Sunday, July 03, 2005


Zane’s been having blood in his stool. It’s probably a milk protein allergy. Unless its not. It’s nothing that altering Julie’s diet won’t solve. Unless it doesn’t. The doctors say this is routine. Happens all the time. It’s nothing to worry about. Unless it isn’t.

I worry. It comes naturally to me. Perhaps it’s genetic. My late grandmother would worry when she didn’t have something to worry about. She was a child of the great depression. I’m not talking about the great depression where Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere razzle dazzle it. I’m talking about the Texas oil fields. Rough and hard where good, hardworking folks starve. She never got beyond worrying about the next bad thing that could happen.

I inherited that impending sense of dread. Zane gets this concerned look on his face that reminds me of my grandmother. Reincarnation? Or maybe he knows something’s up with that milk protein.

We found out that Julie was pregnant as my grandmother lay dying in Midland. It was hospice “death with dignity” time and she couldn’t talk. I called from Austin to tell her that Julie was pregnant. She couldn’t say anything back but I’m told that she smiled. One less thing to worry about. She died later that day.

She worried about details and was the busiest dying person that you ever saw. She had the hymns and a poem already picked out for her funeral. She labeled all her possessions divvying up who got what. She had packets of notes and trinkets made up for all the members of the family. I still haven’t had the guts to read the note she wrote to me. I’m guessing that she’ll be hounding me from beyond the grave to do better. She’ll probably be right. I worry about not living up to her expectations.

When I was mobilized in the reserves, my wife’s company went through seven rounds of layoffs. She’s an engineer at a high-tech firm, and the tech bubble hit them hard. I was deployed to Qatar when a couple rounds of layoffs hit. There I am in the middle of a war worried about making the rent. Somehow I’m guessing none of the executives at her company had the same concerns, golden parachutes and all that.

“Are you okay?” is a common line in emails in the sandbox. Except this time I was the one asking. We were going to buy a house and start a family when I got back. A layoff would derail our plans. Good, hardworking folks sometimes starve or at least can’t afford a down payment on that overpriced house in central Austin.

My profession is all about worrying. I am a pager carrying professional worrywart. Fire, floods, tornadoes, terrorism are all in my purview. It’s my job to try and prevent those “oh crap!” moments or at least lessen their impact. I worry about all that stuff so you don’t have to.

Personally I worry too. I worry about Zane. Will he be healthy? Happy? Am I up to this task? Can I set the conditions for his life to be a little better than mine? Every time I turn on the news there is something more to make me doubt it.

But, the biggest thing that I worry about—the thing that keeps me awake at night—is being in the reserves. I think it is becoming clear now that we have a much longer road ahead of us in the war than we anticipated. The vice-president says that the insurgency is in its death throes. I’m not so sure, but, hell, what do I know? Maybe he’s right. But, my grandmother was in her death throes for a year, and she still got a lot done.

I anticipate that I will probably get called up again. Rumor intelligence, RUMINT, has it that the legal groundwork has already been laid to call people up a second time. It is now a political issue. I’ve already done two years so legally I can’t be called back right now. But, how long can that be sustained? Sooner or later, I’ll get the call again. I don’t mind. I’ll do my duty.

But, what I do mind is the uncertainty of it all. The active force has a rotation schedule. Divisions and brigades know when and where they are going months in advance. They can prepare. This isn’t the case in the reserves. So far, we seem to be subject to a system that is completely arbitrary. I may not get called up again, but tomorrow I could have my company completely stripped away from me to fill holes in some other unit. I could go from having a cohesive team to nothing at all. I worry about that.

And I worry about the war itself. Will I die? How much of Zane’s life will I miss? If I go, will he know me when I come back? Of course, these are issues that every soldier wrestles with, but we do our best to plan around them. But, you can’t plan around it in the reserves right now, can you?

So this Fourth of July, I’ll fly the flag. I’ll drink beer and burn beef on the grill. But, in the back of my head I’ll be worried. Will I be around to teach my son what this holiday is all about?

I tell myself everything is going to be okay. Unless it isn’t.


At July 12, 2005, Anonymous Kate said...

Excellent post.

I understand your worry. I suffer it myself most days. And your unit? I'd worry about that too. My husband's national guard unit has been torn apart and patched together with other units. It's unrecognizable now. They were known as one of the tightest guard units anywhere (their lineage is from the one and only infantry unit activated during vietnam -- a ranger LRS unit), with a vast majority of the guys being NCOs and officers and nearly all with active-duty experience. He's in Afghanistan with an ETT team now. The captain he works with is from a completely different unit. The other men in his unit are scattered across the country. None are working together. And so far, none are reenlisting.

Years and years of work to make a cohesive, solid unit thrown out the window. It's crazy.

Take care --


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