My son did WHAT? He’s in the ARMY NOW!?!?

To recall a Day back in December 2011

I’m sorry. Excuse me. I really do struggle with hearing rightly these days. But I thought you said… but no, that couldn’t be… I know you didn’t just say, you couldn’t just say, my son, my baby, my Stephen, has dropped out of a “free” college education in a relatively safe environ, and joined “This man’s Army.” No, that can’t be. Pinch me. Shake me. Wake me. This nightmare seems all too real.

Remind me again, why did I swear off strong drink? I seem sense a need for something warm in my hand, that transmits its resolute way from gut to heart as it anesthetizes me with pseudo-courage in its attempt to dull my perception of loss of control. Of loss of my son. Of a heart departed. Of a home splintered by pain of applied parenting as children mature, grow. As they Leave.

O God! How the mighty, (and faint alike), have fallen! Mind spinning. “Who’s on first?” ” What’s on second?” Who’s in charge? What’s happening here? What’s that 60’s song… “War! Huh, Yeah! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”

Wow! From whence did all these thoughts and fears awaken and arise? Are we still at war? Wars, you say? How long have we been there? Why are we there? Where is there? What did we learn from Charlie Wilson’s War? What did the Ruskies learn? Is this winnable? Is what winnable? For what are we fighting? Pseudo-peace? Where is Fort Benning? Is Georgia in the continental US? Didn’t “What’s-His-Name” make a hollow statement about ending all wars in that God-forsaken land of the Middle East? What was purported a Garden is now an Abomination of Desolations. So it seems… So it seems…The very mouth of hell itself?

(God, are You there? You are on the clock, aren’t You? Where is “There”? I need help “Here”. Remember me? And my son? The one You have used to teach me to pray? Yes. That one. That one so much as I in so many ways that I sometimes give a free pass cause I understand so well the inner turmoil.)

My son? My only son whom I have loved, yet failed so frequently and so miserably, in the “Father-School.” My great discovery of Self… some tests and tasks shall I forever be inadequate and ill-prepared for. Parenting is one… Parenting… a true OJT enterprise.

No, Stephen is not my only son, but so it seems today. Wow! Wasn’t it just several days ago when I witnessed him in the buff, being towel-dried, screaming that first cry to the heavens, as mom lay rendered insensible to the world, and to the new life just risen from her womb? But then, mom had not so chosen to intentionally miss this momentous event. She lay with belly splayed open and an ET tube sprouting from her throat, as an even greater participant in the miracle than I. She still bears the scars in her body. Yesterday, wasn’t it? So it seems. Images burned indelibly in my pea brain. Blood pressure 60ish, yeah Hespan sounds a good plan. How ’bout NOW! That is MY WIFE, this screaming boy’s fussing for. Fix her. So she can see her firstborn son. And they did, and she did. And she does.

Now fix us. Help us. Son 1 leaving? Or rather our living testament that God brought us together as husband and wife; now this image bearer, our own Stephen Paul Vining is leaving. And he bears our heart in his backpack. Does he know? Probably not. That comes with time and separation and grey hair.

Another chapter in the saga of a new life filled with exciting change, and the other continued life of unstable stability, that seeks to overcome pain of loss.