a true story from the 1960's
I was going to tell my happy husband and Handsome Prince when we retired - a huge list of neat things women "keep in their hearts". Fun things to share when we were white-haired and satisfied, enjoying the view from the porch in our rocking chairs: like why I watched "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson long past the time one does. Can't do that now. He died before retirement. And so I must share it with you:
He was an officer, with USACE , Black Diamonds - showing Army Engineers how to stay 'Constructive' and NOT to use the horribly carcinogenic Agent Orange - a chemical exfoliant used and overused. Just graduated with a degree in Chemistry, a healer - He loathed all Chemical Warfare. He enlisted before his draft notice arrived in July, so he could have that job.
It was worthy, but it was war. The news shared a list of horrifying new words, with "body bag" at the top! No Norman Rockwell and John Wayne easy patriotism - no. Humans in a bag - the thought froze me stiff.!! Who could sleep in those days? One night, after the news, breathing prayers for his safety, our baby son sleeping in the next room, I curled up for some tv, and maybe some laughter, at least.
We must have been as Johnny would say "one tough audience" to get a laugh from - things for us were grim. And to earn his latest controversial raise, that night, Johnny Carson - prince of night-time tv - was wondering out loud what might get us to laugh. Replying to audience comments and questions, he told us his shirt size, in mock desperation! OK, funny! But NOT - Though my husband was taller, the shirt size was the same, and at that moment, in a very different state of desperation, something clicked.
Me. It was 1968 - no media - no internet - no SKYPE - no email - to bring reassuring live images of my deployed husband. There was Silence, and often lost or delayed mail.
There was Blindness. Madness of sort...hidden as best I could for our baby, if nothing else. Being a good mommy meant NOT hugging our son tighter than I should over it.
So 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.
He was not "career military" so it was quite a dramatic Homecoming from war! Endings and beginnings. His homecoming remains the happiest day of my life- including our wedding, our children's birth, my art at the White House.
Top marks still go to the day my Lieutenant USACE Black Diamonds - 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 "Johnny Carson's shirt size" days, and feel "moreso" blessed for a moment, by comparison to those late nights alone, with only good example from my patriotic family and nothing but a fixation on a "shirtsize-in-common" to help me hold onto my mind.
Grateful praise !
To all who serve and all who love them, l send a good wish and a prayer that we can watch for an opening to do better - to end all wars - there is certainly a way, if we can see through the smoke and flames.
In the meantime, may the Angels send at least a helpful bit of silliness, like "Johnny Carson's Shirt Size" to help any who need one.