Life takes unusual turns.
WordPress (the vehicle for this blog) periodically puts out “ideas” for its bloggers, and I took last week’s to heart: a recommendation to check out other blogs and comment on them, just to get a sense of what’s happening out there in the real world, of where people’s minds and hearts are, and of how my thoughts can be enriched by the thoughts of others. So, being the complete neophyte at this that I am, I just Google’d (I mean, what else do you do?), and lo and behold I began to find some very interesting people out there.
Most of the blogs I found last night were those of the family members (usually the partners) of combat veterans. I, of course, know in theory about how hard the life of caregivers can be, how nerve-wracking, terrifying–and, truth be told, irritating–deployments can be for those left in this country. Yet reading the words of these women (for all whom I found last night were wives, girlfriends, or mothers), their direct expression of their angers, hopes, worries: I realized I have so much more to take in, ponder, assimilate. We civilians have no clue. We absolutely have no clue.
I did, though, find two blogs by combat veterans, both men. Both have been blogging for only a relatively short time, one for a few months, one for a year or so. On the surface they appear quite different. MAPS1175 is a haunting, eloquent spiral of words circling around the core of a man who is seeking somehow to make the days, the nights have some meaning, some coherence, something. Every Day Is a New Day is a gritty, just-a-guy-trying-to-make-a-living punch at life, sometimes short and sweet, sometimes wrestling like nobody’s business with a thought, a fear–God, maybe even a hope.
Yet how similar they are, really, these men’s attempts to speak what feels as if can never be spoken–what can indeed never truly be spoken, even though it never leaves, the houseguest from Hell, smirking at your soul, daring you to try one more time, à la Charlie Brown and Lucy, to get rid of me, big guy, go ahead, you just try it. So many of the men and women I see struggle to put anything at all into even a semblance of words. How powerful it is to read these men’s attempts to speak not only for themselves, but for the men and women whom they’ve loved and whom they would love if they were to ever meet them.
Then, this morning, I picked up the Sunday New York Times.
There it was, above the fold, big as you please: “Sergeant’s Wife Kept a Blog on the Travails of Army Life.” I cannot tell you how painful it was to read that piece. Karilyn Bales, wife of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, maintained a blog about her fears, her frustrations, her hopes for herself, her husband, and their two small children. She worried about him. She felt the fluttering of their younger child in her womb as a sign of their continued linkage with each other, even with him miles–no, worlds–away. She lamented his denial of promotion. Finally she simply expressed a hope that her children could one day look back at her words and understand.
Robert Bales, that night outside Kandahar, changed the world in a significant way, for all of us. Yet Robert and Karilyn Bales are also just two people, a man and a woman, trying to make four lives work in this world that doesn’t work out one iota, hoping against hope that one day their children will understand.
Or at least they were.
It is quite stunning when you think of it, you know: with the click of a mouse, you can find yourself transported into the depths of another human, into their trivialities, their profundities. Words, popping up on a screen: that’s all they really are. Words.
Sometimes I envision myself on a beach somewhere, looking out to sea. And there it is. I see it. The tsunami. The tsunami of men and women, combat veterans, who are coming, coming. And I know one day it will hit. The lucky ones will be able to reach out to me, to others, with eyes pleading, “Please. Please. Help me. Please.” Others will simply roll past me, pulled deep down into those horrible waves, curled up under a bridge, imprisoned, dead by their own hands.
You know, I’m so old now, I’m not even sure I’m overwhelmed by the imagined scene. In a way, yes, of course I am. Yet in a way, there’s really no time to be overwhelmed. It’s so beside the point. I’m just going to have to reach out and grab this man, that woman. Pull with all my strength. Remember that I must not let myself be taken under with them. Realize that there will be some who will let go of me, no matter how I try, whom I’ll watch sink or float away. But then there’ll be another coming. Keep grabbing. Hold on. Keep grabbing.
There’ll be nothing else to do. There is nothing else to do. So why waste precious time being overwhelmed.
All of us are seeking words, aren’t we? Grabbing the ones we can. Over. And over.