Thursday, September 9, 2010


Summer is giving way to fall, and although autumn is my favorite season, it’s hard not to lament, just a little, the cliched lazy days of summer as they slip into the loose weave of memory. Today is a blend of seasons, as though time itself, weather itself, can’t decide on identity, is having trouble moving on. The air is warm, in the 80’s, and the sky clear. But in the yard already-dried leaves skip across the driveway, scratching at my feet while above the trees rustle in the balmy breeze. If I stayed outside long enough my skin would burn, but the morning will be chilly enough for a sweater.

I’m in love, today, with the various weeds and mosses that insist on growing where they’re not wanted. I love the dandelions that push up through fissures in concrete, the moss that continues to carpet a crucial stone step leading to our deck. Years ago I’d mow around tall and flowering weeds in the yard, leaving oases of overgrown grass to protect what had been, arbitrarily it seemed, designated pest when they could have just as easily been called flower. Who decided? I didn’t know, but on my own acre I could reclassify and shelter.

My brother missed the turning of spring to summer; he missed the summer; he missed major time markers in the lives of his wife and kids. Christopher held his first summer job, working with animals in a no-kill shelter. Jordan entered high school and made the soccer team. Jess seemed to grow a full inch taller and read so many books she can’t recall them all. Cassie learned to horseback ride, and my brother’s wife, Lori, figured out how to get the kids, week after week, month after month, where they needed to be, figuratively and literally. Every night the whole family sat in front of the big computer screen and talked via Skype. It wasn’t much, but it was something, a way of keeping in touch, a way of saying everything’s okay even though everything’s different.

My brother missed a lot, and his family missed a lot but they – we – are lucky. The kids’ father, Lori’s husband, my brother, my mother’s son… he’s coming home. He’s out of Iraq and, I think, on a brief layover in Europe.* In 48 hours he’ll be in the U.S. Lori will pick him up at the airport and take him home. The kids think he has another week in Baghdad; they each arrive home from school at slightly different times, so they’ll be surprised sequentially. Part of me wishes I could be there, just hop on a plane and miss a few days of work, witness the reactions of the kids as their father’s presence registers. But another part believes they deserve their privacy, deserve to freely respond with tears or laughter or disbelief or who-knows-what. Military families contend with absence all the time, contend with hardships most non-military families don’t. My brother and I disagree on almost every political issue, but we agree on this: his work is important and he does it well. He’s proud of what he does and I’m proud of him.

So here’s a little thank you for that which persists. Here’s a little thank you for the oasis of family, to naming that which is cherished, to the quiet shifts of season that tell us time is passing and we should pay attention. Here’s to Rob and Lori and their kids…

Although I know it won’t happen, can’t happen, hasn’t happened, I wish – I deeply wish – that all families with loved ones far away could say, sooner rather than later, welcome home.

*This was written a few days ago but couldn't be posted because of the planned surprise. Major Robert Scott is at home with his wife Lori and their children.


  1. Beautiful and moving. The movement of ideas here is masterful, as always. And: welcome home, Rob from someone who does not know you but who is so grateful.

  2. This is a wonderful and touching piece. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for these words/thoughts/scenes. I laughed at the unmowed spots in your lawn/cried at the thought of how the kids would respond to your brother's return.

  4. That's great news. :) I really do appreciate what our military does for us. I know sometimes politics can really confuse things ("What? You're not ? Then you don't support our troops!") but I have, since I was too young to understand politics but old enough to love G.I.Joe, appreciated and admired the armed forces of our country.

    "...the various weeds and mosses that insist on growing where they’re not wanted." Sometimes I like to pretend (eyes open--it's more challenging/rewarding that way) that I am one of the last humans on the planet, however many eons in the future, long after ivy and trees have overcome the buildings crippled, collapsed, and humbled by time. It's a strangely soothing thought to me; the realization of how powerful nature and life is, and how temporary we are, and how everything can matter so much and so little at the same time.