I spent five hours with him once; another scared parent watching his son prepare to go to war. We talked, controlling our feelings, reassuring each other and together my wife, as the men who we saw as boys did what they needed to do. I took some pictures, he snapped one on his cell phone. And they were gone, and we went to our hotels and homes and on with our lives.
And then a line of text on my screen. In my alerts. I’ve got a dozen of them, alerting me to anything on the web that might be about my son, and my phone shakes or my email box slowly fills up with news, and to be honest not much of it’s been good. And then it was very bad as I saw a name that I recognized, a name on a tape on the chest of a young man who wasn’t my son but who my son had talked about when we spoke on the satphone.
I swore, I’ll admit.
And I went through the channels and got his father’s email and sent him one, saying “I remember…” and didn’t expect anything back and nothing came. And we got a card and waited, because if it had been me, I’d have been burning the cards for a while until the rage died down. And we waited and sent the card and I put my number on it and said “call me anytime.” And he did.
I was in a meeting when my phone buzzed, and I pulled it out to swipe the call away to voicemail and noted the odd area code. And it rang again, same number and I remembered that the area code was from where he lived and I said “sorry” and walked out, turned and went into the bathroom and said “It’s me” and he said his name and suddenly I couldn’t breathe very well, and just listened.
To be honest, I started to cry, and walked out into the elevator and downstairs into the parking lot and the Beverly Hills sun where we could talk and swear and cry together. Someone from the meeting came out to check on me and I waved them away.
And we talked and made plans to talk again and then I had to go work. And he hung up and I leaned over the trash can and wondered if I was going to throw up.
We spent five hours together a year ago, and suddenly I feel like I have another brother – someone who is tied to me and to whom I’m tied – for the rest of my life.
I straightened myself up and walked back to the elevator and reminded myself that when I’m thinking about politics and theories, and this is what the pieces look like: two fathers, one sad and one in grief, and two sons. And went back to work.