Those Who Wait

August 28, 2015

Joyce’s grandmother, Viola Eacret Plummer, stands between her two surviving sons, Bill Plummer (Joyce’s father) on the left, and Jimmy Dale Plummer. Her eldest son died in New Guinea in 1943.
Joyce’s grandmother, Viola Eacret Plummer, stands between her two surviving sons, Bill Plummer (Joyce’s father) on the left, and Jimmy Dale Plummer. Her eldest son died in New Guinea in 1943.

Those Who Wait

by

Joyce Faulkner

It’s mid-February, 1945.

I imagine her – sitting in a chair by the window.

The cold sun sinks behind the trees outside but she does not turn on the lights. The dark holds no comfort, but it does hide her icy tears. In the gloaming, pictures of her two oldest sons sit on top of the console radio a few feet away. She leans forward and twists one of the knobs. The tubes glow. Before the announcer can say much, she turns it off again. She covers her face and rocks back and forth in her seat. Life was never easy for her – but it had been fun. Now fun tastes wrong. So does love. So does hate, for that matter. They told her to keep her routine – but that doesn’t seem right either. So she sits in that chair every day – waiting.

Joyce's Uncle DG is buried at Fort Smith National Cemetery
Joyce’s Uncle DG is buried at Fort Smith National Cemetery

The condolence letter from President Roosevelt made my Uncle DG’s death official – but not real. He didn’t die in battle – he was run over by a truck somewhere far away with an unpronounceable name. They buried him where he died. There was a war to win before they could send him back to my grandmother.

Nanny’s grief was still new, when her second son, my eighteen-year-old father, entered the war. All she knew was that he was with the Fifth Marine Division – and the Fifth Marines were engaged in a fierce fight with the Japanese on a little island known as Iwo Jima. Newspapers reported heavy losses – thousands killed – many more thousands wounded. With one child dead and another in harm’s way, all Nanny could do was wait – and fret.

So it is again. Anxious families display blue star flags in their windows. They check computers for emails from children who are half-a-world away in towns with unpronounceable names. They program cell phones with ringtones – and leap to answer that special one or swallow back tears when an unfamiliar tune sounds.

They remember cuddling apple-cheeked babies with gummy smiles – or chasing wobbly bicycles on first-day-without-training-wheels rides. They touch prom night pictures with the tips of their fingers and tell stories about the day their children graduated from high school or college. But, sometimes, fear taints the best memories like snow obliterating tender shoots. Will their precious boys and girls be the same when they return? Will the darkness of war blunt their sparkle? Will they come home at all? Torn between devouring and ignoring the news, they wait and wait – and wait.

Not long ago, a man that I have never met messaged to say that his son had died in Iraq. For him, the wait was over. I stared at the IM, wondering what to say. Whatever the reason, however it happens — to lose a child is to lose a dream. I wanted to reach out to him, but sensed comfort wasn’t appropriate. His agony was a bonfire that needed to burn itself out. He just didn’t want to be alone. I waited – an anonymous node on the internet — thinking about my grandmother, sitting in her chair – waiting for her boys to come home.

–30–

Author Joyce FaulknerAward-winning author Joyce Faulkner is the daughter and niece and wife of veterans. She writes about things that move her about life. She is a past president of Military Writers Society of America and is the cofounder of The Red Engine Press. To read more about Joyce’s work, please visit her website at www.JoyceFaulkner.com

 

Published by

kathleenmrodgers

Author of the novels The Final Salute, Johnnie Come Lately & Seven Wings to Glory. Former contributor to Family Circle Magazine and Military Times. Future work represented by agent Diane Nine, Nine Speakers Inc.

16 thoughts on “Those Who Wait”

  1. Magnificent, Joyce. A tear in my eye for my grandmother and my own mom. If I could have imagined her pain, that might have kept me home. A challenge to a mothers heart as old as the echo of a parents first love.

    1. What a beautifully written post!

      I have shared this to my Veteran Tribute page, Comes A Soldier’s Whisper on Facebook.

      I am the daughter of a WWII Veteran, Sister to a Gulf War Veteran and former spouse to a Vietnam Veteran.

      Always wonderful to connect with others who love our veterans!
      Jenny

      1. Hi Jenny,

        Thanks so much for sharing Joyce’s essay with your readers and fans on your Comes A Soldier’s Whisper FB page.
        We writers and military families are stronger together than we are apart.
        I’ll go like your FB post. And thanks also for tweeting about it. 🙂
        Take care.

  2. So beautifully written Joyce. Movingly sad. There are no survivors of war. It’s ugliness seeps out over generations afterwards; the effects unmeasurable. Women weep over graves of their loved ones that they may never be able to even lay flowers upon.

  3. Joyce this is so point on.when you lose a child to war, to violence, so far away from home it is unbearable.The wait…..the hope, the fear.I’ve often said that you go through a gauntlet of emotions.There is a period of disbelief. And then they are finally home and you still can’t see or touch them.I think that kills a big part of you inside.I heard a song once where mama cries every night for the rest of her life, you do! And yes, you do want to reach out to others who have lost, but you have felt that pain.You know they have to run their own gauntlet.There are never any words that are going to comfort till time has past.

    1. The most horrific battles take place inside the hearts of our gold star families…thanks for sharing Marsha. No words can truly express what you go through.

    2. Dear Marsha,
      I don’t know your full story, but what I know from reading your comment is that you are a Gold Star Mother. My deepest respect for you and my sympathies for the loss of your child. I care.

  4. What a touching piece, Joyce. When we have the courage to look, we see the casualties of war run deep and transcend lifetimes.

  5. Joyce, I read this with tears streaming down my face. I remember Mama waiting. I remember, in 1958, her death from breast cancer, at age 47. I recall my Dad putting his face in his hands and saying “I went through four years in the South Pacific, without a scratch, and never dreamed she’d go first”…

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