Monday, October 26, 2009

Dear President Obama: No Drama Decisions

I am the mother of a U.S. Marine who flies as part of a helicopter crew in southern Helmand Province. You can imagine that this morning was a tense one for us, as we wondered.

It was not aided by news of the riot in Kabul. And as I watched the news footage, I thought of you and your upcoming decision.

I hope that you will let me share my thoughts with you.

Although I have emotions just like any human being, I run my decisions on logic and data.

First: despite the drama and pain of today’s loss, I remind myself that there have been hundreds, thousands of helicopter flights which have taken off and landed safely. The few dangerous incidents that happen cannot be allowed to override the vast majority of safely executed missions.

Second, I would not let Americans who get worked up about the riot in Kabul (perhaps thinking that “they” want us out so we should get out) influence my decision either. A thousand students protesting in Kabul is just that: people expressing their feelings. They have a right. Even if they were manipulated into doing it. That doesn't mean it should drive your decision.

While students express their opinions with more passion and volatility than many older people…let us not forget that students in Kabul may be influenced by forces not felt by elsewhere in the world. People in Afghanistan live side by side with Taliban believers, and their actions may therefore be more vulnerable to family members or themselves being in threatened.

This is not to say that I disrespect their right to voice the opinions they are expressing. As an American who believes in free speech, I support their right to express their opinion. If someone burned a bible, lots of folks in these parts would be upset - even if it wasn't true.

This is also not to say that I don’t believe they mean their protests. For heaven’s sake…Americans have hurt one another over their political and religious differences! Some Americans feel passionately that you’re doing a bad job. So I wouldn’t worry about another group having that opinion.

The truth is, Mr. President, that I don’t believe that you (or Mrs. Obama, who I admire) have ever done things because someone told you to. I believe you are one of those rare individuals who have the strength of their convictions and are not afraid to make decisions based on your personal popularity. And while I know you are a Democrat, and therefore have party loyalties - and obligations? - I do not believe that you succumb to that terribly dangerous partisanship of ‘party first’ – that too many elected officials practice, which is insidious at tearing away the work that good people try to do.

I believe that you will make your decision based on what you truly believe is the best thing for our country, our soldiers, and the peace of the world...not based on how it would affect your ability to be re-elected.

So, President Obama, while you grieve at the crashes of today, as you do every day we lose a not let the painful drama of today overwhelm the data and logic of your best advisors. Listen to all of them. Develop a strategy that will accomplish good work in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and other places in the world.

And do not fear.

Do not make your decisions based on fear.

When my son said he was joining the Marines, I cried. Now, there, he is proud of helping both American and NATO soldiers, the Afghan people to whom he has delivered grain, and the Afghan soldiers with whom he has flown.

Am I scared? Sure. Every day. And every day, I remind myself to choose not to give in to that.

President Obama, you came into office during one of the two worst financial disasters our country has ever faced, with health care looming as a disaster both financially and management-wise right behind that.

At the end of this term in office, you’re facing the 12/21/2012 predictions. I think it’s hogwash; but I’d be planning some major craziness-control to deal with the folks who decide to use that date for their personal agendas.

I mean…really. With those bookends, you might as well just do what you want. I mean, you’ve got so much stacked against you that you might as well throw away the memo about how to protect your reputation, and just be strong.

You’ve just got to do your job. No matter what you do, half the country will oppose it.

You’re not perfect. But I believe you’re intelligent enough and responsible enough and caring enough - and courageous enough - to find the best possible course through this.

You’re welcome to read the blog I wrote on October 16 on to see my thoughts on increasing troops. Just do it with wise strategy. I believe you will.

I think that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda must not be allowed to run the world through fear. Don’t you be afraid to do what you believe should be done. Ever.

I don't think you will.

Our hearts and prayers to the people who lost someone they love.

