Yesterday, I picked Bryson up from school, as usual. The rides home these days are basically silent. He's 14. He answers questions like "How was your day?" and "Got any homework?" and "Anything new and exciting happen today?", with monosyllabic grunts. I've learned not to work too awful hard at it. When he wants to talk, he talks a blue-streak and for the most part, he's a personable guy. I KNOW he talks because he spends incredible amounts of time on the phone with girls and when I pick him up, he's usually surrounded by a small harem. I don't worry about his socialization skills too much. They're intact and I've seen them in action.
Among his loves, as has been well documented over the past year; hockey,(both ice and roller), girls (especially Jennifer), swimming (beach or pool, either is fine), golf (not a bad little Duffer), and thanks to his dad and grandpa, military history.
It's been a gradual progression. In the beginning it was just a couple of computer games with his dad. They'd watch old John Wayne movies together, they'd talk in detail about battles and the reasons for them. Then, Bryson found out that my dad was a Vietnam vet and he wanted to know more. He talked to my dad on the phone and my dad wrote him letters about his tours of duty. While I love it that Bryson and my dad have been talking and bonding, I also am uneasy about the topics of conversation. It's a hard place to be as a mom AND as a daughter.
I'm very proud of my father. He was very young when I came into his life. He accepted me and raised me as his own, no question. He was a military career man and served 30 years in the US Navy. I was the consumate "Navy Brat", and because we moved as often as we did, I had the opportunity to travel. It wasn't easy. You never felt you had roots, and it was difficult to make friends and foster relationships. But the hardest part was, when Dad went away to serve, you never knew for sure if he was coming back. I grew up surrounded by bars and stars, pomp and circumstance, duty and honor, all those things you're told to be proud of. I understood the sacrifices being made. I understood service of country. I also knew I would never marry a military man and I never, ever wanted to raise my kids in the service. I wanted a life as far removed from that as I could get.
So yesterday, on the way home from school, out of the blue, Untalkative Bryson said "I think I might join the Army when I'm old enough." Sweet Jesus, if you exist, PLEASE tell me I didn't just hear what I heard. I resisted the sudden urge to step on the brake and come to a screeching halt at the side of the road. I remained calm, continued to drive, and made the poised response.."Um, what?"
Bryson: I want to be a helicopter pilot, so I think I'm going to join the Army or the Air Force.
Me: Well, Bryson, that's great that you know you want to be a pilot, but you don't have to join the military to do that you know.
Bryson: Mommy, I'm not that great a student. I don't think I'm going to do so good in college. So, I could join the Army and get a free education and they'll teach me how to fly.
Me: Sweetie, I'm not quite sure it works that way. Besides, you understand that if they pour all that "education" into you, they're going to want payback, and payback means you could be asked to go to war. Your life won't belong to you. It will belong to the government. This isn't a decision to be taken lightly, it's very serious. If you were to join the service when you're 18 and we happen to be at war, like we are now with Iraq, you wouldn't get to learn the trade you want. They'll just send you straight to fight. It's not a computer game Bry. It's the real thing.
Bryson: I know.
It got quiet again. Quiet except for the screaming terror in my soul. My son couldn't hear it, but inside my chest, my heart was racing. He responded "I know", like he responds to everything you tell him about any subject. It's the typical 14 year old boy response. But this time, I knew he didn't know. He didn't really know. I've been raised to be proud of my country, yet my days as a military brat ended when I moved out of my father's home and into my own. As an adult, I learned acceptance. I embraced diversity. I allowed my thought processes to broaden and grow. And I came to distrust my government leaders. When I became a mother, so many things in my mindset changed. I am unwilling to sacrifice my child "for freedom". My father would be horrified to hear this, and so, among other controversial subjects, we don't discuss this one.
That may open me up to criticism and ridicule. I don't care. Yes, I support the troops. I'm proud of their sacrifice. But I disagree wholeheartedly that they're putting themselves at risk and in some cases dying, for freedom. They're dying because we have a lying egomaniac for a president. And honestly, that's nothing new. Just because I don't support the war, doesn't mean I am unAmerican. After a couple of minutes of silence in the car, my eyes welling with tears, my heart full of fear, I continued to talk with my son:
Me: Grommet, I want you to know that if there should be a mandatory draft, I would move you out of this country before I would give you over to war.
Bryson: I didn't mean to upset you Mommy.
Me: I know Buddy, but the thought of this is very scary to me. I don't believe that this war that we're involved in is right. I believe we've been lied to again and again. You've seen the news, you know this isn't a game. It's real. People are dying and the reasons that we're given just don't seem justified.
Bryson: If we move out of the country, let's go to Canada so I can play hockey. Ok?
I'd much rather deal with a few missing teeth than one missing life.