Sunday, October 24, 2004

SUMMER OF '69

A few weeks before the guys left, we had a party at our house, sort of a last hurrah before they headed to Iraq. The weather was perfect - a bright, sunny afternoon that faded into a cool, summer night. Burgers and hotdogs blackened on the grill and dozens of beers chilled in the coolers. The wives sat in the shade of our backyard trees while the kids ran around at the nearby playground. The guys played basketball with a beer in one hand, and amazingly no bottles were dropped. At dusk, the guys decided to relive their childhood and set up a game of dodgeball. Later the platoon leader was ductaped to a tree. As the night wore on, people moved into the house and moved on to tequila shots. When that was gone, they did shots of Jim Beam. Some even did shots of Pucker. By all accounts, it was a great party.

But it was also bittersweet. It reminded me of the last day of high school, when everyone is trying to hang on to those waning moments when the gang is still all together. You don’t want the day to end because afterward, you know you will never be the same people again.

I could tell those thoughts were already going through the guys’ heads during the party. Into the wee hours of the night, they became a bit melancholy and philosophical. One talked about how he broke up with his girlfriend because when he deploys, he considers his life to be on pause. Another talked about how he was coming home to his family no matter what. They debated what they were going to face in their second trip to Iraq and what they had to do to make sure all of them returned alive.

Last year when the guys returned from Iraq, some of the wives were cautious around their husbands, worried that the wrong word or action could unleash a simmering dark side. This year, people are already asking me if I think my husband is going to be fucked up when he comes back. I don’t know the answer to that, but I think some change in him is inevitable given his circumstance.

The wives and I are already talking about the party we are going to throw when the guys come back. And I wonder how much of who they were at our summer party will remain intact. Will I still recognize them, will they still be familiar to me?