Katie Aiken Ritter

Friday, October 16, 2009

CBS News

I meant to watch Katie Couric’s coverage on CBS during this week. Entitled Afghanistan: The Road Ahead, it’s a series of pieces about the goals in Afghanistan, the ways they are being approached, and the frustrations of the work.

I only got to watch one episode – so I’m looking it all up via Google. Please take the time. Oh, I hope people watched it. I talked with a friend after seeing the 60 Minutes coverage on Sunday the 11th. We had completely different takes on “what should be done”. But at least we were talking about it.

It’s too easy to forget about it.

What happens if we forget about it?

What happens if we go away, as a government? If we say, well, we can’t beat the Taliban, and we have no business being in this other country…what happens if we pack up and go away?

Well, let’s think.

1. The Taliban will open champagne bottles. Actually, they don’t drink alcoholic beverages. But they’ll celebrate. They will dance and sing and talk about how they kicked America’s ass.

2. Then they’ll regroup.

3. Remember 9/11? Oh yeah. That was the Taliban, coming from Afghanistan training bases.

And if you think planes crashing into buildings is, well, passé, they’ve got plenty of other ideas.


"I lost my leg," 11-year-old Eidullah says, "I'm angry because we were not guilty of anything."

Eidullah was asked by the Taliban to deliver a fruit basket to a local commander who was cooperating with U.S. forces. Hidden in the basket was a bomb. However, the commander wasn't hurt because the bomb exploded prematurely -- maiming Eidullah and injuring his eight friends.

Some of their lives were saved by American surgeons at a nearby military hospital. Doctors say they are seeing more children involved in bombings.

"It shows the lengths that al Qaeda will go to and the indifference that they have to these pure kids," said Lt. Col. Benjamin Kam, an orthopedic surgeon.

The children recruited by the Taliban and al Qaeda are often willingly sent to the terror camps by their parents. The promise of free food, shelter and education for their sons is too difficult to turn down.

But the children who were tricked face a lifetime of painful procedures to treat their wounds.

Nine-year-old Mohammad had a nerve in his leg severed in the blast.

"Unfortunately he will lose function in this section of his leg. He'll eventually have to have it amputated," said Dr. Scott Russi, chief of surgery at Shamrock Combat Hospital.

Out of the nine children injured, two lost limbs, one lost sight. All of their lives will be forever altered.

Eleven-year-old Bachmaner was one of the lucky ones. He only suffered a broken leg. He wishes he could go back to his old life. "We all used to play soccer," he says, "now we can't walk without pain."

It's not childhood games that Eidullah is worried about now. His father is blind and as the oldest son, tradition demands that he take care of his family. Now, he doubts he can.

He, like hundreds of other children, are caught up in a war they had no expectation of fighting.

When we spoke with Zach not long ago, they were working, among other things, on delivering sacks of grain to the Afghan people.

Hungry people do desperate things. See in Red above.

How many of us here in our country ever, ever have had to think about having to give up a child just so he can eat?
I couldn’t even bear to think of them going to sleep-over camp.

Okay, I don’t care what people believe or what their religious beliefs are or what their political views are. They should not have to give up their children to terrorists so their kids can eat.


And if it’s the Taliban keeping them growing poppies to sell heroin to our kids, and not letting them grow crops to feed their kids…um…well, we need to stop that.

For our kids, so they won’t get addicted to stuff that will ruin our families here at home.
For their kids, so they will be able to live a little kid’s life. And play soccer.

Winning, war, politics, Dems, Republicans….The Bush/Cheney legacy, Obama’s campaign, McCrystal’s strategy….I have to think of this in the way I think of everything:

That imaginary tattoo on my left forearm.

Treat other people the way you would want to be treated.

If I couldn’t grow food for my kids because I had to grow poppies for somebody who was holding our village in fear, I would want some help.

