The kid next to me at the coffeeshop said that to his dad. I'd guess the kid is somewhere between 3 and 4. I love listening to a child's thought process. He was so upset that his dream wasn't coming true - when his dad asked what dream he was referring to, he kid said, "My dream of having sea animals." His dad admitted right, it wasn't coming true, but maybe it would someday.
I was sitting at the table, finishing the best latte in the entire city, and my delicious goat cheese and onion quiche, and trying to slowly process the phone call I got from my brother the night before. I was in a cab on the way to a honky tonk dive bar, a few glasses of wine and a few good Gillian Welch songs already in me. My brother got his deployment date. In about a week and a half, he said, he would be in the midst of the most volatile area of Afghanistan. He wanted me to know what arrangements were made. Who the life insurance beneficiaries are. Who has power of attorney. That our mother would be the first one notified, but he was going to try to change it. He wanted it to be me. And if it wasn't, he assured me there would be plenty of money in his account, and could I please make sure to get to my mother within 24 hours. He didn't think she could handle it.
Of course. Of course. I got you. I understand. Consider it done. Absolutely I'll make sure to. I could only respond in calm affirmations. I got this covered, don't worry, I'll make sure it's taken care of. I know he's scared, there's nothing I can do to make it not scary, all I can do is make sure that he knows I've got his back, on this side.
I'm tired. I feel like I take care of a lot of people. Why am I always the one to take care of it? When is someone, anyone, going to start looking after me? Before, it was a decision that my brother made that we selfishly and protectively tried to talk him out of. He was so mad that we all tried to convince him that he was making a terrible decision, joining the military. When he snapped one day on the phone, yelling, "Why can't any of you just appreciate that I'm doing an honorable thing?" all I could say was, "If anything ever happened to you, and we never tried to stop it, we'd never be able to live with ourselves." But he went ahead, and after we couldn't stop him, all we could do is support him 100%. And now this means not just accepting his choice, but taking on responsibility for his choice. His choice means making sure I have some time set aside, if I ever needed to go home on a moment's notice. His choice means I need to take care of my mom, several hours away, while trying to take care of myself. His choice means I have to decide what and when to tell my father, with whom my brother hasn't spoken in years and to whom he still refuses to speak. His choice means that if something happens, I have to keep it together, take care of them, help them, make sure they're ok. That responsibility sucks, and I didn't ask for it.
I'm not saying that I don't want to take care of my family with every ounce of my being. Of course I do. I'm freaking out, though. Why isn't my punkass little brother still living nearby, going to school, or working, or otherwise misbehaving in ways that cause us fits of anxiety? Why couldn't he have decided to move to Thailand or Costa Rica and farm? Couldn't he just have gotten another tattoo or piercing or stupid mechanical toy like a snowmobile? Why did he have to decide to enlist? There's nothing I can do to control this. I can't make sure he's safe, I can't keep him from harm, but I'm supposed to keep it all together on the other end. It's shitty. I hate it.
So now I feel fiercely protective and mindful of my family, mindful of my role to keep them calm and ease their worries, while still trying to cope with that anxiety and worry myself. On top of feeling the weight of hundreds of clients' problems on my shoulders, on top of constant worry and anxiety about my friends' drinking, or unacknowledged depression, or general recklessness; in addition to the regular old lesser worries about getting everything done in a day, not gaining weight, paying bills, or wondering if I'll ever be married and so desperately wanting kids. I wish someone was making a phone call to say, Please look after her. I don't know if she can make it through this one alone.
But I'm not really alone. I have friends and family who love me, and we'll get through it together. We'll work out our worry and our anxiety together, we'll look out for him the best ways we can, and we'll look out for each other too. I love you, little bro, make sure you take care of yourself and be safe. You're smart and resourceful and sensitive to others, I have faith these things will carry you back home safely.
The old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times" rings true. I have lived through interesting times, and I'm hoping to live in less interesting times. Boring family sitcom-type times. I think I've encountered some fairly turbulent decades, and I keep dreaming of a time when I'm cruising at a steady altitude, turbulence free, where I can undig my nails from the armrest, relax my shoulders, and maybe even let my head rest gently against the seat. That's my dream. Not coming true right now, but maybe like the kiddo's sea animals, maybe one day.