My grandfather's wars were over before my mother was born. My father's war happened when I was six, too young to understand how safe he probably was, but old enough to sit in my room and cry for it and read the patriotic t-shirts and hear the calculatedly tearjerking songs. My husband's war started when I was in high school, he two weeks into 18, drawn to playing Army and not realizing how the real thing would become his calling.
A couple of months ago, the Pater Familias found himself having to explain what he does at work all the time, sometimes for days or weeks on end. At home when we tell Eva he's "working" he's apparently messing around on his computer (mostly trying to get his CAC reader to work...)
It's strange but not, knowing my early memories of burying my face in daddy-smelling BDUs will be nearly shared by my daughter. Her favorite thing in the world may be burying her face in manly-pungent ACUs, watching out for those prickly closures [comma] hook-and-loop. (Poor girl, I won't spill the secret that BDUs were much softer.) I don't know if she'll share my earliest memory of war--the consciousness that her dad is gone at one, and maybe people aren't shooting directly at him, as we're all slightly more academic types in this family, but he's still not here, he's over there, in that place where the world likes to blow up.
So he explained to her that what he does at work is look for bad guys (which sounds awesomer than "usually write up awards or make powerpoint presentations or narrate ceremonies with my commanding voice"). It's basically true, or was at the time. I don't even know if she knows what bad guys are. But she caught me reading news online the other day and I had no explanation for her burning questions about the burning car photo other than that bad guys did it and a swift X out of the window and an offer to play Uno Moo.
Now that he's popped out for a skosh of a deployment--he should skate back into town just in time to catch the baby--apparently she's still been thinking about what he's up to, not that we've discussed it once. He just had to go on a trip for work. We saw a plane on the afternoon he left, and she asked if it was his, and I may not know my planes but I know to disavow any that say NAVY on the side so I said no, that's kind of like his, but it's not. And today driving home we saw a plane in that same spot in the sky so she asked if it was his, and I said no, and she said but it's kind of like his, and I said yes, and she asked who's in it? What are their names? I said I didn't know.
Are they bad guys?
No, they're good guys.
When I grow up, I want to turn into my daddy and look for bad guys.
You won't turn into your daddy, but you can look for bad guys if you want.
I want to turn into a bad guy.
Um...no, you don't.
I want to turn into a bad guy!
(Amazingly, I was not prepared for this.) Eva, God doesn't want you to be a bad guy. You can be a good guy and look for bad guys.
And suddenly she was sobbing, fountains of sweet tears on those luscious cheeks. I w-w-want to be a bad guy! And finally I understood.
You want to be a bad guy so your daddy will look for you?
The bizarre life of an Army family: in which terrorists meet The Runaway Bunny.
Today on Skype Eva was showing her dad her bwudderfwy wings (they're back in vogue in this house), shimmying most spectacularly in them. Then she plopped herself back down in the computer chair and inquired firmly, "So, Daddy, are you lookin' for bad guys?"
Here's to all the kids waiting so patiently for their daddies to come look for them.