was deep.   I felt I had let Matt down, unable to even drive him to the airport to see him off.  I was weak all day.  Months later, when I apologized to Matt, he brushed it off.    “I know you love me Mom.  You love me so much that my leaving made you sick.  I never knew how much you loved me until that day.”

I think about how my emotions steamrolled me that day.  Matt was only reporting for duty.   I cannot begin to fathom how the mothers of those young people killed at Ft. Hood are coping.  I feel such sadness for them.  This Thanksgiving I am flying down to Texas to celebrate the holiday with Matt and his wife.  I always give him a big bear hug when I see him.   But this time I intend to hold on a little bit longer.

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