I wanted to do a Memorial Day post… well, I wanted to, and I didn’t. This year it is different for me, having a son in the service. Over the past few months since he got back from training, we’ve had some interesting conversations about military service, deployment, and other such topics. When I came home yesterday, he was watching a war documentary of sorts, and I must admit, as intrigued as I was, I so wanted to turn away, turn back the clock, and make “this thing” never happen.
I also remember the first time he came back from Basic Training, and the respect he received in the airport. People wanted to carry his bags, and made it a point to thank him for his service to his country. I was so proud of him then, as I am now. I know, however, that pride comes with a very high price tag.
My son made a very tough decision to enter the military. He wasn’t forced, and was not so despairing of life that he felt he had no choice. He was also not misled, because he had a friend serving in the same branch that told him of the reality of service. When he told me, we talked about it a lot, but I knew, his mind was made up. It was going to happen, and I couldn’t stop him. I could do something though… I could love him through his decision.
Sometimes, love is tough. Actually, I’d say most of the time, really. I’m not talking about Hollywood sit-com love that always works itself out in 30 minutes, but real love. Love that challenges, love that pushes you forward, love that causes you to make the tough choices. Or love that makes you accept the tough choices of others.
Even though I am a hopeless romantic, and love that fluffy kind of love, I appreciate the tough love as much for what doesn’t have. Tough love doesn’t dress itself up. There are no roses or chocolate (well, I’m sure there has to be chocolate there somewhere 🙂 ). Tough love isn’t afraid to get dirty, to be misunderstood, and to risk it all, not even for self… it risks it all for the sake of others. I find that awesome.
The other thing I like about tough love is that it is so not a pushover. There is a statement that people make about God I find to be true: “God loves you exactly as you are, and loves you too much to leave you that way”. I had two different conversations with my kids about their area of expertise, and in thinking of it, I realize that they were really the same conversation, having to do with the need for a coach or director in our lives. The basic point of the conversation was that the coach/director’s job is to pull out of us what we normally won’t do for ourselves. It is how I see tough love. It is often that director, that coach, and it shows up in so many ways, and in so many people. I have been challenged, maybe more this year than any other, to be that coach for others, to demand of them that they make the tough choices for them, even as I learn to do the same for myself.
My son will probably deploy, and no matter when, it will be sooner than I want. The hard part for me, is that I have to, in my own way, help him prepare for deployment. I have to be supportive and positive, but also realistic. This is hard stuff for any parent, friend, loved one, etc. I’m learning how to be that for him, and in turn, learning how to love better all around.
When I think of Memorial Day, I think of those whose love of family, country, etc. was tough. Tough enough for them to keep going, to not give up, to push when everything in them said they could not. I think of those who made hard choices of self sacrifice, and of those who said “no one gets left behind”. Gutsy… raw… real love. It’s how I want to love people. I realize that it is wrought with risk, but that’s where the rewards come.
I like pretty love. For me, chivalry will never die. But I also love the scarred hands that risked the thorns to pick the roses.