Thursday, August 27, 2009

They're All Tim to Me




Wal-Mart. 5:00 a.m. Where else would I be? Sleeping? Not a chance.

The soldier standing behind me in the checkout was clutching a half dozen blue washcloths, blue bath towels, and a six-pack of Lever brand soap. He was a tall guy wearing the dusty beige and tan uniform; the color scheme marking the troops who do their duty in sere desert environments half the world away these days. The old Viet Nam era olive and pea green camo is in moth balls for the time being I guess since we put a lid on that fight so many decades ago. His cheeks were ruddy from a particularly close shave that morning I am sure, his nails clean, his boots as yet unscuffed and new.

When he appeared to be daydreaming or in a zone of some sort, I leaned in to the gal behind the counter and said, “Add his stuff to my order, ok?” Without missing a beat she took the blue fragrant bundle out of his hands and rang it up on my tab, despite his protests. “She’s treating you today, sweetie!” she said, “Got to have our soldiers clean and tidy don’t we?” He gracefully stood down and let me have my way. “Well thanks very much. Army National Guard. I deploy to Afghanistan in January. My name is Tim.”

Signing up for Facebook, I knew the odd unfamiliar “friend hoarder” would lob a request on the table sooner or later so I was poised to mash the ignore button, mostly to save them from themselves. Especially my kid’s friends, some of whom think I am cool, but don’t need me looking in on their worlds. And my peculiar middle aged scenario, with whom I socialize and what I find amusing is, well, none of their business.

But in a weak moment, a Boy Scout buddy of my son’s showed up requesting to “friend” me and I said ok for no apparent reason except that he was probably a pretty stand-up kid if he was a Scout. Initially I understood him from his posts to be typical in every way for his age.  He was into zapping zombies, cyber-cuddling his cute girlie friend, and enjoyed taking silly “what is your dog name” quizzes that are the hallmark of the time sink that truly is Facebook. We shared mutually identical outcomes from one such quiz and, ironically, bonded as warriors; bows and arrows our Elvish weapons of choice, thank you very much JRR Tolkien.
My son noticed our byplay and casually tossed off this up-to-that-moment-unknown-to-me nugget of information: “Tim’s in Afghanistan. An Army private. Military Police I think.”

Tim is not quite 20.

What’s with this seething red veil of anger that suddenly overtook me? Why didn’t it manifest itself in general over the fact that our best young men and women are fighting to defend a culture, a politic we barely understand if not completely reject; tip-toeing around explosive devices and dodging rocks thrown at them by children at the behest of their zealot fathers? Why? I just now realize I don’t know why we are subjecting them to, and worse, sacrificing them for… what? Damn it, this pisses me off!

It took a face and name to ram it home. Tim.


Tim has access to the soldier’s psyche saver, the internet, and is allowed to communicate relatively freely from a mountaintop in the middle of what I un-affectionately call BF-istan. We enjoy “Tim Time” in the wee hours of our morning here in the states chatting through Facebook. Don’t know what time it is there. Jokes, advice, discussions of food he’s craving when home, plans to woo the hell out of his girlie, reflections on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Sun Tzu’s Art of War have traversed the amazing global space between us. For security, we keep topics light and non-specific to his posting there. Sometimes a guy’s just got to let it fly when things are some kind of crazy. We take that journey together and rant colorfully at fate and the universe. All this is cached mentally, for us both really, to help withstand the madness when he sits lonely lookout on occasion; when he is on “missions” riding along in trucks on unpaved mined roads where the stones rain down with glass shards and murderous taunts from the sneering mouths of little boys. And I know full well that is what is going on.

Now I am in. It is personal. I flail and gasp for air emotionally with every report of soldiers killed by IED’s or ambushes in BF-istan. Where’s the laptop? I open Facebook and exhale a torrent of pent up breath and conflicted utterances both profane and grateful when I see Tim’s presence there.  His footprints, better yet his old soul dance moves, are evident in his activities there including his hysterically funny practice of taking "chick" quizzes to the uproarious bemusement of his brothers in battle. I count the days until I know Tim will be back in the arms of his family and friends, making life plans devoid of warfare, and eating chocolate covered pizza.

I send shielding energy with another Tim who shook my hand and smiled with military pride in Wal-mart at 5:00 a.m. cradling his soap and washcloths in big strong hero hands.

Tim.






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