It’s quiet in my house. Early morning. The glow of the sun is slowly creeping over the horizon.
I have Siri on my new laptop. It’s pretty cool. I feel like I have a talking R2D2 sitting beside me. I just asked her what time it was in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Why you ask?
Because that’s where my son is at this very moment. And that’s where he’ll be on Thanksgiving.
He hadn’t realized the trip he and his best friend from high school had planned was over a holiday. And he’d said, “I won’t go Mom. I’ll come home instead.” I shook my head.
“I want you to go. In fact, you have to go. You can tell us all about it at Christmas.”
Someone who knew about it asked me yesterday at the gym, “Are you gonna be okay?”
I couldn’t help but think of the smiling and energetic military mom sitting right next to me — my friend who has two sons in the Middle East.
I smiled and said, “Yeah. I’ll miss him. But it’s probably the first of many holidays we won’t be together. That’s life. I’ll make it okay.”
No one is shooting at my son. No one is planning a surprise attack. Of course there is terror in the world. There are people who judge or mistrust you for the color of your skin, your religious beliefs, even your gender. Recent tragedies and horrific murders have made us all keenly aware of the rationalization of hatred.
But my son’s not wearing a uniform that would make him an instant target for violence. Or define him as someone who would put his life on the line for others.
I can only admire the families of the men and women who choose to fight a war — or the families whose mother or father straps on protective gear simply to do their jobs. I’m not sure how they do it, day after day after day. Maybe they stay in denial, or simply don’t think about it. Maybe they worry, text each other, or ask Siri questions to try and connect with their sons and daughters, their mothers and fathers. Maybe they don’t quite take a full breath until they see their soldier, their firefighter or their police officer again.
I know feelings of empty nest can be hard. I’ve shed a few tears over the last five years to be sure.
But perspective can be a gift.
If you are with your family this holiday season, do your best to treasure the time together. Relish your children’s joy, their innocence and their laughter when cousins go running through the house, causing your old cat to seek cover underneath the sofa. Hug that teenager that might’ve looked daggers at you just yesterday. Give your grumpy uncle who hates the holidays an extra helping of mashed potatoes. Get up early in the morning so you’ll have at least fifteen minutes of quiet before the chaos begins. Try to hang on to a bit of self-care while you’re scouring the house for where you put your mother’s special napkins. Expect your mother-in-law to get a little tipsy, and your stepfather to choke on a prayer of gratitude — as both do every year.
You’re creating memories that you and they will always have.
You’re creating home – a home that no matter where your loved one is, they’ll remember.