The man at the check out line looked me square in the eye and told me to talk about everyday stuff. "Tell him about your relatives and who's getting married. Talk about the Royals and just be as regular as you can be." He was still wearing his Army uniform and when he walked away, I wondered how he knew that I had a soldier to pray for. A soldier I had known since he was in first grade and was in my boy scout den. The same soldier who had climbed my apple tree in the backyard, taken down the key, let himself in and got his yellow coat that he forgot at the meeting and then left my house in perfect shape. I remember being impressed with his pinache. When he graduated high school, he joined the Army. My son tried joining but was devastated because the army wouldn't take him due to scoliosis. While at Fort Riley, I made a promise to pray for him every day at 11:00 a.m. and light a tea light candle until it burned out. We made so many jokes with each other that he was the safest soldier in the Army. He said several times he was scheduled to be transferred somewhere only to have it be cancelled at the last minute. I remember him calling me and saying, "Mrs. Jorgensen! Stop praying!" I didn't. The habit stuck. I have been doing this for ten years. Now he calls me from Iraq and asks me to pray.
Today my family gathered at my parents' house. There was too much food, loud talking and some of us had a few arguments. We decided to watch the fireworks from the front yard instead of going to the crowded parking lot. On the drive home I felt frustrated that nobody talked about the soldiers and their sacrifices. So many of these men and women are dying and have lost their faces to fires. I am so proud of my friend Sgt. Nye. He'll be calling me soon. I'll listen to him yell at the privates because he's on the phone. I google phone numbers for him so that he can call his girlfriends. We'll probably talk about the Royals, who Hannah is dating and how much I ate. Then our conversation will end and I'll cry because in my heart, he's still in first grade.
Happy Fourth of July.