WHEN THIS THING IS OVER |
October 19, 2006
WHEN THIS THING IS OVER
Name: CAPT Lee Kelley
Posting date: 10/19/06
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT
Milblog url: http://www.wordsmithatwar.blog-city.com
When this thing is over...
Just drop me off on any Arizona or Utah highway, where the Buttes and the red rock canyons create optical illusions in the distance and across the horizon – I'll walk home.
Place me right at the top of a hill; I'll let gravity help me down.
Leave me on a back road in rural America, it doesn't matter where, so long as the leaves crunch under my feet and it is dusk and as I walk the shadows deepen and every so often I can see the lights from someone's house, and smell their cooking, and see families together on their couches watching movies, and hear their laughter.
Airlift me directly into a canoe in the middle of Black Creek in Missoula, Montana. It's fine, just leave me right there. I'll wet a hook for a while, then paddle to shore at dusk, enjoying the sound of the oar splashing in the clear, cold water. I'll clean the fish right there on the bank and cook it fresh over a small fire. Then I'll find the nearest road and hitch-hike home.
Believe me, it's no inconvenience.
Instead of transporting me directly to my home of record, according to my official military personnel file, do something spontaneous for me. When I get back to the States, blindfold me, and then leave me in a Pearl White Corvette Stingray or a rebuilt '77 Jeep Cherokee that has a 3-inch lift, with a full tank of gas, a sleeping bag in the backseat, a compass, and a map. Don't tell me where I am. Just leave me with my release papers and pat me on the back for my service to God and country. I'll remove the blindfold, crank the engine, turn on the radio, and start driving.
It doesn't matter what state or what city you leave me in - pick one. I’ll have a grand adventure getting home.
Better yet, ask me where I'd like to be dropped off. I'll hop out right in front of my daughter's school. Its only 9:00 a.m. you say? That's just fine. I'll sit here on this nice wooden bench under this tree for a while. Leave me that newspaper, will you? Thanks. A little later I'll stroll up the street where all the fast food places are. I'll get a large fries at McDonalds and I'll put lots of salt on them. Then I'll get a Frosty at Wendy's. And I'll pick up a Whopper with cheese, extra onion, from Burger King. Perhaps I'll browse the shelves of the local Barnes and Noble after lunch and finish up with a cup of Starbucks Irish Cream coffee. By the time I get back to the school, it will be just about time for the bell, and I'll surprise my daughter and hold her tiny hand all the way home.
My son's daycare would be a fine place to drop me off too. I'll go in and check him out early. It may take him a minute to realize that Daddy's back, because he's only three, but I know he'll be very excited to see me. Then I'll take him with me to lunch and the bookstore, and to his sister's school. I'll walk all the way there with him on my shoulders. I'll buy him a Happy Meal with a toy.
Just get me on American soil.
Get me to New Orleans, and then put me in a taxi. I'll have the driver tune to a classic rock station that plays a lot of Queen and Styx and The Eagles and Steve Miller, or a nice jazz station, and bring me straight to my parents' house to surprise them. They'll be very pleased. I'll bring Mom a dozen roses and Dad the American Flag I flew for him in Iraq.
I don't sit around all day dreaming of home. We are too busy, and there is a lot of important work to get done. It's when I sit down to write, and I'm trying not to bore readers with the little everyday mundane things that I do, that I get really nostalgic like this. I can't help it.
I honestly live an inspired life, and I am perfectly content to be here fighting in a war in Iraq if this is God's plan for me right now, but that's because I know this too is transitory. I wouldn't want to stay here. It's not my home.
It is not America.
My children are young enough that they won't realize I was gone for so long until they're older. One day when they are teenagers it will dawn on them, and we'll be sitting around after a barbecue or something like that and I'll get a faraway look in my eyes and realize that they're growing up too fast and that I am having an adult conversation with my children who were just starting Kindergarten when I went to Iraq.
And they’ll say, "Wow, Dad. You were really gone for a year and a half? I don't remember it being so long."
In fact, they're young enough that one more day won't matter. I know, I know, their mother will probably pull her hair out if I wait any longer than I have to.
But still, I mean it.
Open a road map of the United States of America, pick a cozy little town like Kinston, North Carolina or Gig Harbor, Washington or Lafayette, Louisiana or Moab, Utah and just leave me there. It can be rock, asphalt, water, or sand - a busy college campus in New York or an abandoned park in Savannah, Georgia - the noise of a large highly populated metropolis, or the silence of the Appalachian Trail. Put me next to an interstate or next to a campfire - in a library or at a rock concert - in California or Maine. Leave me in a nameless park, on a darkened street, or in a snowy canyon.
Don’t ask me why. I don't want to explain it, and I can't explain it. But it will be fun and completely un-planned and I like the idea of that very much. I'll have time to be utterly alone and think about a few things as I journey the last leg home to the life I left behind. And I'll have a lot to think about.
So just drop me off, and let me drive out of the past, through the present, and into the unimaginable future of this crazy life.