I might ‘hate’ an occupying army…but like they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
I would want somebody strong enough to help me get free of the hunger and the fear and the oppression.
I would want somebody smart. Because the more I trusted them, the more at risk my family would be. So I’d really, really need them to be smart enough to come out on top.
I would be afraid to trust them. Because what if they didn’t? What if they left? What would happen to me and my family? It’s happened the last eight years. They don’t know the American president, and many of the American people are wanting less troops, not more. So yeah, I’d be afraid to trust.

I can’t believe I am in the position of saying something I never, ever, ever thought I would say.

What can we possibly say that will erase the fact that we focused on Iraq and let the Taliban grow strong there?

We can’t say anything. We can only do.

We need to do what we need to do. We don’t need to tell them who should run in their election. We don’t need to tell them what to believe, what to eat, how to raise their children.

But we need to make sure they are not hungry, and not afraid.

Fear is a terrible, powerful force. Let us not be afraid to face it down.

With love, patience, respect, hard work. And generosity.

Plant that, consistently, and watch it grow.

Just my opinion. Kudos to HMH-463 and all the men and women over in camp there. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your hard work, your good spirits under pressure, and just for volunteering in the first place.

Thanks for checking in,

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Birthday Treat.

We're on a family weekend. It's the one place I really want to go each year, my birthday trip to the Virginia mountains.

Next year, we really want so much to be all together. Up there, laughing, the guys throwing acorns at each other, arguing with me about hiking. Happy.
To paraphrase a saying from Passover:

Next year, in Virginia.

Thanks for checking in,

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fear, Revisited: The Other Tattoo (on my left forearm)

I’m really having trouble with some of what I wrote yesterday, for three reasons.

1. I think I may be a hypocrite
2. I worry what reactions my honesty about what I think causes in others
3. The accident that happened while I was writing it

Last things first.

Monday morning, right while I was writing yesterday’s blog post, a 911 alert went out about an accident that had just happened a mile away from my house.

A mile, here, is close. We live in a very rural area. A mile in the city isn’t in your neighborhood. A mile here, at the intersection where it happened, means that a neighbor was hurt.

My husband Mark, who is an EMT, went out knowing that he could get there minutes before the fire truck, to be of whatever assistance he could in that little time. Pressure on a bleed. Traffic control. Reassurance. You never know.

Timothy Wheatley, father of three, waa killed when his Honda Civic was broadsided by a UPS truck. His little girl in the car had to go to shock trauma in critical condition.

There is a report by an eyewitness that indicates the UPS driver may have run the red light. But why?

And that brings me to item 2. I really care about not doing any damage of any kind to the people of HMH-463.

I cannot imagine what it is like to be them, living away from home in the conditions I have described. Add a lot of testosterone on overflow – there’s no place to really blow it off the way men can here at home – and all kinds of things can happen. Two of them are ridiculously funny humor…and anger.

I worry, in the little worry factory of my brain, that something I say will be distressing to an HMH-463 friend or family member who reads this blog, and somehow that will translate into a bad experience for the men and women over there.

We’re all human beings. We humans have the best of intentions on our good days, and we’re nasty on our bad days. The same people who would risk life and limb to save someone will also blow little things out of proportion, and take offense when we shouldn’t, and read emails the wrong way. I do it just like everybody else.

So, in this journal, do I tell the truth…and the whole truth...or do I keep some of my thoughts and opinions to myself?

Do I talk about my beliefs about how God does or doesn’t protect people? Maybe some of us need that belief every single day to get them through. Maybe I don’t need to say something that might challenge their feelings. It’s my blog, I know, and I can write whatever I want, and people can either argue with me (and post it, right there on the blog, if you want) or just stop reading…but I’ve never been one to not care what others think or feel.

So how do I be honest to the task of recording our family’s experience of this deployment? What goes in…and what thoughts are kept silent?

Not an easy choice.

Not an easy choice.

What can we at home here do that will protect them most in the end?

We’re not over there. We can’t see. We only get little bits of information, filtered through short phone calls and each person’s perspective. But if one of them has a worry about a girlfriend back home, or has a fight with his wife, or money troubles on the mind, or an argument with a co-worker…how’s it affect the unit?

