"What is democracy?
It's got something to do with young men killing each other, Arthur.
When it comes my turn, will you want me to go?
For democracy, any man would give his only begotten son. . .
Now that the war is through with me
I'm waking up, I cannot see
That there's not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now.
Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, wake me. . ." - Metallica, "One"
I can remember my Grandmother telling me stories about what it was like for her boyfriends to go off to war in the early forties - and how so many of them never came home.
I used to watch the old movies on TBS with her in the summer - John Wayne and Tyrone Power remain etched in my memory linked with her stories of patriotism and the sacrifice that her generation made in the name of Freedom. It seemed so glamorous and sad all at the same time.
I often think of the families of our servicemen and women who are living that reality every day. . . how I admire their strength and committment and I pray for their loved-ones safe return as a matter of course. But when the focus changes and I am thinking about my "little man" being one of "them" - my heart drops into my knees.
Several of my son's friends are joining the military. I'll never forget the first time I opened the front door and a fresh-faced kid (who is STILL about twelve in my mind) announced, "Hey, Mrs. McKnight, I joined the Marines!" He later stood in my living room as we oooooed and ohhhhed over the scars that covered his scalp after the Hummer accident in Iraq that killed the others in the vehicle.
When the Navy recruiter calls my house, it is all I can do to keep from screaming at him, "Leave my baby alone!" I hope my son finishes college first, and then decides that he doesn't want a Navy career anymore. But he is nineteen - ultimately, it will be his choice. Right now he is considering the reserves and I am just wringing my hands.
After this year's graduation, a new slew of boys seem to have followed suit. My fifteen year old daughter is watching (I have to stop thinking of them as "little") boys she's known most of her life jumping off into Manhood, seemingly with both eyes closed. I don't think they really have any idea of what it will be like for them - they're just in such a hurry to grow up. Oh, their poor parents!!
Ain't it just a continuing lesson in parenthood that sometimes there's nothing we can do but take it as it comes?
And now, I know why my Mom is always so quick to offer up the serenity prayer:
"God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference."
Oh, yeah, that was definitely written by a parent!
5 months ago