Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dear Grams

Our phone conversations weren't like other grandparents and grandchildren. Or so I thought. We didn't waste much air time on chit-chat. But that might be because I was only 15 when you got sick. We dove right in to what color dress I should get for some upcoming event. What boy I liked. What mischief you and my aunt, your elder daughter, had been up to. It's time like these I wish you were still a phone call, or a family event, away, and I could fill you in, and you me, and then I might feel guiltless enough to vent like an air conditioner in Florida in the summertime.

Last week, probably very soon after we knew, I would have called to tell you that you'd be happy to hear: I'm not going overseas. At least any time right soon. I know you would have wanted me to - because I wanted to - just like my mom; but deep down (though not that deep), you would be tickled like she is. Dad, too.

You would have liked, just like my husband (I supercalifragilistically can't wait for you to meet him), the fact that I'm more than willing - desperately wanting these days - to receive an overseas post. And you would maybe be slightly proud that with frantic eyes I continue to watch for the opportunity, as well as continue to prompt the hus to use words like "we" and "Aly and I" instead of "I" and "my." Because outside the helicopter, it's both of us picking our way through this life we chose together.

I might put to you here how you really do need to get a hearing aid. (They're quite streamlined now!) And stop being so stubborn! We're already letting you live in your own home ... Because if we had had another 15 years together, we would be close like this, having formed one of those relationships that's busting with respect yet dotted with frankness and plenty o' hugs with a kiss. But we would quickly get back to me ticking off disquiets about moving to San Diego by the end of the month (for a few years), instead of a far off isle via San Diego.

And just like everyone else, I would reiterate (though maybe a little more patiently with you - maybe, so don't push your luck, WINK), about how it all works.

Cary will be flying the new (well while this one is fairly new, I'm realizing 'new' tends to mean there's just not one slotted to replace it) naval helicopter called the 60 numerically, the Romeo phonetically, and the Seahawk better-ly. (Because who doesn't love rooting for the underdogs of Pritchard male sports lore...)

In his new squadron, he'll be learning to fly this breed of hawk (a pimped out Navy version of the Army Blackhawk for those who like comparisons like myself) during the next 6-9 months at the North Island base, which is on Coronado Island - over that huge suicide bridge from San Diego and up the Silver Strand that connects near The Del.

But you know this.

(And I apologize for all the parenthetical statements and some banging on, but it seems a necessity when it comes to militaryspeak as that dog Orwell might say.)

Then he'll officially joint the fleet and be deployable on his squadron's time. They say to expect about 6 months of deployment every year and a half, give or take for war or peace time; it's strange to have a job revolve around anything but the fiscal year. But then again, it's strange to have one family job in the air and the other very willingly chained to a desk. You would laugh a little at this, because a lot of what I said struck you as funny, as if I had quick wit instead of moments of clarity.

And you wouldn't ask me how the writing was going at this note, because you'd know I never know what to say. But you'd ask me what I was reading and that would sneakily get me talking about literary devices and the elements of style and how a panda eats, shoots and leaves.

But Grams, you'd be distracting me - so back to my list of misgivings I would pose to you on this much-wished-for-phone-call-slash-letter-to-the-North-Pole ... And no, Cary's no help, because all he cares about is riding beach cruisers around an idyllic little island from Oz, ignoring inflated rent and learning the many capabilities of his new maritime strike ride ... Yes, yes, that's why I love him. Okay, ready now? Okay...

Q: How is my writing life made more interesting when I'm stateside?

A: Who had to go to Japan or Guam or Timbuktu to write something good? Pulitzers are always won by someone covering a story in their own backyard.

Q: I was hoping it would gloss over the fact that nothing of significance has happened to me, but I guess I'll have to continue to seek them out. Okay, so how do I justify being a lonely wife, or a poor parent a long, long time from now, when I can throw a palm tree and hit someone I know or am related to, who's likely doing the same thing, likely in an even harder situation?

A: What do you think I was sometimes?

Q: Stop answering my questions with questions ... Well how do I put an ocean between myself and work and responsibility and the like when there's only a channel or a freeway or state lines?

A: Just take lunch. Or hold your tongue. Or just stay away. Nothing wrong with a scoop of ice cream in the middle of the afternoon, or a night watching Little House on the Prairie. Get away; take a trip to Tijuana.

Q: It's not really safe there anymore but okay, just don't tell mom ... But how do I afford trips to places like Tokyo and Kyoto and learn to surf with nobody watching when Tokyo is a fortune away and again the palm tree thing?

A: I know you think some people think all you do is write marketing fluff and silly blog posts and fulfill your wifely role, but you and I both know better. You're not a pilot's wife. He's a writer's husband. {She laughs at her joke.} You'll be supporting and indulging me one day, and I wouldn't put my faith in a lost cause - let alone go anywhere near doubting your ability to one-up us all. Listen to your mother. And stop flirting with the Joneses, as you say.

Q: But how do I---

A: Oh Aly, you'll be fine. Now go do your thing.

I guess that's all I needed to hear. Though I think I'd be happy with a one-down. I wish you could come to the winging this weekend. You'll miss everyone thinking killing is cool and drinking is [fill in the blank]. You'd love our friends here. And you'll miss him in his uniform, and I can just imagine keeping that picture close by. I miss you. A lot. It'll be even more when I'm back Out West and wishing you could make your fried chicken and chocolate cake for me and the girls who make California great.

Hazel Nena Thomas was my mom's mom. One of the best of the best.