I don’t think that what I say could upset anyone…but you never know. And as far as I’m concerned, all the folks who care about HMH-463 are one big family. We all want ALL of them home safely.

And the folks at home, all of us dads and moms and wives and husbands and fiancés and kids and grandparents and brothers and sisters and grandparents, and girlfriends and aunts, uncles, cousins, friends…the whole shebang of us…well, we’re all connected. We all have this shared hope. I want to support that, share they’re okay information with folks who don’t get regular calls, lighten the load, whatever. Connect with each other in this shared experience.

Timothy Wheatley. The UPS truck. What happened?

Maybe the driver saw the red light. Maybe he hit his brakes. Maybe the truck didn’t stop.

I woke at 3 am today, worrying about brakes and mechanical stuff and praying.

Do the mechs at 463 know how important they are? How treasured?
Do the pilots?
Do the cooks?
Does the guy who cleans the toilets?

Because in the dark hours of the night when I wake up and worry, I love the team that keeps each other safe. You want your loved one home. The people who run the kitchens, may they do it with pride in their work, so that our loved ones have that small comfort of good food. The pilots and crew chiefs and AOs who crew the planes, may they do the best they can, so the flights with their precious cargo of humans and comfort and supplies get where they need to go.

And the mechs. I think I love them the most, and have the whole time my son has been at his job.

I don’t know that the mechs get a lot of recognition or notice…but I want to say on behalf of the home team listed above…we know.

Those of you who make sure those crazy birds can fly safe…thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for every bolt tightened, every belt tested and replaced, every fluid topped off. Thanks for making sure that baby works like a charm.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I pray you keep doing that job well. Your work is incredibly important to us.

And now, to item 1.
I’m a hypocrite. Because even though I talk out loud about what I believe and what I don’t…I still pray.

Maybe the biggest difference between me and another is not what we believe, but how we believe.

I believe that by asking questions and testing ideas and thinking, we can sift the wheat from the chaff, the good ideas from the stuff that’s been tacked onto it later, and come closer to the Central Stuff that is at the core of our humanity, the divine spirit that makes us instinctively try to do good.

Some folks just believe.

That’s their way. It sure would be more relaxing than this 4 am thinking, but this is the spirit the good Lord gave me, so I figure I have to work with what I’ve got.

But what matters is maybe not how we go about doing good, but simply that we’re all trying in our own way to do a little bit of good in the world.

Treat other people the way we want to be treated.

In case you’re wondering, that would be the matching tattoo on my other forearm. Pretty? No. But wouldn't it be a good reminder, every day, to remind us of how we could take care of each other?

Thanks for checking in,

Monday, October 5, 2009

Arrgh! I Might Have To Get The Tattoo After All.

I promised myself to be honest with this blog. Not to worry about who was reading it and why, but to just honestly record for our family and for myself what the experience of having our son in Afghanistan was like.

So, here goes…again.
I’m scared.


Dammit, I get so mad at myself. Because it’s unnecessary!
I’m not scared because Zach is in some great danger.
I’m scared because I’m inclined to fear.
Yep; a little kid would call me a scared-y cat.

A scared-y cat is afraid to touch the things other kids would touch. Afraid of stupid stuff. Well, I have been afraid of things my whole life. I keep thinking I’ll beat fear, finally; but it keeps coming back in a different form. I'm always scared of something.

So, I’m saying to you, Fear…let’s tango again.

I wrote this blog several weeks ago, and life was really busy, and a couple of days passed by and I didn’t get it up, and then it was out of sequence, and it sat on my computer. And I thought, oh, I won’t have to post this one. I’ve gotten my fear under control.

Well, I woke this morning, counting hours again, and realized, no…it’s getting ahold of me again. So it’s time to put this one up.


Dammit, damn it, damn it.

