In what now seems like a life time ago you knocked on my bedroom door one morning, asking to speak to me before I went to sleep. I had just gotten home from working the graveyard shift for the Sheriff Department. I was exhausted, I was keyed up from the long drive home and the last thing in the world I wanted to do was talk to anyone.
But you have always had a special place in my heart. I love all my family - your brother and sister are precious to me - but you were the child that started my journey back to God. Your birth, the accident that took your mother and almost took your life, the subsequent years of watching you grow and deal with the challenges that were a part of your life have all shaped mine. No decision have I made without thinking of how it might impact you, your brother or sister. And while my decisions have not always been sound, they were never made solely on what I wanted. They were always made with your highest good in mind.
So of course I said, "Come in". It didn't really matter how exhausted I was, you had asked for some of my time. Why would I refuse you?
"Auntie", you said (very quickly). "I wanted to tell you I have decided to join the Army".
In what was probably a few seconds, your entire life flashed before my eyes. I saw you at Pixie Playland in Concord, going around and around and around. I saw you on one of the push carts at Closed Files where I used to work, poking your ahead around and calling out, "Push me, Auntie!". I saw you with me when we went to see Rowdy Roddy Piper take on The Undertaker and you were OUTRAGED when the Undertaker won after cheating! I watched you put a train together with your cousin John Arata on Christmas morning and I watched you carry the rings down the aisle at your Mom and Dad's wedding. I watched you come into the house dressed in that dumb Dodger uniform after losing still another game at Bel Passi, and held you close while whispering that you were safe in the house and it would be OK to cry. Then I tried not to cry with you.
I could see you getting off the bus after Beyer lost that game to Pittman, when you told me about some giant quarterback they had named Colin something and how he had shook your hand and said, "Good game". "Who was he watching?" you said, laughing.
I saw myself driving you to the Sheriff for Explorer duty, again and again. Picking you up from late night Wrestling tournaments of which I could only stand watching ONCE. I saw us going over math and English homework, helping you do research and even getting accused of writing your paper when I knew you had worked so damn hard coming to me only for editing.
Believe it or not, all this did go through my mind. I wanted to say, "Tough toe nails, buster. Finish school. You may NOT join the Army. Now knock it off and go become a High School History teacher and wrestling coach".
However, I knew right then that it was not about me. It was not about what I wanted for you, or what I hoped you would become. I extracted one promise from you - that you would study to become a fully initiated Catholic and you promised to do that some day. You have moved closer to that goal and for that I am grateful. I still pray that you fulfill that promise some day and that God send to you a beautiful and faithful Catholic woman to love and marry.
I remember saying, "I wish you wanted to do something else, but this is an honorable choice and I will honor honorable choices".
Grandma and I suffered through the combat deployment. We have often felt scared and lonely, wanting to call you up and say, "Enough, Ry Ry, come home right now". Instead we have done what service we could - becoming active with the Military Ministry, praying for you and your brothers and sisters in arms, watching the news and studying maps and sending you boxes of Gold Bond powder and toothpaste.
Today I am watching the world go crazier and crazier. My heart is sick. Christian men, women and children are caught in a violent religious war being waged by crazy people. Crazy insane people who lop off each others' heads and spray each other with poison gas and do it all in the name of God. They are not the first religious nuts to go off - us Christians have a pretty long and storied career in that arena of nuttiness ourselves - but the sheer volume of weaponry, the ability today to wreak devastation in ways unknown in ages past, makes this craziness worse than any zombie movie Brad Pitt could star in today.
I hear the rhetoric of war and I know that you take your job seriously - your job is to serve. You do it well. We owe you so much.
I know you might get swept up into this madness and I am both proud that I contributed to your upbringing and angry that you and other wonderful men and women like you are going to be put into harms way again.
I know you are busy and don't have time for long talks. I get that you are growing up and moving on and becoming an independent man. I miss you, but I know you are doing what is right and natural and I am proud of you.
However, today, the day before The Holy Father has asked us to fast and pray for peace in Syria, I wanted you to know that Auntie loves you. Auntie wants what is best for you. Auntie will always be here, no matter what happens.
Take care, my beautiful handsome soldier boy.
St Michael the Archangel,
defend him in battle.