Is Mommy coming back?”
He was not quite six years old when he asked me that question about our mother. I didn’t know the answer then. I was only nine. I knew he needed me. I knew he was sad and worried and really, really scared. I told him the first thing that came to mind.
“Yes. She’ll be back.”
It took a few years, and in that time, he and I grew very close. I helped him with his homework, did his laundry, and beat up his bullies. I tucked him in at night, made his grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup, and wiped away his tears.
Now, he’s thirty and I’m thirty-four. We’re both parents. Both have been divorced. Both wounded. But I will always be the big sister.
His fatigues are packed for the war zone, again: for the fourth time. Fuck.
I left him a message. And then he left me one. And then finally today, we talked.
“Am I coming home, Sis?”
“Yes. Yes, you are coming home.”
“With my tags on my toes?”
“NO. Not with your tags on your toes. You’re coming home to kiss your son.”
“Take care of my wife & son, Sis.”
“You’re the best sister and mom I’ve ever had. I love you.”
(I catch my breath.) “Watch your ass, baby boy. I love you too.”
Oh dear God, please watch over my baby brother. Keep this 6’4″ soldier safe and bring him home where he is loved most: where he has a son who needs his father; a wife who needs her husband and a sister who wants to keep a promise that he is coming home safely.