I know it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – I miss you. I can still hear you, when you were stationed in Japan, saying “I miss you, too, Mom.” I loved our long, sometimes wordless conversations when you were over there. Your homesickness for the first year or so broke my heart. But you muscled through and did your best, and I am so proud of you.
It’s Christmas day, and everyone is here but you. It’s still a strange feeling to not have you here with us. When Dad and I were filling stockings this morning, we both commented on how natural it still feels to start to put something in your stocking before we remember. I was okay this year, though, when everyone got their stockings and explored the contents, but yours still hung there, empty and alone; more okay than I’ve been the past 3 Christmases, anyway.
We’ve been trying different things on Christmas to try to help ease the pain of your absence, and for a couple of years we’ve done a Christmas breakfast instead of our traditional turkey dinner. And that is what we did this year. I have to tell you, though, even if we didn’t change things up a bit, it would still be different because of those adorable nieces and nephew of yours! You would be so amazed at how they’ve grown since you left us. Ellie now stands taller than everyone but your dad and brothers. I think she is going to be about 6 feet tall when she is through growing! Addie is about as tall as Ellie probably was the last time you saw her, and Rowan and Elijah are just as cute as any 3 year-olds could possibly be.
After all the hoopla of eating breakfast, unloading stockings and opening presents, Tim and Ryan went outside and played airsoft for a while. Some of the girls occasionally joined them, but it was too cold for them to want to stay outside for very long. On one of their trips around the house, Kim ran by my office window, where I was seeking a moment of silence, and I had the weirdest thing happen. I think about you all the time, so you are never far from my thoughts. But on days like Christmas, it is like you are hanging out in my head! I can’t quit thinking about you and what you would be doing if you were here with us, as I know you would be here if you could be. As Kim ran by the window, yelling something at someone, I could hear your voice yelling back at her, probably telling her to watch out for whoever was chasing her, trying to shoot her with their airsoft gun.
This reminded me of the last year you were in Japan at Christmastime and Dad bought all the boys and your little sister Nerf guns, then he got a large T-shirt and painted a target on it and gave it to your older sister. Everyone had the best time chasing your older sister around, shooting at her. Your dad is so funny and clever. It was one of the most fun Christmas’ we had while you were gone.
After my moment of “hearing” your voice outside, I deliberately let my thoughts wander through the memories of Christmas’ when you all were little – some of my favorite times in my life – and I remembered the Christmas when Tim was a newborn and you were not quite 3, and you were emphatic that there was a “real” Santa. Your dad and I always told you guys the truth, including stories about Santa Claus. We said it was fun to pretend about Santa, and even told you the traditional stories about him, but we didn’t want to confuse you by allowing you to believe he was real and really did all those things like delivering toys on Christmas Eve, coming down the chimney, and watching all the little boys and girls to see if they are being naughty or nice.
You, though, in all your almost-3-year-old wisdom, knew he was real, and you became exasperated with me telling you he wasn’t one evening while we were decorating our Christmas tree. We had a wood-burning stove at that time, and you turned toward it, after hanging an ornament on the tree, and asked me how Santa could fit in the stove-pipe coming down out of the ceiling. I tried, once again, to tell you that this was a pretend story, so there was no real man dressed in a red suit that was going to be bringing you presents on Christmas Eve. I will never forget you sorta stomping your foot, putting your little hands on your hips and saying, “Not that Santa, Mom. The real one!”
Alrighty-then! No more trying to speak truth to you when it came to Santa Claus. We decided, that evening, that one day you would figure it out and we would just allow that to happen as it happened, naturally.
After my memories slid through some of your childhood Christmas’, I remembered the time you came home after getting out of the Navy. Your little brother, Tim (or Timmy, as I still called him), had grown to be about 4 inches taller than you, and I think his attitude had grown along with his height. I remember you commenting to me, in your quiet voice, away from any other ears, that you couldn’t believe how tall he was, and that you just couldn’t get used to everyone calling him Tim instead of Timmy.
It seemed, that day, that lil’ brother needed to prove to you that he had grown up and was just as strong as you. It was July, and we had our pool open, and all of you were out playing in the pool. I slipped away from fixing dinner in the kitchen, and went out on the deck above the pool to watch you guys play for a few minutes. Just as I got to the edge of the deck overlooking the pool, Tim grabbed you in a headlock and dunked you…….rather roughly. I was so shocked, that I almost yelled for him to stop. But then I saw the look on his face, and the maturity on your face, and I knew it was not a moment for mom to intervene. You handled yourself like I would expect someone who had the leadership positions you had in the Navy would handle themselves – with patience (though you were having to work at staying alive!), some understanding of what your little brother was going through, and just enough muscle to bring the situation to an end with no one getting hurt, and everyone’s pride still intact. I was, and still am very proud of you.
I miss you, son. I cannot find words to express just how much I miss you. But I know you are okay. I know I will see you again. Until then, I know the Lord is with us both. He is the bridge between us, holding us both in His infinitely loving hands.
I love you,