The Rocking Chair
The first thing he noticed this morning was the azalea bush. In full bloom, it was beautiful. He loved this time of year. Spring meant a new beginning; a time when everything started to grow again. The fresh breeze filled his lungs with a touch of hope.
He took the photograph from his breast pocket. Looking at it make him feel less lonely. It was the same picture that he had taken on every one of his missions. Before every parachute jump or amphibious assault, he said a prayer for his SEAL team and kissed the photograph. The edges were frayed and the colors were faded, but you could still make out the image.
He loved his wife and he loved his country and would do anything for both. Too often he ended up loving his country more, always willing to do whatever he could to fight the evil that could ruin his country’s way of life. She had told him that she didn’t mind if she came in second. She married him because of his devotion and stamina, the best qualities in a husband and a SEAL. She knew he couldn’t separate the two.
As soon as they could afford the house with the wrap-around porch, their dream house, they bought it. The house came with two rockers which they decided to keep. They often joked about the day when the kids were gone, and they’d finally have time to sit and watch the world go by.
Until then, they would prepare for that time by taking a few moments, before each mission, and rock together in their respective rockers bridging the gap by holding hands. She always wanted to make this time feel special, never giving in to the desire to make him feel guilty for leaving her. She knew he had to focus on his task.
They would each be aware of the seconds ticking away, wondering if this would be the last time they saw each other. They never spoke about the what-if scenario except the one time. He had told her what he wanted done if he didn’t come home alive, and he had made sure that she and the kids would be taken care of. Nothing was going to change with these plans in the event he didn’t make it back, so there was no reason to talk about it each time he prepared to leave. He was a SEAL. Organization and preparation were parts of him that he couldn’t turn on and off.
It didn’t matter what time of year it was; they always took a few moments to rock together. Between the rocking and everyday talk, the time calmed them both, if only briefly.
The calm was usually broken when his friend pulled into the driveway to pick him up. He would grab his gear, kiss her, and say goodbye. That’s when she’d say, “I’ll keep your rocker rockin’.”
It was her way of saying how much she loved him and that she would wait forever for him. If she actually said those words, she’d break out in tears every time he left, and she wanted to be strong for him.
As he sat today, he tried to remember all the times that the two of them sat together enjoying those quiet moments. Each time they sat together, the bond between them became stronger. What he did was dangerous; what she did was courageous. When he went on a mission, he had a team to watch his back. Her team consisted of her, working, taking care of the kids and keeping the home always ready for his return.
The return took longer than usual this last time. He had not wanted to come home after his recuperation. He remembered waiting for her to arrive for his first therapy session. He was looking out the window and watching the first snowfall of the season. He had started the session without her, hoping that she was taking her time because of the road conditions. Getting the devastating news made him think, what would his life look like now.
He heard pots and cabinet doors banging through the screen door and figured breakfast would be ready soon. It was Saturday, pancake day. In the past, he would have pancakes every Saturday when he was home. Now he wondered if this ritual was going to change too.
“Hey Dad, breakfast is ready.” He admired the azalea again. Leaning over his chair, he pushed the back of the rocker and whispered, “I’ll keep your rocker rockin’.” From his lap, he picked up the photograph of the lonely rocking chair on the porch and put it back in his shirt pocket. He paused to hear the final creak of the rocker against the wooden floor. Grabbing the wheels of his chair he turned toward the door and yelled, “Coming.” He didn’t want to keep his daughter waiting.
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