My husband has never gone to war, so I have never been the one left behind to raise children and cope with everyday stress alone. I know military wives are courageous and strong and supportive of the heroes their husbands are. But I often wonder what a wife and mother might think about in the middle of the night. I know women are also serving and leaving their husbands and children behind. Perhaps these thoughts would occur to either one.
Letter to a Returning Soldier
Sometimes in the dark hours of the night,
I wonder if the fear I feel
is anything like your fear there away from me
in a life I’ll never know or share.
I wonder if your need to protect
is anything like my need to protect our children
who say little but feel much about your empty chair at the table
and your absence during their growing-up moments
that you will never see.
I wonder if you know how inside we (all three of us),
the pieces of who we are, are becoming jumbled,
mixed up into a being we aren’t sure of,
that we don’t know or entirely like,
and I wonder if it’s like that for you too.
I wonder if your loneliness and confusion is anything like mine
and whether what we had and who we were
is strong enough to survive the test we have both had to pass
to move on to something new.
I wonder if at that moment when you come back to us,
you will feel what you want to feel,
what you thought you would feel and hoped you would feel,
or if there will be something else there,
something even more fearful than those days and nights
away from us facing a peril we will never know
as we have faced our own perils here away from you
And I wonder in the darkness in my loneliness
if what we had and who we were
can survive what we did not ask for,
what we did not expect,
but what called from within us somewhere very deep
for a courage we did not know we had,
a courage that changed us both,
a courage that now surrounds us like a cloud
following us to that moment
when you return to me, to us,
to a new test we absolutely must pass
because failure now would be the worst failure of all.
© Barbara Flass 2011