a true story from the 1960's dedicated to deployed military and their loved ones at home.
I was going to tell my happy husband and Handsome Prince "when we're old" - a huge list of neat things couples "keep in their hearts". My handsome Prince got home from war just fine and to a fine successful life in work and love and fatherhood, but I'll never get to tell him these things I saved. He died suddenly one morning, well before retirement age. But I can share it with you:
He was an officer, with USACEngineers, Black Diamonds special ops - showing Army Engineers how to NOT to use the horribly carcinogenic Agent Orange to clear foliage. Just graduated with a degree in Chemistry, a healer - He loathed all Chemical Warfare. He enlisted before his draft notice arrived in July, because, if he did so, he was promised that he could choose his job.
It was worthy , but it was war.
The news shared a list of horrifying new war words daily, with "body bag" at the top! I'd blanche and take a chair. No Norman Rockwell and John Wayne easy patriotism - no. Unable to sleep, the popular "Heeerrre's Johnnny!" called my attention and tried to not be "one tough audience" to get a laugh from - though things for us were grim.
Replying to audience comments and questions, he told us his shirt size ! What a guy won't say, to get a laugh! But if you are Johhnnnnny, you can say ANYthing and bring down the house - even his shirt size won the moment. OK, funny!
But NOT for me; Hypersensitive from love and fear, the mention of "fourteen-and-a-half / thirty-two" made me jump up - Though my husband was taller, the shirt size was the same. And suddenly for a moment I smiled in happy peace , remembering the first time I bought him a shirt, the first time I pressed one up for him for a fete, and the first time I trashed a worn out one that he loved secretly and replaced it with a spotless twin. Oh dear, I WAS missing him so much!
It was 1968 - there was no media - no internet - no SKYPE - no email - nothing to bring reassuring live images of my deployed husband. There was Silence, and often lost or delayed mail. Food and other goodies I'd send were raided and never reached him.
I praised our baby, whose health made me NOT hold onto stress that would upset the infant in my arms. Being a good mommy meant NOT hugging our son tighter than I should over it.
But the silly moment worked and after that night, I'd watch Johnny Carson and fix on that shirt size, over and over - for the power of a factoid to generate connectivity. It worked, somehow, till my husband's tour was done. It was a way of poking fun at my own fears.
My late husband's homecoming from war remains the happiest day of my life - surpassing our wedding, our children's births, and even my art at the White House. Till then Death was there constantly taunting me with promises to destroy all the work and love of my own birth and development to make a fine adult life. Fear taunting constantly, no matter how cool and good and brave and busy I could be.
But, NO - you won't win this one....LIFE this time. My Lieutenant USACE Black Diamonds - some months later, walked through that door at LaGuardia - HOME - "all ten fingers, all ten toes", and the love better than ever for the test!
No Johnny Carson story for him - NOT that day. Time - the gift of time was ours - no rush. My husband had plenty of stories, as well, but one look at one another and we exulted : "We'll talk about it when we're old! We're not gonna have a problem ." And we didn't! Boundlessly grateful there was no PTS for us! Life - we won our right to a good life - with a down-payment on the mortgage for it.
Even years later, with our babies half grown and softly sleeping in the next room , curled up safe and sound, "watching Carson" with my husband - I'd sometimes remember the time of his deployment and that night when I was saved by "Johnny Carson's shirt size" on tv; and I'd feel "moreso" blessed for a moment, by comparison to those late nights alone, with nothing but a fixation on a "shirtsize-in-common" to help me hold onto my mind. Grateful praise !
Even widowed, years later I am fine and thriving for the goodness of the many years we made and enjoyed so well!
To all who serve and to all who love them, l send a good wish and a prayer that the Angels send at least a helpful bit of silliness, like "Johnny Carson's Shirt Size" to help any who need one.