All he wanted to do was scratch his leg. A simple reach down and a couple of rakes of his nails across his calf and it would bring so much relief. But he couldn’t. For starters, the place that itched was packed away under two pairs of socks and thick field boots and second, if he did move right now, the enemy who had been spotted in this eerily quiet field might hear him and aim their weapons in his area. So he lay quiet, motionless and tried to put it out of his mind.
He thought of the million times in his life he had taken such a silly thing like scratching an itch for granted. He thought of all the things like that in his life that he had formerly thought nothing about that now he would love to have back; a warm, private bathroom with hot water from a spacious shower and a big thirsty towel to dry off, a solid meal that was eaten at a table with a casual cup of coffee when it was over. He’d not known these simple pleasures for quite some time because he’d enlisted in the army to serve this country that he loved so very much.
It had been more than he had bargained for, he had to admit. The first time he and his peers had come under heavy fire was a panic stricken moment of reality he’d rather forget. He wasn’t sure he’d ever lose that edge, now. This was not a video game played from his parent’s family room couch. This was not some phony rat-a-tat-tat from some black and white movie of the 1940s. This was the real thing. He could hear the bullets hit and ricochet. He saw other people hit and writhe in pain. There was no sugar coat to really being there. He’d said over and over to himself that night, “What have I done? What was I thinking? Why am I here?”
But the night passed and the new day ensued and the jitters began to ebb. As the weeks passed he actually became used to being in dangerous places, used to coming under fire. He didn’t like it now any more than he had the first day but he was sort of numb to it now; conditioned as it were. He found he began to take on a persona that was almost fearless. He had become what he was such a big part of; a military machine making our country safe. It became his responsibility, his calling, his life. Years later when his tour of duty was through, he elected to sign up for another hitch. He was part of something now that was in his blood. This was who he was.
* * *
She opened her sleepy eyes and stared at the ceiling. That baby could NOT be crying again. He had barely slept an hour. Why couldn’t he just rest? Maybe this adoption idea had been a bad one. She’d said over and over to herself that night, “What have I done? What was I thinking? Why am I here?” She opened the door and flicked on a soft light. She noticed he stopped crying immediately. Was it the light? Once he fell asleep she had turned it out each time she left the room. When he awoke in total darkness was he panicking and then crying? She peered in over the top of the crib. He stared at her, exhausted from all the crying. She tried to follow all the rules and advice she had been given. She knew if she picked him up she would be forming a habit so that he’d expect to be picked up every time he cried. That’s what everyone told her.
But look at him; so innocent, so frightened. He was, after all, HER son now. She’d take her own advice and follow her heart. She scooped him up and flopped collectively into a big easy chair. He was soon asleep, purring softly on her shoulder. She held him for awhile and set him back in his bed. She returned to the chair and left the light on with just a soft glow. She heard him stir, awaken, coo and fall back to sleep. It was the darkness. Poor little guy; and look how mom had read his mind and figured it out. She smiled to herself. Maybe she was going to be better at this mommy thing than she thought. Years would pass and her adoption would inspire her to become a foster parent and many young lives would be shaped and molded by her caring hands. Her son would come to support her efforts and one day find a career in the children’s services field. All which could be traced back to the satisfaction of that one moment, that one night, when he was so scared and she was there. That was now who they were.
* * *
And he sat and gazed out the window at all of the statues and monuments he had seen in the history books when he was just a boy. Who would have ever thought a kid like him from such a poor family could become a senator? He had. He had because he had always achieved and in doing so created a following of those that believed in him. He’d gone from a community developer to city councilman to head of council to state representative to senator. And he sat now in that Washington office trying to remember why he had done any of this in the first place. He owed favors. He owed favors that had to be repaid through votes that he didn’t want to cast. He was under constant pressure and scrutiny and could not follow what he believed because he was indebted to so many. He’d said over and over to himself the last few months, “What have I done? What was I thinking? Why am I here?” He thought about the cost of walking away from it all; the book deals, the houses, the newest wife, the obligations of alimony and child support … How would he be remembered? What would his imprint on history be? Well he knew one thing. If he went any further he would only get in deeper, cause more corruption, more heart ache, more deception. And suddenly he knew what he had to do. He knew the only way to cut the head off the snake was to suddenly retire and let the chips fall where they may; before the obligators brought in more obligations to get out of the first ones. No. No more. He stepped forward, exposed his own deceptions and told the truth. He’d done it on television and had been arrested as he stepped off the podium. But as they lowered his head into the squad car those close by noted he was wearing a smile. “Senator, how do you feel?” someone asked. “Better than I have in years, now that I’m doing what I was sent here to do” he said as the car door closed and his smile faded into the night.
Maybe we never know what it is we are supposed to be doing and where we are supposed to be. But it strikes me that usually we know where we shouldn’t be and I bet that becomes a driving force in your life just as much as the other.
Life is simply a series of moments, some good some bad but next time you find yourself in the middle of a really good one – stop and take note of it. Remember the moment because the great ones don’t happen that often. Step back and appreciate it. Not just like the good moments I always refer to, an open parking spot, a hot cup of good coffee, I’m talking about the great times when it all becomes clear to you why you were put on earth. I’ll share mine with you from last week.
I was driving my 17-year-old son home from a rugby match and two of his buddies were along. There’s always someone who needs a ride. As we drove we were passed by a man, about my age, in a cherry red corvette with the top down and wrap-around sun glasses. “Have you had your mid-life crisis yet, Mr. C ?” one of the boys teased. My son was gazing out the open window on the passenger side letting wind blow through his fingers and simply commented, “He won’t need to make that stop in life.” I looked over at him and he smiled at me and held my glance. “Why not?” asked his pal from the back seat. “It’s called achievement,” he returned, cool as a cucumber, eyes still locked on mine. I was absolutely speechless and drove on with a watermelon in my throat.
When you are suddenly faced with the fact that your kid not only appreciates you but is proud and maybe even impressed by you–yessir–that’s a good day.
Ron Ciancutti is the Director of Procurement for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.