Getting by with a little help from my friends
Another didn't so much offer to loan me her van for a bulk grocery run as she insisted that I take it. And she baby-sat the guys so I could shop in peace.
A third offered to chauffeur Boots home from his soccer game on a day when Big Guy was too sick to sit through the match.
A fourth made sure Big Guy drank enough water during breaks in soccer action, while the fifth shuttled Boots to Big Guys' field after Boots was finished playing. Both games were at the same time, so I either had to miss all of one game or watch half of each.
All of these things happened within a span of 72 hours. Though I haven't known any of the women for even a year, the events are not atypical. At least, they're not in the Army world I live in now.
It's not that I didn't at times have wonderful support in the civilian world - I'm thinking in particular of one friend who didn't hesitate to take the guys in on a Saturday night when I had to work and three other caretakers had bailed, as well as another friend who baked cupcakes for Big Guy's birthday when I wound up with a collapsed lung just days before the event.
But there also have been times when I've begged for help only find none. Episodes such as when Big Guy was a colicky, chronically awake infant and I just didn't think I could go on for another second without sleep but call after call turned up people who were too busy.
Incidents such as when he had surgery at age three months and it took four tries for me to find someone who could pick up pain reliever. I'm like Scarlett O'Hara's handkerchief with Tylenol. Never, at any crisis of my life, has anyone known me to have the right medication.
Times such as when other baby-sitters who have bailed at the last minute, causing me to miss a school field trip and break a 5-year-old's heart.
It's not that everyone in the civilian world is a jerk and everyone in the Army is a saint. But I have noticed a big difference in empathy in the military world. It's hard to relate to a colicky kid unless you've actually had one, but in the Army it's easy to imagine yourself in someone else's shoes, because you either have been already or know you will be at some point.
It goes beyond the actual help with chores, too. It's the mom of a former soccer teammate who looks you in the eye and asks "how are you doing?" and you know that it's not just polite conversation. It's the mom of a schoolmate who asks, "how are the kids doing," and you know it's not just idle chatter because she's working on a masters in counseling and has a couple of deployments under her belt.
I often find myself wondering how I will ever return the tiny, day-to-day kindnesses that make life a bit more bearable. Then I realize that I never will, at least not to the person who helped me.
How much do I owe you, I asked the mom who delivered the Tylenol last week.
Nothing, she replied. It's "pay it forward."
And I will someday.
Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.