The chairs were scattered across the patio, and the table umbrella was open to shade us from the hot sun. The refrigerator was full of picnic foods, and my family members were about to arrive.
We had been leading up to this day for nearly three weeks now, and the anticipation had been building. Today was the last day before Tim left for Basic Training. Would this be one of the last wonderful memories we would have? What would it be like to have a brother in the Army Infantry? What will become of him? Where will he end up? Iraq? Afghanistan?
All of these thoughts flooded my brain as I went about the normal preparations for a backyard party. I felt distracted, and conflicted. I'm incredibly proud of my precious brother, but yet, I'm decidedly fearful of his new found choice. Perhaps that is my own fear? Tim is entirely resolute in his decision. Perhaps I need to remember that?
My parents became adults during the Vietnam-era, and those times were etched into their memories. It influenced their upbringing of me and my siblings. My mother's high school boyfriend died in Vietnam during his second tour. His helicopter was shot down. Mom later met my dad, and he joined the National Guard in an effort to control some of his own destiny. His draft number would have sent him directly to Vietnam. Perhaps my parents' influence is what puts me in fear of having a brother as a soldier?
Dad was a soldier, though. He served in the Army Reserves for seven years. Why can't I get past this? Perhaps it is because of what my father described of his years of service? I'm not sure why I'm so conflicted? Perhaps it is because Tim's future seems so uncertain to me? His safety will not be secure. Having two children with Alpha-1 has shown me how incredibly fragile life is. Why would Tim choose to put his life in danger on purpose? Some would say he is incredibly brave or patriotic. I know he is brave, but he is also my dear baby brother patriotic or not.
My fears kept drifting in and out as I prepared for the picnic. As my two brothers and two sisters arrived, we began the party just like any normal family gathering except that this was a send off party for Tim. Mom had flown in from California. Dad and his wife stayed home, but would be in town tomorrow. I was disappointed we all couldn't be together. I just wanted one more time with my entire family. For me, it was important to show Tim that we were united in our support of him.
It was a beautiful day. Flowers decorated my yard. Dragonflies and butterflies flitted and hovered about. But what made this day so glowingly beautiful is how I felt in my heart. The girls played with their cousins. My mom told stories. Charlie and Bob played a lawn game. We ate good food. My siblings and I teased "Timmy" as we have done for years.
"Timmy, you're in the Army now!"
With a Cheshire grin on his face, Matt asked, "Tim, so are you going to call me a civilian now? Cuz if you are, I'm going to open up a can of civilian whoop arse on ya." We all giggled in response. For me, it was a nervous giggle. I wondered if anyone else felt as I did.
Grace pulled me to the side and whispered, "Mom, is Timmy going to die?"
"Grace, I don't think we should think that way. We need to know that God is going to take care of Timmy. We need to believe that God will do what is best for Timmy. We need to believe that Timmy will be safe. Can you do that? It is important to keep good thoughts for Timmy."
Meghan overheard our conversation and joined in with, "Yeah, Grace. God is always in our hearts. He is in Timmy's heart." My eyes pooled with tears as she said that. How could my 4 year old have figured this out so well? Meghan is so much more enlightened than me using an adult's logic. Tim serves as her Godfather, and I think Meghan is connected to his soul in a different way than I am. Perhaps God was speaking through Meghan? My love for Tim often blinds me.
We enjoyed the day, and I didn't want it to come to an end. My daily life calls me back to the routine, but I resist in writing this entry. I soak up the moments, hoping this won't be the last of our whole family get togethers for quite a long time.