Monday, November 4, 2013

The Eternal Call

Instead of just one day, I’d like to dedicate the entire month of November to the brave men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect our freedom. Welcome to Veteran’s Month.  To those who have served, thank you!  To those who are currently serving, you have my deepest respect and to those who will serve in the future, may your bravery see you through. 

 While the grandchildren whooped and hollered, dashing at top speed through the yard, the old man sat in his porch swing and smiled.  He envied their energy.  Youth is truly wasted on the young, he decided.  In their own way, each of the children exhibited their own strengths.  The youngest, Madeline, was attempting to outdo her older brothers.
“Watch me, Grandpa!  Watch me!”  Maddie squealed before launching into a cartwheel. 
Ignoring the aches and crackling joints, he rose and applauded his granddaughter’s effort.  Ever the little princess, she pulled the hem of her jacket out as if it was her gown, and curtsied.   He chuckled and eased himself back into the swing.  A moment later his daughter came and sat beside him.
            “Dad, are you sure it won’t be too much on you and Mom for us to stay here?  The kids can be a handful and you two aren’t used to all the noise.  John’s worried that…”
            “Erica, your mother and I are thrilled to have you and the kids stay with us.”  He replied.  “Look, we all knew this day might come; it’s just part of the life.  I’d say our family knows that better than most.  You’ve always been my pride and joy, sweetheart, but I have to admit, you outdid yourself when you decided to marry a Marine.  It shocked me, especially since you were the most vocal about your displeasure with my vocation.  I distinctly remember a very heated discussion when you were about sixteen…you swore that you’d never marry a military man.  If I’m not mistaken, I believe you told your mother she was insane for marrying a Marine.  The core was, quote, ruining your life and it wasn’t fair that we had to move all the time.  Later, when I was deployed, you said it was wrong for them to send me away when I had a family to take care of.  The constant moving wasn’t easy on you or your brother and deployment is even harder but you survived.  You and your little ones will survive this too.  You’re more equipped to help them deal with it than your mother was.  In the meantime, we’re glad you agreed to stay with us for a while.  It will put John’s heart at ease while he’s over there.”
             “Thanks, Daddy.”  Erica whispered as she hugged her father tightly.  
Despite his advanced age, he still carried himself like the officer he had once been.  Active duty or retired, once a Marine, always a Marine. 
Later that evening, while Erica and her mother cleaned up the dinner dishes, the kids had huddled in front of the television, commandeering it for their favorite shows.  Their grandfather scowled but endured the tedious programming.    
            “Okay, gang.  TV time is up!”  Erica called from the kitchen.
Her announcement was met with a chorus of groans from the children but a grateful smile crept across the old man’s face. Struck with inspiration, the children exchanged conspiratorial whispers, eyes glowing with excitement.  After a quick round of Rock-Paper-Scissors, the middle boy, Nathan, stepped forward.
            “Grandpa?  Would you tell as a story?”
The old man smiled and nodded.  There was almost nothing he wouldn’t do for his beloved grandchildren.
            “Hmm.  Let’s see.  Once upon a time…”
A collective disgruntled groaning rose from the kids, coupled with eye rolling and snorts of derision. 
            “Ugh!  We’re too old for fairy tales.”  Zack, the eldest boy, grumbled.  “Forget it.”
            “Yeah,” said Ethan.  “We want to hear a scary story.  Fairy tales are for babies.”
Even Madeline wanted a scary story.  His sweet angels wanted bloody, gory death instead of happily-ever-after.  The old man smiled wistfully, the days of innocence were long gone. 
            “Well, I know one but if any of you have nightmares or are too afraid to sleep alone, we go right back to the kid stuff, got it?” 
The children nodded in unison, as their anticipation grew.  They crowed in closer, hoping their mother wouldn’t overhear and put an end to the story before Grandpa got to the good part. 
            “This one is called Aeterno Vocatus or in English, Eternal Call”

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