War & Johnny Carson's Shirt Size

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a true story from the 1960's

23 hrs · Edited · 

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.