Thursday, September 4, 2008

Vicarious Hindsight

I'm not an eavesdropper, really.

OK, fine, I'm not going to fool you so I'll just admit that I am -- but really it's a finely practiced skill learned for the greater good.

Back in the day it was: you say something really interesting in a conversation I overhear, I get to write it in my newspaper. So, see, greater good. Now, granted, it's more like: you say something interesting, I do nothing except hopefully satiated my desire to know what it is that you people are talking about over there.

But whatever. The point here is that the coffee shop is a fan-tas-tic place for burrowing in on others' business without being noticed. I sit and pretend to read my book, and you talk to your friend and keep me entertained. Is that so hard? No.

And that's exactly what I was doing today, only with slightly more vigor than usual. You see, today was particularly terrible on a personal level, probably mostly because from the moment I left my house at 6:37 a.m. I was exhausted. Yes, I had just gotten out of bed. Yes, I had slept all night (restlessly, but slept). No, I did not feel awake.

The day was one of those where, at any given moment, I was libel to give into the urge to burst into tears, based solely on the Army being really, truly awful and taking away Luke for long chunks of time in preparation for taking him away for a longer chunk of time later (and somehow thinking that system makes sense). I mean, do they not realize that they are leaving my poor heart in tatters? Don't they know that I'm not a big enough girl to do this by myself? Who are these people, and don't they have a soul!??!!

That is the state I was in when I began eavesdropping with all my might on a group of oldish ladies sewing cloth bags to send with missionaries overseas (ah yes, prime candidates for interesting stories). Apparently a bunch of retired Army wives (like most folks in this area), they were exchanging stories of their younger years, having children and what not ....

When one woman started telling, with a smile even, about the time she gave birth to her son while her husband was away at Officer Candidate School, and then after the Christmas break moved down there with him. She lived in a house, alone, outside of whatever base they were at where she spent her days caring for a newborn and doing laundry at the laundromat. She got to see her husband about once a day, for a few minutes at about 5 p.m. The deal was the married men would be released to the parking lot to talk to their wives through the window of their vehicles (wives not allowed to get out, husbands not allowed to get in) and then were recalled by their officers. That's right, kind of like prison.

And she told this all in the most cavalier of ways, with a smile on her face. And her friends sat there and laughed and said "ah, yes, the new Army wives must learn," as if they, too, knew. I had the strongest urge to go sit on the floor at their feet for story time, and learn something from these people who, frankly, may have laughed at my tragic attitude. And it would've been OK.

All this makes me think that perhaps I won't perish from all of this -- this woman didn't -- and maybe someday I'll be able to turn around and laugh about it, like I do already about the rainy June day not so long ago when I lost my keys, husband and dignity all in one tragic moment.

Next time I see that woman I plan to 'fess up and thank her for allowing me to listen. In other news, I took a two hour nap after work and feel much, much, much, MUCH better.

1 comment:

  1. Whoa. That's a whole new respect for Army wives, of which you are one, of which I have the utmost respect for.
    Hugs to you!