The Rock

June 14, 2011
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On the front porch was a plain brown box. It was addressed to me from a sender whose name was not on the box. I couldn’t help but be interested in it so I took it inside. I placed it on my coffee table and just stared at it for a bit. There was no one I could recall who mentioned sending me a package and I didn’t remember ordering anything. As I was pondering inside my head my mother walked in the room.
“Shelby, what is this package doing in here?” I simply answered “I don’t know.” She replied “Well is it addressed to you?” Still lost in my thought I said “Yes.”
Without even a hint of discretion my mother ripped open the package right before me. I immediately snatched the box before she could peek inside.
“What are you doing? This is for me!” I screamed at her. She stepped back and said “Okay fine, but tell me what’s in it for crying out loud!”
I couldn’t help but have a rush of excitement hit me as I went to look in the box. But also I was pretty nervous. I turned the box to my eyes and looked inside.
“Oh my god.” Was all I said.
My mother stared at me in confusion, waiting for me to tell her what was great or not so great about this package I had received. She couldn’t take it anymore and snuck a look inside. We both couldn’t help but marvel at what the box contained. Finally we both looked up and smiled at each other.
The box contained a picture and a letter from my father who was stationed in Iraq.
My dad was the bravest man I knew and it was hard to be away from him for so long, so when I opened that box a smile spread across my face and my hands flew up in the air!
The letter read;
My dearest Shelby,
I have missed you so much over this past year and I hate being away from you. I look at your picture everyday to remind me that I need to get up and make it through these days to come back to you. Everything is fine here, I cant say too much but me and the guys are getting by. We play cards mostly, and of course I win. Only because you taught me the secret. How is school going? Are you still having trouble with math? Sorry I can’t be there to help you, but I bet your mom is doing a great job. Well sweetie I have to get back but remember that I love you and am always thinking about you. Give your mom a kiss for me.
I love you my little girl, Daddy
I couldn’t help but cry. I tucked my head in my arms and tried not to be too obvious. However, my mother noticed.
My mother grabbed my hand after she read it to herself. I saw the clear tear run down her rosy cheek and fall to the floor. My dad and mom were high school sweethearts and married right out of college. When he told her that he wanted to join the army, she couldn’t stop him. I know she regrets letting him go but she stays as strong as she can, for me.
My reaction was a little different.
He said “Button I know it will be hard but you’re my strong little girl. You’re the one who will be strong for mom, you’re my fighter.”
I became the rock for my mother. I felt proud to be that person for her.
My mother looked at me with hope in her smile and held her arms out. I ran into them and held on tight. She let go and looked at me.
She said with her loving voice “Shelby your father loves you and misses you so much. Don’t forget that.”
I nodded my head because I knew I would never forget that. He was the one that told me to chase my dreams and be the person I wanted to be. His positive attitude was proof enough that he cared for me.
We agreed to write a letter back.
We wrote;
Dear Daddy,
It was so amazing to get a letter from you! You made us anxious though by not putting a name on the box. Mom nearly hand a heart attack when I wouldn’t let her look inside. I guess she thought it might be my secret lover or something! School is going perfect and I don’t need a tutor in math anymore, I have an A. My teacher said I might actually be a good tutor for some of the other students. I’m glad your kicking butt in cards, I would be disappointed if all my your training wasn’t put to good use. We miss you so much daddy, and we think about you all day. I hope you can come home soon, and we can all be together again. I’m sending you a new picture of mom and I! I hope you like my hair; it’s a bit shorter than before. I’m counting down the days before you come home.
I love you daddy, mom and Button
When we finished writing the letter we both just stared out the window for a moment. We both were wondering if this letter was the last we would receive from my dad in a long time. I tried hard not to think of the terrible things that could happen to my father while he was out there. A shiver went down my spine as I thought. Sometimes I would imagine that he was just on a business trip somewhere in Texas, making deals and enjoying some rest at a fancy hotel. But no matter how hard I tried, my thoughts always drifted back to where he actually was. He was out fighting in the deadly streets of Iraq.
My mom looked up and said “Honey, you have to stop thinking the worst. Your dad will come home.”
I wanted to believe her with every fiber of my being but couldn’t. Stories were all over the news describing roadside bombs and massive attacks on American soldiers and all I could think was what if that was dad?
I looked back at the letter. Analyzing the words in my head I couldn’t believe I wrote it. That wasn’t me in that letter; he would be able to tell.
I turned to my mother with tears in my eyes and said “Mom I’m scared.”
It was my job to stay strong, my father trusted me to do that but I couldn’t. I latched onto my mother like I was five years old again. I cried a river on her shoulder and began to breathe so heavily that it was hard to catch my breath. I had never felt this kind of emotion, so strong and powerful that it made my knees weak and my body ach.
She patted my back and brushed my hair softly. I was sobbing in her arms; this wasn’t what I was used to. She reached out and grabbed my hand.
As she squeezed it gently she said “You do not need to be the rock all the time sweetie, we can take turns.”
I couldn’t help but crack a little smile at her. I was happy she understood. It was hard for me not to be strong and for her to be the rock for me made me feel so much better.
I turned to my mom and said “Can I write the letter over?”
She handed me a piece of blank white paper and a blue ballpoint pen, then left me to write.
Once I was finished it read;
Dear daddy,
I miss you so much and I want you home now. I’m trying to be strong but it’s hard, I hope you understand. I think of you all the time and worry about you. I want this all to be over, and I want you here. Please daddy, come home.
Love, Your Button

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