Years before you arrived, I already knew that I wanted to be a grandma. It had been so long since this family had a baby in it, and sometimes a mother’s arms long to hold their grandchildren long before they have any. We were so excited when we knew that you were on your way. The waiting seemed endless, but finally the day came when we knew the time of your arrival was here. I loved you from the moment I first saw you, at the very moment of your birth. You were our first grandchild, and you were a boy…something new to Grandpa and me, and a bit of a culture shock as it turned out, but an exciting change for us, nevertheless.
I look back now, on the years that have past and reminisce about how wonderful it was to have you in our lives. You were our smiley boy. You came up with the funniest, most precious faces. You smiled and laughed with your whole face…and you smiled and laughed often. You loved climbing into clothes baskets, after you threw out all the clothes, of course. Your mom might find you hiding under a table, in the closet, or behind the door. Any place would work, just as long as you could pop out and play peek-a-boo. We never knew where you would be the next time, so you kept us on our toes. I loved watching your little face light up, whenever we found your hiding places. You got so excited!! Your goal was always to follow in your daddy’s footsteps…as well as his boots, as often as your got the chance. It didn’t matter to you, where he was going, because that was where you wanted to go too. You two are so much alike. And, I loved the way you made all the animal sounds perfectly. You knew them by heart, and you were so proud of your new found ability.
The years have gone by so fast, and I can’t believe that we have already arrived at your 18th birthday. Soon you will be heading off to Sheridan to go to Culinary School, and before we know it you will we the proud owner of your own restaurant. You have shown such great skill and imagination is your culinary arts, and I can’t say that I am surprised, because you have always be an imaginative guy. We are so proud of all your hard work and we know you will be a great success in the restaurant business. My only regret is that the years have gone by so fast, and your childhood is over now. While you have been excitedly counting down the days, I have found myself trying to put the brakes on the passage of time, but that cannot be done.
To each of us comes one childhood, and when it is over, it is simply over. There is no going back, even though many of us wish we could sometimes. Gone now is the little smiley boy, and in his place stands a man, ready to take on the world. While my heart aches just a little bit, because you are going to be going away to college, I know that I can’t stand in your way. I also know that you will take with you all the memories and the good teachings you have received in your childhood. You make us so proud as you start this new journey, and all I ask is that you don’t forget your way home, because we, your family will be looking forward to each and every time you are back with us. Today is your 18th birthday. Happy birthday Christopher!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you very much!!
Being far away from family, is only one of the many hardships of being in the service. It is strange to think of feeling lonely with so many people around you all the time, but that is just how a soldier feels…probably more than they will ever admit. It doesn’t matter if they are married or single. There are always family members that they miss. We would have a hard time understanding their feelings, even if they are our own family member, because we are not all alone in a foreign country, with enemy fire all around us, wondering if we are ever going to get to go home to our life again, and they are.
A lot of times, these men are on long shifts that seem to never end, and in war situations, their bed can be a hill of dirt, sleeping among the bugs, with one eye open, and carefully listening for the sound of guns or explosives, or more importantly, footsteps. It doesn’t make for an ideal sleeping situation. Yes, they are afraid. Bravery has nothing to do with the lack of fear. Bravery is standing your ground, in spite of the fear. That kind of situation takes its toll on the men and women who find themselves in it, and the need for occasional breaks is vital. Unfortunately, trips home are not aways possible, so when they can they explore the area they find themselves in. Many times, these men will not come this way again, so it can be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Sometimes the area they are stationed is of great interest to them, as it was to my dad. A big part of his ancestry has its roots in England, so being stationed in Great Ashfield, in Suffolk, England, he had the rare opportunity to see where his family came from. I don’t know how much he was able to see of it, but to me, just knowing that my feet might have walked in some of the same places as so many of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, would be awe inspiring.
When we think of our soldiers, we get a picture of a man in camouflage, holding a gun, and taking cover behind whatever shelter they can find. We see them as fearless, brave and courageous. We never picture the man behind that facade. The man with hopes and dreams for the future. The man with loved ones who are constantly on their minds. The man who wants to do his duty, because he knows it is necessary, but beyond that, he just wants to go back home to his family…to kiss his wife and kids, or marry and have a family to love, and to return to his parents and family, who can’t help but jump every time there is a knock on the door…praying that it isn’t men in uniform, who are there to tell them that they have lost something of great value to them…son, daughter, husband, or wife. He just wants to make it home.
There is so much heaviness on the hearts of these men, and no way to change what is. It brings a great need for some down time. You can’t continue on, and do a good job, without it the ability to set aside the stress and fear of combat, for a just little bit of fun to take your mind off of it. So, the men and women, our soldiers, look to the countryside that they find themselves in, hoping to find a smile or two, and something to smile about. They do the fun things they can find so that after a time of rest and relaxation, they can go back and do their duty once again.
We all have people in our past who ultimately shaped who we are today. Yes, our parents raised us and shaped much of the person we are, but where did their values come from. It was their parents, of course. When I look back on who my grandparents were, and who Bob’s grandparents were, I can see traits in them and in their personalities that reflect on our parents, which reflects on us, and even some features and personality traits that have passed on to us. Sometimes the traits we have may have come from a grandparent who is even a step-grandparent, but who meant a lot to us, and so we adopted some of their traits.
Part of who we are comes from the way we are raised or the world around us, but some things are not affected by those things. Those are the parts that come to us from our heritage…our ancestors. Bob and his dad both look a lot like his grandfather, his dad’s dad. That became very apparent to me when we met him for the first time. Bob’s dad had been estranged from his dad for a long time, and only reunited a short time prior to his death. During that time we attended a family reunion, and in the pictures, the resemblance was amazing.
I think about my own grandparents. One set I knew, one set I didn’t, and yet it is the set I didn’t know, that I most take after. I am very much like my Aunt Ruth…my dad’s sister, and she seems to be much like her mother, my grandmother. It makes me wonder what my grandmother was like. Did she laugh like I do, and like my aunt did. I wish I could have known her, but she died when I was six months old. I’m told that she was an amazing woman…very strong and capable, and yet a tiny woman…as her wedding dress would tell me.
My grandfather, my dad’s dad, was gone before I was born, and yet I think that we are a bit alike in that he was an adventurer…always looking for something new…just around the next corner. My dad was a lot like that too. He liked seeing new places…exploring new things. I’m sure that was why the railroad was always of interest to my grandfather.
I think maybe some of my personality traits came from my mom’s dad. He was a gentle man with a soft heart. He was very soft spoken, a trait I wish I had received, but I’m not so sure I did. He was kind and compassionate, as was my grandmother…my mom’s mom. They really never met a stranger. And they helped many a person in need. While their family was large, and times were tough, they often had an extra mouth or two at the table in the evening, and they would never have turned anyone away.
Our grandparents passed much of themselves on to our parents, who passed it on to us. The people we have become is in a big way related to the relatives from our past. Whether we know it or not, often, we follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us.