Unhappy Mother of a Hero

Sisters, sisters, hear the sorrows of my heart. Here are his trophies, his cleats. Here is his closet, land of plaid shirts. Here his framed crayon drawings of superheroes from grade-school. There hang the helmets I bought him for each sport. He was sweet-natured, easy to teach not to bully the weaker ones. Less easy to drag to the pediatrician. I wiped chocolate off his chin, did not complain when he came home with his hair shaved into crazy shapes, or took up brewing beer, which he insisted was medicinal, in the basement. His third girlfriend I adored, each of her finger-nails painted a different color. He was the only person I've known who claimed to crave beef jerky. The pamphlet the priest left behind advises:

cry       pray            write things down if it helps
don't neglect yourself                you must eat even
if only a little at a time                   go for walks
take naps                keep in touch with loved ones

The pamphlet also advises plant a tree. Photos of him accuse and absolve me. In a tiny room with waffle patterned curtains around the bed I first saw him: wet, bloody, face crumpled, held aloft by hands in blue latex gloves.

Sisters, sisters: something in me knew this was coming. I am not afraid to say there are many of us who tried to hold our sons back from battle. We are floating islands now, about which little or nothing is known, torn from shore, drifting unmoored toward foreign horizons.



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