Lost In Action

March 19, 2009

Growing up, I had always idolized Rory. Rory had been the quarterback of the varsity football team, got straight A’s, and had an irresistible personality that I could never get enough of. Rory lived in Montana though, a whopping 1470.25 miles away from me, so I only got to see him on Thanksgiving and Christmas. When those holidays rolled around though, I would just stare out my family room window, waiting for that big, white Chevy pick up truck to drive up the driveway. Then when I was in fifth grade, everything changed. When the whole Fanning family sat down to eat the Christmas Ham, Rory put down his fork and knife, stood up, and then said he had something to tell us all. Looking down at his father for reassurance, Rory cleared his throat, and then proceeded in telling the whole family that he had decided to enlist in the army. The rest of that Christmas, I sat in my blue leather chair that overlooks the hill my house sits on, and just thought. Thought about when I would see Rory next. Thought about the dangerous scenes movies and TV shows portray war as. Thought about what would happen if Rory died in Iraq. Thought about how much I would miss Rory. Just thought.

Three years later, Rory finally got to come home for Christmas. When my Uncle Bob called my mom to tell her the news, I started to anxiously count down the days until I was reunited with my favorite cousin. When Christmas Eve finally rolled around, I found myself staring desperately out my family room window once again, waiting for the big, white Chevy pick up truck to drive up the driveway. The seconds dragged on and on, until I couldn’t wait any longer. Then finally I saw those bright headlights shining through the blizzard that was raging outside my family room window. I was so anxious to see Rory. I couldn’t wait to play our regular game of BS, where he let me win of course, and then fill him in on every insignificant detail of my eighth grade life. When I saw my red front door begin to open, I sprinted for the door handle, swung the door open, and then jumped on my favorite cousin in the whole world. After I finished hugging Rory, I pulled away and suddenly was overwhelmed by the different changes Rory had made over the past three years. My eyes glanced over his new shaven head, then my eyes noticed his sharp chin where a fresh scar had left a permanent reminder of the war, then my eyes spotted dog tags peeking out of his dark blue sweater, and then they finally dropped down to his “Rangers” tattoo sneaking out of his sleeve on his right wrist. I hardly recognized my cousin I had known for my entire thirteen years of life. I stared into his intense green eyes searching for the Rory I knew. Only, I couldn’t find him.

The rest of that Christmas night, I just observed this new specimen that had taken over my cousin’s body. This couldn’t be Rory. I mean, this alien acted nothing like Rory. This stranger didn’t want to play cards, didn’t want to talk about the place he’d been for the past three years, and this stranger just stared at everyone, not truly looking at them. I didn’t understand. Where did Rory go? This stranger didn’t really laugh, only smirked at most, didn’t tell any jokes, didn’t take part in the annual boys versus girls trivial pursuit game, and this stranger wouldn’t talk to me. I didn’t understand. Would my Rory be coming back?

After pretty much everyone left, I overheard my Aunt Liz and my mom talking in the kitchen as they cleaned the rest of the dishes from dinner. They were talking in abnormally quiet voices, so I knew that they were talking about something important. So I quietly crouched down, and hid behind the sliding door, trying to hear anything I could. Once I finally started to decipher the gibberish my mom and my aunt were talking in, I realized what they were talking about: Rory. “This is just so tragic to see such a fine, young man so drastically changed by that war,” my mom said. “I hardly recognize that boy. He was so outgoing and vivacious before, and now he’s so withdrawn and secluded,” My aunt responded. “Well what can you expect? I mean the closest friend he made in the war jumped on a grenade five feet in front of him in order to save his life. I would pretty messed up too.”

I just stayed crouching behind the sliding door. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to think. Then, tears just started to stream down my face. I was crying for my cousin’s friend in the war that saved his life. I was crying for my family because in a sense we had lost one of our own. My tears had begun to make tiny puddles on the floor now. I was crying because I felt selfish for thinking I had lost my cousin, when in reality he was still here which is more than some can say. But most of all, I was just crying for my cousin. Now I just started to sob, no longer caring if my mom and aunt could hear anymore. My cousin had gone through so much, and I couldn’t truly grasp any of what he saw or what he was feeling; none of us could. My cousin was permanently changed by the war, and there was nothing I could do about it. Yes, he was different then the boy I grew up idolizing, but Rory was still here. Rory was still alive. Yes, I missed the amazing cousin I would anxiously wait for every Christmas, and desperately watch for him to drive up the driveway, but he was still my cousin, and I still loved him. I could get to know my new cousin, and maybe one day, my Rory would start to return.

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