Monday, October 30, 2006


My barely 18 year old friend Evan just finished A-School for the United States Navy and is home for 2 weeks before he leaves for Bahrain in the Middle East. He flew in last night and his family threw a little party for him and his friends, bonfire included. As bonfires tend to encourage, there was a lot of storytelling to be had. I listened as story after story was remembered and reminisced around the circle. I watched as people reenacted scenes from their stories with exaggerated gestures and expressions and laughter. As I sat by the fire, I found myself taking a mental step backwards and analyzing the group of friends that were assembled there. Amongst the ten or twelve people cozying up to the flames, I saw so many different levels of emotion and angst. I saw old friends sitting across from each other and not speaking b/c of some feeling from who-knows-how long ago. I saw others attempting to care about Evan's stories only to interrupt him with some tale that they related to something in their own lives. And I saw still others genuingly happy to see Evan, but oblivious to the facts of what his future held. I watched Evan make his rounds and spend quality time with each person there; soaking in all they had to say and everything they did.

As I sat there watching, I knew that by default, Evan's death-risk ratio trumped his friend's by 1000%. And just as sure as I knew that, I knew that none of his friends were thinking about it. I knew that none of his friends were thinking that this short trip home could very well be the last time any of them would see him alive. I knew that none of those young adults had ever considered that the bonfire they were sitting in front of could be goodbye. In their defense, I'm sure thoughts of the danger of Evan's job had crossed their minds; but it was much easier to ignore those thoughts and enjoy their time with him while he was home. And hey, Bahrain isn't that dangerous anyway! While that's true, so is the fact that the plane rides he would be taking were dangerous. So were the patrols he would be on everyday. The countries with bombs aimed at his base are dangerous too. But who thinks about those things when you're 18 or 19?

I was already emotional at seeing my friend home, so I tried to shift my thoughts from his mortality and tried to remember what my life was like at 18 or 19 years old. I tried to think of how my brain worked and how I processed information. I had to admit that the scene I was witnessing was none-too-different from the life I had lived at that age. We shared common thoughts like....."The serious part of life is way out in the future, we're having fun now." Or, "That can't happen to me or to my friends. " Or the best one, "I'm invincible!" Another thing I had to admit was that even though those ideas and thoughts were what I was feeling at that age, I wasn't thinking about them very often. Even though they were my opinions, I never on purpose thought them. I can't even remember if they entered into my conscious thought stream at 18 or 19. I doubt any of those people around that bonfire were thinking about them either. It wasn't that they couldn't face reality, they just weren't taking the time to focus on it. Those things weren't issues to deal with or debate, they were just simple facts. And goodness knows, if someone had tried to sit me down and drill them into my head at that age, I probably would have zoned out and fluffed off what was being said.

Were feelings like that wrong? Were these young adults acting wrong? Should I have been enjoying the night and the friendships represented there, and not thinking such morbid and depressing thoughts? Or were those around the fire last night ignoring the facts of life in front of them and not taking the time to tell Evan how much they loved him? Life comes at all of us at different times and in different ways. We grow and learn and feel differently at each different stage of our life. How we deal with those things is our own business and no one else's fault. What if Evan went away and was killed on his first mission? If I had sat down his friends and forced them to listen to what I had to say would it make their grieving easier? NO. And if I hadn't said a word and it got out that I was thinking they should care a little more while they could, would they have resented me for not making them love him more while they could? I doubt it. Life is just life and you deal with it as it shows up.

I want so much for those young friends of mine, and it makes me crazy. I want them to know everything I know and not make the same mistakes I did. But I know I wouldn't have learned from those same mistakes if I hadn't experienced them firsthand. Those young friends of mine are going to get hurt and beat up, but the scars will be theirs. I would never take that away from them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sam, man you are right on, but I am one of those old people that had similar emotions when Evan came walking in my office in his uniform ; he looked so proud, and so young, and my mind was whirling with thoughts of profound things I should say to him, and then, I thought well, he will be here for several more days, I will make sure I talk to him before he leaves. Will I take the time to do that? I pray that I don't let that moment pass. Sam I respect you and Laura so much for being so involved in these kid's live, they love you, and your outlook on them is a blessing as a parent of one , (well many of them, Kyle,Brad, Andrew and Evan seem like my kids too)...Well keep thinking, and praying and being there for these kids.
-Lyndsays mom (80's lady)

3:25 PM  

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