would soon leave her and go off to war.
He was a brave soldier and performed many heroic deeds, and he lived through it all. When he returned, she loved him dearly and he loved her. A boy child was born one October morning.
But came another war and that took her man away again.
She got the news from a yellow telegram. The child was playing in the yard, chasing butterflies and wrestling with a playful bird dog. He can still remember her scream from within the house. He can still remember her tears. He was too young to understand why she was crying, but he tried to comfort her the best he could.
Her brave soldier, said the telegram, was missing in action. An enemy force had overrun his company’s position on some barren hill a million miles away in Korea.
The child wondered about this “Korea,” what it was, and why his daddy was there.
On Christmas Eve, there was a telephone call, followed by more tears. The soldier was alive. He was calling from a hospital in Pearl Harbor. He would be home soon.
“Do you still love me?” he asked his son.
The child did not yet understand the telephone. He nodded a “Yes.”
“Of course, he does,” the mother assured the father, “and so do I.”
He returned in triumph. He had been captured and imprisoned by the enemy. He had been tortured. But he had escaped. For weeks, he was hidden in an underground cave and cared for by a South Korean boy who brought him rice and kept him alive until he could make his way back to the lines.
He was weak from the diet and the fear. His feet were so severely frostbitten they would crack open and bleed for the rest of his life.
He was a patriot, still. He made speeches throughout the land, his wife and son at his side. He told of his experiences and assailed those who would keep American forces out of distant lands threatened by the spread of Communism.
He would say many times, “There is no soldier like the American soldier. The rest of the world needs us to keep it free.”
But those many years of combat had taken their toll. He had changed. When he returned, the woman thought their long periods of separation were over. She would be disappointed again.
He brooded. He awakened nights in a cold sweat, screaming. He drank only a little at first. But then he would sit up those nights, alone with a bottle.
The Army, despite his many decorations for valor and his years of service, decided him unfit for further military duty. He wandered aimlessly, at a loss for a purpose.
The mother and child would see him whenever they could. They would visit him in other cities and she would pretend someday they would be together again.
But she knew they wouldn’t. A thousand nights, thinking the child next to her was asleep, she prayed aloud for help.
Finally, she gave up on her husband. She had no other choice. He was a hopeless alcoholic, a man lost in an imagined shame that was nearly demonic in its possession of his life.
She educated herself. She struggled to work each day and go to evening classes at night. Somehow, she still managed to bring her son toward manhood and she told him, “Always respect your father, no matter what.”
She would eventually remarry. She would take a man steady and kind to her and to her son. She would find at least a share of the contentment and security that had avoided her for so long.
The father, the brave soldier, would die alone. The son would grow and leave her. But he would think of his mother and her plight often. On occasion, he would remember to thank her for the sacrifices she made in his behalf.
Sadly, her burdens have never ceased totally. Today, it is an illness she battles. The doctors say it is incurable. She deserves a miracle.
She wanted to be with her son today, and he wanted to be with her on Mother’s Day. He wonders if he made the right decision to put off the visit because of business demands.
He did send roses, however. And because she means so much to him and because he wanted to remind himself of the long road she’s been down, he spent an afternoon and half a night writing what you just read.
May 13, 1979
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