The next afternoon my brother called our parents from the Marine recruiter’s office. He was not emotional in the least; it was only a call to let them know that they were having some paperwork issues and he would be late for dinner. The printer in the recruiter’s office had been acting up and they were in the process of repairing it.
On my brother’s end of the line, it was a very unemotional phone call. On my mother’s end, however, it was anything but. As my mother hung up the phone, she was visibly shaken. My sister asked who it was, to which my mother replied quietly that it was our brother and he was signing up for the Marines. She looked at me especially long, more THROUGH me than AT me, and I knew that she held me accountable for his decision. My father, who had been in the garage tinkering around with one of his latest projects, had stepped into the house from the garage as soon as the phone had begun to ring.
It was sad to see her mood drop in a matter of a sixty second phone call. My mother, who was crafting her (as she called it) “world famous” chicken enchiladas, had been humming happily to herself in the kitchen as she darted from drawer to drawer, cupboard to cupboard, gathering her ingredients. After the phone was hung up and she had looked at me and then the floor for what seemed like an eternity. She released a short sigh, then resumed her cooking.
My brother and I hadn’t told anyone else in the family about our incident the night before but, with the exception of my sister who had been at school before we had awakened that morning, our family had felt the tension between us. My brother and I had avoided each other all day long. Usually we both slept in too late, a fact that our father always made a point to mention over breakfast and any discussions on productivity. This particular day, however, he’d gotten out of bed before me. As I laid in my bed, I had heard my mother’s gasp and knew that she had seen his face. I didn’t want to see what that side of his face looked like hours after the fact. I knew that it was serious; the swelling in my knuckles was pretty serious as well. Trying to move my hand left me wincing in pain.
My mother had always been very protective of us and she wasn’t quite ready for us to grow up yet. We’d had a good childhood, most of that fact attributed to her deep love for all of us children. Although my brother and I had disagreed on many things over the years but we both knew that we were loved deeply by our parents.
I don’t know if my parents ever truly forgave me for the split. My father was a veteran himself but he wasn’t that excited to deal with my mother after getting the phone call that day. He, himself, had served in the Navy but claimed to have not been involved in anything “substantial”. With the way he would pause before uttering the word, I had always been curious if he HAD been involved in something substantial.