Monday, November 5, 2007

The Past Says Hello

Mondays. Yuck. I suppose no matter what day started the work week we'd all grunt or groan over it. Of course the three hour Staff Meeting this morning didn't help. When I got home, it was blissfully quiet...the hubby's night out with his hunting buddies and the dogs went along to bat clean up and take care of the leftovers. Yeah! No cooking. Peace and quiet. And e-mail.

The first was from NPR's site "This I Believe", which is, as I previously mentioned, home to the condensed version of "The Bracelet". I glanced down the list while opening snail mail. Laughing at the bank's "offer" to allow me to skip my December or January car payment if I'd just send in $25 with my "Thanks, I'll skip a month" coupon, I dropped said coupon when my eyes got to the last e-mail. Fortunately the offer landed in the trash can. I landed in my computer chair.

The e-mail was from the son of "My Captain".

Funny how your heart beats faster at the weirdest things. As I opened the e-mail, I found myself quietly praying that it wouldn't begin, "Hey nut case, leave me alone!" Instead it began with a cheerful, "Thanks for the letter!"

I began breathing again.

The son followed that up with how serendipitous my timing was, as his sister had sent him a family photo taken at Swan Lake. It was a photo he'd never seen before and was taken just before his father went to Vietnam, when he was just two years old. By the time he reached three, his father was MIA. He could've stopped there but he didn't. Thank heaven. I'm one of those "rest of the story" people who just HAS to know what happens next. And he told me. From his Dad's childhood in Michigan, to college, to finding Mom to marry. I actually laughed when he said he could go "on and on" but that what he'd offered was probably more than I'd bargained for. I shook my head, fingers poised to reply that I was thrilled he'd turned my childhood imaginings into a real person. Then I noticed an attachment and opened it. It was a picture of his father in his flight suit.

It took my breath away. Tears began to roll down my face.

The photo was like an exclamation point on the reality that here was the person I'd worried about, even though we'd never met. And there he was, smiling at me. To tell you the truth, for a moment it was a little emotionally overwhelming. I felt 12 years old again. At least this time, I know what to do with all those emotions.

I e-mailed the son right back, asking for an address to send the bracelet. He'd explained that he'd posted on the site in an attempt to obtain a bracelet for each of his daughters, who are currently 5 and 6 years old. He added that later on he'll be able to explain more to his girls about the man whose picture is on the wall. The man who flew jets.

As I hit SEND, it occurred to me how small the world really is at times. The son's original request for a bracelet was made two years ago...when his youngest child was the same age HE was when his father disappeared. I smiled at the NPR "This I Believe" e-mail as if its appearance was confirmation that doing the right thing for the right reason is still a good policy. Saving a copy of my reply, I glanced at the calendar to date it. Tomorrow is the 18th anniversary of my father-in-law's passing...he a son of Michigan as well, an Air Force Recon Pilot who flew two missions in 'Nam but returned home safely. And yet we lost him in a freak flying accident. But at least we had him in our lives for many wonderful years.

I hope by Veteran's Day I can say "Mission Accomplished" because the bracelet will be in the right hands. I envision another little girl looking with awe at a band of metal bearing the name of a stranger. But before she reaches my age, she will know all about the man wrapped around my wrist and forever entwined in my memories.

Now I can finally say to My Capt, "Welcome Home."


shug said...

what a very moving story, and what a good part you played in it.

Bonnie said...

thank goodness crying doesn't bring on an asthma attack. still have tears in my eyes! what a beautiful story. thanks for sharing it and letting us be part of this venture. if you stay in contact with the son send hugs to him and his family and let him know others have them and his father, your captain, in their thoughts.