…counting hours? That means I take whatever shift Zach is working and, even though he hasn’t told any of us the hours of the shifts, Courtney and I have each tried to guess what time they start and stop. (We had very different ideas!) So I count the hours forward from Eastern Standard Time to their time, and if I think his shift is over, I feel better.

Here’s why this is stupid:

1. He could have died from the freakin’ appendicitis, for God’s sake, had it ruptured during one of the long flights over to Afghanistan.

2. Him being finished flying doesn’t mean I know anything about how that day went. I only really know he’s fine when he calls us or Court texts me.

3. Gabe's accident, the writing below, and the death here of one of Zach’s classmates last week tell me regularly that he’s just as safe there, maybe safer, than folks here.

So here’s the post I wrote earlier. I’ll add the rest to the end.

I’m feeling reckless this morning, and I want to take it on.

Fear, that is.

When we tell someone our son is serving in Afghanistan, they get a horrified look and say, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

Well, I’m not.

I’m not sorry, because I was not afraid when he left. I got my act together for that, and now, I deal with fear if and when it comes up, and I am not afraid because I decided it was stupid and wrong and bad and wasteful to be afraid.

People say "I’m so sorry” because to them, Afghanistan means The Possibility Of Bad Things. Well, of course there is the possibility of bad things happening there, especially to soldiers who are serving on the ground and exposed to IEDs.

The days we don’t hear from Zach, it’s usually because communications have been shut down because someone has been hurt or has been killed and their family members are being notified.

The three ugliest parts of war are loss of life, loss of wholeness, and torture. Unfortunately the human race seems to be hard-wired to go to war. But that does not mean we have to accept it or ignore it.

But listen. It’s not all bad over there...and it’s not all good over here.

On Friday, my husband went to the funeral of a co-worker’s son. Heartbreaking.

He wasn’t in Afghanistan.

He was in Arizona.
He was just a kid who got caught up in things that hurt him.

There is risk everywhere. Sometimes people here are in more danger (uh, see recent posts!) than our soldiers there. Plus, our people over there are so well trained. So strong. So capable. So good. They are. They really are.

So, I see it differently. I choose to see that Afghanistan means opportunity: learning, horizons widening, new friends, trusting in yourself, growing as a person, appreciation for home, appreciation of another culture.

To me, the most beautiful word in the English language to me is possibility. And in Afghanistan, there is so much for them to see and learn and experience that is good.

This is not to diminish one iota the frustration, the stress, the danger, the heat and cold, the privation, the loneliness, the longing for home and the hard work that our people in uniform have to manage every day.

But they working so hard, trying to do good there. And they are justifiably proud of their work. They will come back here stronger than before, in every way.

The possibilities for good happening to each of them is significantly better than the possibilities of bad happening.

Let us offer compassion that is deep and warmth and healing to those families who have had to bear a death or a traumatic injury. Let us be strong for them, and let us help them to celebrate life again, and the possibility of all the wonderful things that did happen, and should have happened for their loved ones, and can still happen in their hearts and for ours.

Possibility. Celebrate life.

And that was the end of that blog.

I thought when I wrote it that I had put fear to bed. Silly, silly girl!

Now, I am starting to wake up and regularly hear in my head Bill Murray in the old stupid movie Stripes bawling "Blowed Up, Sir!" in response to his leader’s question about a squadmate.

And I get angry. I get angry because I feel the fear slipping in. I start to have ugly images in my mind that I do not want, that are not necessary, that are not connected to the likelihood of things happening. Images created by fear to serve itself only. They do not improve my life in one way – so they are not of value to me. More importantly, they do not keep Zach safer in any way – so they are of no value to him. And if they are of no value to any of us…that means they are why am I allowing them to live in my mind?

I don’t have an answer for the question. But I’m sure as hell going to put it out there for others to think about as well:


Take that, Fear.
We’re on to your game.

You trick us into thinking you’re helping us… but you’re not. You don’t keep my son safe.

His machinery operating correctly, and good training, and his presence of mind and great co-workers, and a great ground crew, and the kindness of other people, Afghan and otherwise, and good weather and good luck – all these things keep him safe.

