Saying goodbye to their youth

It’s been a weird day. I’d have to say it started in church where we blessed two young men from our congregation that are anticipating redeployment. One is a friend of the middle child. (I’ve never felt so old.) After the blessing a group of retired women toward the front of the church stood and started clapping. Welp, that did it for me. The final hymn was interrupted by the tears in my eyes that I tried to not let drip.

We have a constant discussion in our family with two sons aged 22 and 20. They both have friends in active duty. One would love to be of service right now, but a medical condition will always keep him out. The other says he won’t run to enlist, but would certainly serve if he were drafted. Meanwhile, I keep planning an exit route through a Canadian girlfriend.

It doesn’t make sense. I know someone’s children must defend our freedom, but selfishly I’ve always assumed they can be someone else’s children. For one reason or another, the dates of war have fallen such that no one in my family for as long as I can remember has ever served. My maternal grandfather came close, but WWII found him stateside tending to supply rather than engaged on a front line.

My husband’s family lost Jack, as I’m beginning to transcribe here. I know it changed my father-in-law’s life to have his only sibling killed. Like many other of his generation, he’s reluctant to discuss the details. By the way, I may have found Jack’s best friend from Kansas. I’m afraid to call, but think I might try tomorrow. How do you tell someone through a quick introduction that you admire so very much what they lived through and question your own ability to ever do the same?


This afternoon found the family briefly engaged in tearing down the tree house that’s been a part of our landscape for over a dozen years now. I couldn’t help but feel that I was folding away their baby clothes for the last time. It was a time of goodbye of sorts. In my heart I heard them giggle as they thought they were hidden from the world. In fact, the tree house was strategically located at the height of the sunroom window which allowed for appropriate parental reconnaissance. I wish it were so easy to stay a part of their lives now.

The middle child has attended two weddings this weekend. He now has three friends that have married. I know it’s only a matter of time and he’ll be making plans of his own.

So it’s Memorial Day weekend in more way than one. My honest respect for those who have served or supported family who gave for our freedom. If you see me at the Elm Grove parade tomorrow, do say hello.


  1. My cousin, Marine Private First Class Scott Schroeder (age 20) of Wauwatosa, was killed in action in Desert Storm on January 30, 1991 during fighting around the Saudi border town of Khafji. In fact, he was the first Wisconsin soldier to die during that war. Immediately following his death, there was an incredible outpouring of community support for his family. What I recall most, however, were some of the “random” acts of kindness and patriotism. In one such instance, a man rode up in front of my aunt and uncle’s home, got off of his bike, saluted the flag hanging from the front porch, and then rode off again. Since then, my mother and I have both made a point of taking time out of whatever it is that we are doing to personally “thank” any member of the service that we encounter. Their willingness to step forward and do what so many can or will not is incredible, and truly the ultimate sacrifice. We should all make a practice of showing our appreciation whenever we have the chance…not just on a holiday weekend.