To my Warriors,
I don't know what it's like to be a man, much less a man who went to war. A man who has had to see, hear and do things that no human being should ever have to. I will always love my freedom, but I know it could never mean as much to me as it does to a combat veteran, since I have never had to fight or bleed for it.
I've never had to defend myself, my comrades, or my country from terrorism. It’s never been a requirement for me to have to be physically stronger, mentally sharper, or stealthier than my foe.
Until now. Enter Lyme disease. As cruel a terrorist as they come.
I've never heard the sound of bombs or sirens that accompany them. I’m a stranger to gunshots and the inertia of bullets swishing past my face. But now, I’m familiar with another sort of battle.
I’ve no clue as to the feelings of loneliness and separation of my unit when it was time for me to go back home to a place that didn’t feel like home anymore.
Am I still a soldier?
Am I supposed to be a civilian now?
Does anybody hear me? Does anyone care?
How can they possibly understand me now, or what I’ve been through?
Why am I alive and my friend isn’t?
Where do I even go from here?
All I understand is the Mama's perspective because that's the only perspective I could possibly know. But after losing a friend to the ravages of Lyme, I’m now asking why she died and I am still left to fight. I feel a sense of what survivor guilt is like.
I understand the sleepless nights and restless days of being a war mom. I remember the numb, hollow feeling as the clock ticked by so slowly while I was waiting to learn if you were still alive. I was linked with the deep frustration and pain of no longer being able to protect you. I've felt the hot tears of sorrow and anger stream from my eyes.
Even if I could have protected you from all that war is and does to a person, you wouldn’t have wanted me to.
When you were born, I made promises to you. One of them was a promise to respect you for who you are and I want you both to know that I still do.
I accept your rough-post-war-nature, your defensiveness at times and the nature of your contention and I promise to do my best to understand you, both during the times when you let me into your world, and when you don’t or can’t.
I love your laughter and the joy in your eyes at everyday victories, even when I see your invisible scars. I respect their tenacity and what they stand for.
I will never say “I know how you feel”, because…I couldn’t possibly.
Letting the military have you for all those years is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Letting go like that, becoming an empty nester that way was brutal on my heart. The boys they sent to war are not the men that came home, and how could you be...it would be impossible for something of that magnitude not to change any one of us.
It changed you forever; I understand that and I accept it.
I want you to know that I love who you are. You’re still my child. No war can ever change that or erase the fact that my own body was your home for 9 months.
See, I've known you since before you can remember, and I still see you. You’re like a window to me, even when you try to appear all tough to the rest of the world…I see past all of that. I can see past every last label that the rest of the world has so flippantly slapped on your back. I will always know the you that they never will and I accept you for exactly who you are. No matter what.
Your heart used to beat inside of me, along with my own heart, so, I believe that this process of motherhood is a lifelong one.
I’ve made and will continue to make mistakes along the way and although you’re grown now, and self sufficient…I’m still here, for anything you may need, even if it’s pancakes at midnight.
I know that I did my best to prepare you for whatever you'll experience now…and by the way, you’re doing a great job.
You give me strength even when you’re unaware of it, and, I guess this is how I know that I will conquer this battle with Lyme Disease or any other foe that comes my way…because I raised you. I figure that if I raised two warriors…and if I raised young men who are conquerors, then I can be one, too.
I guess I’m saying that I promise to always be here for you as long as I have breath in me and I promise to keep on doing my best to win my own personal war. I promise that all the promises I ever made to you are still in effect. They still mean something. They still hold value and truth.
But I still don’t promise that I won’t cry. That's one I could never keep, anyway.