Note to my Christian friends who read this blog: you may say, hey, something’s missing from that list…! While I deeply respect the goodness of all religions, and I’m deeply reverent myself of Jesus’ teachings, Jesus never promised his disciples that faith in God or His ways would protect them against physical harm. In fact, most of them came to pretty terrible ends.

So, while I regularly pray for Zach’s and Scott’s safety, and for the whole squadron (and okay, for the whole world to live in peace and safety)…please, in the forgiveness that Jesus specifically requires of us, forgive me for not listing God on that keeping-them-safe list.

To me, it seems exceptionally disrespectful of those who have had to live through the death or traumatic injury to their loved one to somehow imply that God was okay with ignoring their prayers.

Nope. I don’t believe that. I believe that one of the things on the list above didn’t happen right, and I don’t for one instant believe that God caused that because of some “everything happens for a reason” intention.

Note to self: read Bad Things Happen To Good People soon, and Lewis Carroll’s The Problem With Pain, to see what they say.

Back to this writing.

I’m feeling really cocky and reckless now. I took on Fear, and dude, for now, I’m winning again.

Take that again, Fear. I’m not inviting you into the living room of my mind any more.

You snuck in again, lying to me that you were somehow protecting me, and I stupidly believed you again, and now here you are, talking trash and stinking up the place and making me feel bad and putting those terrible, terrible images into my head, and meanwhile telling me how you’re protecting me and I should feel you more often….

…well, no. NO.

You don’t keep me safe.
You don’t keep Zach or any of our men and women safe.
You don’t keep the folks here at home safe.

You tell me that you take care of me...but you hurt me.
You’re an abusive liar.

Get out of my head and my heart.
Get out of my home.

FUCK you.
(um, hey Mom…sorry for the language.)

Here’s what we’re going to do, Fear. We’re going to do the OPPOSITE of what you recommend we do. Instead of reverencing you, and letting you control us, …we’re going to be happy. Recklessly happy! Unfearfully happy! Unafraid! We’re going to choose life and celebration and possibility. We're not going to spend any time listening to you and worrying.

Because the truth is, fear diminishes life and destroys it. Fear takes away moments of gladness-now with threats of sadness-then. Fear tells lies about the odds.

Life is creation and creativity. Life IS celebration of what-can-be, and possibility.

Even in death.

This starts getting to the heart of celebrating even in the presence of death.
Not celebrating the pain of it; no: but celebrating the existence of the life that gave birth to love so great that it causes us pain to lose any of it. Celebrating the possibility of coming to full life again, and feeling happiness again, and celebrating again.

That is at the very, very core of choosing life over fear. Choosing faith in all the good things of life over how fear tries to take them away from us.

That, I think, was one of the things at the heart of Jesus’ teachings, as well as so many others. I’ll go on and on some other time about how Jesus chose kindness over rule-keeping, or chose inclusion over exclusion. These are the parts of the message that appeal to me. So I work on them.

There are other parts of the universe for which I have no answers: real evil, and what we do with it. Why Creation seems to require an equal balance of destruction. Still working on those bits.

Anyway, this has been a long post, and I thank you for your indulgence if you are reading it. Thank you for your understanding. Thank you for your thoughts in reply, whether you agree with me or not.

Thank you most of all for maybe standing with me and looking at how Fear tells lies to you, and maybe throwing it out of your house for a bit, too.

Your decision will help me get stronger. We’ll help each other.

And now, the tattoo:

I got a tattoo when Zach left (another story). I told him there was the possibility of me getting another one.

Think of kids taking a test, and writing the answers on their hand where they could surreptitiously look at it if they were in trouble during the test.

Knowing myself and my susceptibility to fear, I told Zach that if it got too hard for me during his deployment, if I started succumbing and feeling fearful, I was going to get the answer to the Test Of Life written on my forearm, where I could look at it if things got tough.

