I was raised in a military town during the Vietnam War and very familiar with the swollen eyes of wives and mothers when the mail came ... and still there was no word. When our son was born, my very first prayer for him was, God, please don't ever send him to war. I shared that with him recently before he deployed to Afghanistan. He laughed when I added, "Sometimes God does not answer your mother's prayers. I didn't know he had blessed us with a baby warrior."
Our newborn son, his blue eyes lock in mine as I stroked his soft blonde curls. We were bonding and I had fallen in love so deep, so hard, so fast ... this mother love. Husband laughed when he came in for lunch and found me still dressed in my robe. I found myself apologizing at the end of his work day when he came home and found me still rocking, adoring, and bonding with our son. Husband's love and grace exceeded his own needs and he said, "Enjoy holding him while you can. Before long, you won't be able to catch him." Prophetic words.
When our son was two-years-old husband shook me awake when he found me leaning over the end of our bed and crying our baby's name. The worst nightmare...in my dream I was reaching for our toddler who had fallen from the second floor in the educational building at our church. I was always trying to catch him, even when we were both asleep. The nightmare was almost prophetic when just a few weeks later we went to the church nursery after Sunday morning services and found he was gone ... and no one knew when he left. My Sweet Doc was our interim pastor at that time and he was quick to offer comfort, "He's around here somewhere; we'll find him." We split up and found him on the next floor wandering the halls. "Son why did you leave the nursery? You must wait for us." "You took too long," was his simple answer. After that, nursery workers were put on alert and one of us put away both of our choir robes while the other ran to his room before he escaped.
So much joy and energy in one little bundle of rosy cheeks and blonde curls kept me constantly alert to his next move. A trip to the park one winter day was typical of how to expect the unexpected. I parked my car on the curb and lifted him from his car seat onto the safety of the grassy embankment that led to the playground. Pine needles covered the hill and I was concerned we might slip on our way down. I reached over and hugged him close to me as we made our way to the playground, but he had a better idea! My little guy reached for me, wrapping both of his arms and legs around my skinny left leg and down we went, rolling head over heels several times to the bottom of the embankment. We landed with me quickly checking to make certain my straight denim skirt was NOT up to my waist. Laughing wildly we pulled straw, leaves and grass from each others hair and clothes. Upon retrieving his sister from her violin lesson an hour later he joyously reported his latest achievement: "I wolled Mommy down the hill." It wasn't the last time he stood me on my head in a skirt.
We celebrated his uniqueness, our strong athlete in his family of musicians. I was a cheerleader in school but gave it up for other interests. His dad ran track and set records in high school that he kept for many years. We wondered at our son's athleticism in football, wrestling, soccer, and track and loved every minute. When he was in the sixth grade one of his coaches said, "You're fast enough to earn a college scholarship in track and field. At the age of 12, he set that as a personal goal and signed a full scholarship with a Division 1 University his senior year in high school.
But our world changed on September 11, 2001. Our son was only 15-years-old but deep in my heart ...I knew. I quietly told his dad, "If this war is not over, he won't be satisfied to let others handle this. He will go". And so today we pray, "For by the Lord our son can run against a troop, and by his God he can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to those who trusts in Him" (Psalms 18:29,30).
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pictures and text copyright Janice E. Gray 2013