Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Costs of Christmas

I made my first Christmas at home in 4 years. I took a 7 day LWOP (Leave With Out Pay) and grabbed a frequent flyer ticket for my trip home. What a mess. Taji to Baghdad by helicopter. Dubai-Munich-Chicago-Austin by Lufthansa and United. I had good luck all the way over as I had aisle seats with an empty middle seat all the way. In Chicago they have a special line in customs for military so you are whisked through about twice as fast as everyone else. The trip back was another story altogether but I will cover that another time.

The long trip home was worth it as I got to see my 4 year old son run around looking at the bounty that Santa bestowed upon him. My wife thinks that I had more fun than him putting together all the Thomas the Engine train tracks and setting up a rail road.

Its funny how play prepares us for life. These are his first lessons in systems engineering. Tracks must be connected and set properly. Routes must be planned and laid out correctly. This means moving furniture if need be or rolling up throw rugs which are in the way. Trains must be prepared and fueled (AA Batteries). Environmental issues must be dealt with. That meant banishing the dog as he keep kicking the track. Maybe that was a Vector Control issue; either way he was a pest about it.

He also had to make value added choices. "Do I play with Thomas or my new basketball hoop?" "Do I play alone or ask Daddy to play?" "Who is better at tasks I need help with, Mommy or Daddy?" "Do I eat or play?" "Why is Daddy's hair sticking out in 500 directions and did I have anything to do with it?"

While he had to make these decisions I was struggling with my own internal costs. Even though I knew I had missed too many Christmases already and that it was my turn to be at home I was still feeling a bit guilty as I left my friends, brothers, and troopers back in Iraq. No matter how many times I go home I never feel like I am totally there. Some little part of me is still in Iraq just as some part of me is always at home when I am in Iraq. Its hard to explain but it is a mental and psychological cost of the war. Those of us making the efforts here will never be the same. My Christmases will never be the same. I will always think of my Christmases in Bosnia and here in Iraq. I will think of the massive party at BIAP the first year, the fizzled out party at Taji last year and getting home this year. Part of the cost of Christmas for me is knowing that I will miss some more before it is over. I am willing to pay this cost so that my son does not have to. If I can make a difference by spending holidays in the Sand Box to prevent him from having to then the cost is worth it.

I guess I ramble but I just want to get across that there is more than monetary cost at Christmas. What should be a gathering of love and sharing always becomes a stress filled battle to make everything "perfect." Just ask my wife. She almost went into meltdown about the timing of the meal. Our family tradition is to eat a hearty breakfast and then have a feast around 14:00. The rest of the day and evening is for snacking on leftovers. Her family does a Christmas dinner. Since my dad had to go back to his home Christmas afternoon she was going to prepare two dinners. It took a lot to finally hammer home to her that she was doing this to herself and that two complete dinners was ridiculous. She finally caved and made the 14:00 meal at a real time of 15:00. Dinner was awesome though. Prime Rib and Dark Star Zinfandel followed by a full bottle of Tawny Port and cigars.

Mys sister's new boyfriend was playing games with her and we didn't know if he would show up. My step mother got wasted and spent the day in bed. My father in law got into the Scotch bottle in mid afternoon and was in full form by early evening. The dog, my son, and I played with the trains and attempted to be the happy ones. Ah yes, there is nothing like having all the family around for the holidays.


Anonymous Fritz said...

The cost of Christmas is a cost to life. Baskin Robins has 31 flavors (pussy is not one of them) and they still can not cover the choices in life that there are. We all make choices, those choices are best made based on conviction of belief. The square peg in the round hole thing. You have made a choice in your life that has a meaning to many people and many of those people don't even know who James Thorn is. But James does.

I am happy that you had the chance to spend Christmas with your wife and your son, the 'T Man' I think you have referenced him as. And those are good memories. I am happy for you that you had them. And I know because of the many my own sons and daughters did not have with me that the 'T Man' will remember the time and cherish it.

Some time ago you made a choice and with whatever your background was you showed up at the door ready to do what had to be done. And you have done it well. Better than most will ever know and one of the main reasons is that you covered the problems when they happened. You prevented most.

I remember when in April of 04 you took in a bunch of rag-tag truckers who were for all practical experience- shell shocked. You made them welcomed to your AO. That to me spoke volumes of what kind of a person you were. You inspired a lot of people to fall in behind you and support what you wanted for these people in need. That was a great moment for all of us who were part of it.

Why do we choose to do what we do when we do? I do not really know. One of my 'rules of thumb' in life has been that I have to do what I think is right when it is needed. I have been away from my four children (all grown now) for most of their lives. We really don't know each other very much. They do not really understand what I have done. I don't know too much about their high school basketball games, prom, etc. Today we are respectful of each other. We love each other. We are still getting to know each other. It isn't all that negative when you think about it. I can say to them that I may not have always made the best choices in life but the ones I made were mainly based on what I thought was right at the time and not always right for me. Sometimes you have to give more than you get. I have no doubt that you are in the same situation. You have certainly given so much and being away from your family for so many Christmases means that you did not get the satisfaction of those important times with them. Those times can not be replayed. They can not be compensated for. They can not be justified in their loss. You can only go on with life as it is important to you.

Hopefully you and your wife have a good understanding of each other and when the times comes to be home you will be home. Only you can make that choice.

James, you know that I respect and admire you and I only wish for the best for you and your family. I pray that God will watch over all of you and help you along your path in life. May your family understand the good that you do for so many and may they share in the glow of warmth that doing so brings to your heart. You are a good man. No other can ever take that away from you. You have done what you know is right - a belief in life to leave for any son to be proud of.



10:49 AM  
Blogger flythemig29 said...

Gosh Fritz. You brought tears to my eyes. I too am honored to have been associated with you. I know that you of all people do understand what this is all about and how it affects us. I sure do miss your steady counsel and friendship.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Fritz said...

Hey, get the DPW contract and my bags are packed.

1:11 AM  

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