The article that was the hardest to write

Written By: sherridaley - • •

 I love to write.  Not only do I like the process of choosing the best words and putting them into an order that works —  a couple of short choppy sentences when some power is needed, those hard consonants to convey an ugly thought, onomatopoetic words that sound like song – but I also like the way words charge and bounce on the page, the lovely white space I create with short paragraphs, and those adorable little marks of punctuation.

 It’s sick, I know, but it makes me happy, no matter what I’m writing about — until I decided to do what little I could for the families whose sons and daughters were off fighting in Iraq: I decided to write an article about them.  “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  (Milton, On His Blindness)

 A mother myself, I thought about how hard it must be to know your child is in constant danger of being blown up by a roadside bomb or picked off by a sniper, that he or she could come home disfigured, disabled, blind, or permanently terrified.  How do these parents get through the day? 

 I wanted to honor them and the only way I knew how was to write about them, but what I hadn’t expected was the heartbreaking interviewing process.  The parents were proud, scared, patient, brave.  Braver than I could ever be.

 I could manage to get through an hour or so watching a mother’s lips tremble or tears form in her eyes, but when a man cried, I was toast.  After I took a few hasty notes, I’d stumble out to the car and weep.  If my 25-year-old son was in the house when I came home, I’d throw my arms around his waist and press my wet, snotty face into his T-shirt, declaring my limitless love and gratitude for his very existence. 

 The first time he was astonished to suddenly have his arms full of mom, but after while, I’d see him watching me through the front window as I tried to gather my wits about me before coming in the house.  Sometimes he’d come out and get me.  Other times, he would look up, register the red eyes, and say, “Another soldier interview, huh?”

 It was the hardest article I have ever written, but when the piece came out, it was, for me, a beautiful tribute to the men and women, fathers and mothers, whose lives are forever branded by an insufferable sadness; and I was proud. 


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