I've come to the conclusion that Macbeth is innocent of the charge of having murdered sleep. No, the real culprit is the Army, as I discovered on my younger son's first deployment to Iraq. I rediscovered it on the second, but it's the third that almost did for me--and a lot of others, too.
Mark had been gone for about four months, and I had no idea where he was. Telephone communication was spotty at best, and for reasons of security he was limited to telling me things such as he was okay. It didn't help, either, that the calls were dropped with more regularity than celebrity spouses.
I woke up one night from a dreamless sleep with a shoulder that was hurting like crazy and the worst feeling of foreboding that I think I've ever experienced. I told my husband about it, but he brushed it off, as usual. He deals very much in the concrete rather than the abstract--give him an engine to work on and he can figure it out, just don't bother him with anything so nebulous as a feeling so bad it makes you cry.
I knew, at some level, that something was very wrong, and that my deployed son was involved in it.
I shared this feeling with some of my friends, all of them women. Over the years it's been my experience that women, as a rule, are more open to accepting things that defy logic.
For the next two days, I was in a pretty keyed-up state. I'd feel very anxious whenever the phone rang, and was beginning to wonder just what was ailing me. I couldn't get rid of that feeling for any consideration.
On Wednesday morning the other shoe finally dropped.
I got a call from the young woman that we all hoped my son would eventually marry (long and sad story there). She had few details, but said Mark had called her to let her know that a rocket had gone through the wall of his barracks. He'd asked her to make sure to tell me that he was okay and that he'd try to call me later.
When he was finally able to call me himself, he said that there were no fatalities and only four men were injured. The worst was the man in the bed right next to him, who had lost both legs. This shook Mark up pretty badly for a couple of reasons: first, the man had just returned--literally--from R&R leave (rest & relaxation, for those unfamiliar with military jargon) the day before and had been back less than 24 hours. Second, Mark had asked if he could switch beds with him, and the other man declined.
Then Mark mentioned something else.
"While it was going on," he said, "I was really focused--I saw the blood and smelled it but it didn't freak me out--all I remember thinking at the time is 'Where can I put a tourniquet?' but a couple of other guys were controlling the bleeding already. Then I accounted for the men who weren't there, and they were safe. After the injured had been evacuated I made my report."
"THEN--Mom, it was too weird. I started having flashbacks--not of the attack, but of the day you were almost murdered. It hit me then why I felt so calm--I'd seen and smelled blood before, so it didn't spook me as badly as it did some of the other guys. Having gone through something like that before steadied me, but I didn't know why at the time. I never thought I'd have cause to be grateful for the tragedies of my childhood!" (Further details on this can be found in my post "Spooky Neighborhood 2: The Bad Luck Token")
When I told my friends this sequel to the wake up I'd received a few nights previously, one of them simply nodded and said, "I know--it's the same way with me and my kids. Mothers ALWAYS know."