A tattoo:
Choose Faith Over Fear.

Oh yeah! That’s the answer! Now I remember!

Okay, I’ll do what I wrote on my arm. I'll choose faith over fear.

Faith that everything CAN and USUALLY DOES work out just fine. Faith in goodness. Faith in kindness. Faith in picturing all the good things that could be happening, right this minute.

Let’s forget Bill Murray and the stupid movie line. Forget drama. Forget stupid fear. Invite a good, happy picture into your mind of your loved one. For me, Zach’s in the dining hall eating dinner. I picture him laughing and talking to the folks he’s eating with. Making jokes as he bitches about something. Feeling good about being healthy and working hard. Feeling proud, deep inside, of what it feels like to hand off bags of grain to the Afghan people, or bring mail from home to the soldiers in the forward operating bases. Feeling proud of whatever work it was he did that day, the big bits and the small bits.

I picture him content. He tells us over and over how much he enjoys his work there.

Good. Good, good, good. Good to all. Let’s be good to all. That, bit by bit, may actually help keep our loved ones safe in countless little and big ways.

Thanks to those of you who also struggle with fear for your honesty and courage in facing it and fighting it.

And thanks for checking in. I may be at the tattoo parlor when you read this.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Comforting Sounds

I often clean the kitchen late in the evening. Never particularly strong in the homemaker department, I seem to get organized later rather than earlier, and well…that’s just how it is.

I used to worry that the noise of clinking of crockery (crockery, isn’t that a great word?!) and the banging of pots and pans would wake my children as they were falling asleep…back in the days when they went to bed before I did. I didn’t want to make so much noise, and I felt a little bit like a bad mother.

One day Zach told me that he loved the sound of me cleaning up the kitchen. He would lay in his bed and hear the noises of dishes and running water…and it comforted him. He was home, in his bed, Mom was downstairs working, and all was right with the world.

Certain sounds can mean so much. ‘

During this deployment, Ben misses his brother Zach so much. Gabe misses him too, but Gabe is steadier, less emotional. But Ben and Zach are like twins born five years apart, and the strain of not talking to Zach was mounting up in Ben.

Now…Ben never answers his phone. As in, N-E-V-E-R. And Zach has small windows of time he is able to call, and sometimes it takes ten or fifteen minutes to get a line thru. Our house phone is VOIP, and will often not ring when a call comes through – it goes straight to voice mail, and we don't even know someone called when we're sitting right there.

So our phone protocol with Zach is Call Mom’s Phone First. I have it with me always, and I will answer it any time of the day or night. I can be awake in a flash.

But I told Ben to watch his phone, because I’d asked Zach to call him and catch up.

One morning not long after, Zach called us. He’d tried Ben already earlier, but Ben was sleeping over at a friend’s house, and of course did not hear his phone ring, or answer it. Zach told us he had tried, and had left a message for him.

We were all taking turns talking at home, and I heard Ben come in. I met him at the door with the phone, so happy he would not miss talking to his brother…and saw tears streaming down his face.

He had heard the voicemail, and his heart was breaking with the need to talk together with his brother.

Which he got to do! I’m so very grateful that he came home when he did, rather than five minutes later. It just worked out. They had a blissful, long ten minutes or so. It helped immensely.

What is it about the sound of a particular human voice that we need to hear SO MUCH, and hearing it soothes our heart so much?

What is it about that particular vibration coming over the phone lines, creating a matching vibration in our little ear bones, traveling the nerve synapses to the part of our brain that recognizes it and translates it to concepts, ideas, words, and those somehow traveling on to our heart…how does that sound create something that soothes us so?

I don’t know what complex mix of brain chemistry and physical energy takes place. I only know that a kind of magic happened. Brothers connected. Everything got better.

There is no medicine like the sound of a loved one’s voice. Thank goodness for telephones, and a HUGE, HUGE thank you to the United States companies that sponsor free calls for our men and women on deployment.

Thanks for checking in,