I went to IHOP last night at 10 p.m.
Don’t worry, I wasn’t alone. I was in Yuma with my pretty friend. You would like her. She’s really nice and everyone knows it because she looks really good in glasses.
You can really just trust someone in glasses, don’t you think? This theory, however, does not apply to stunner shades or monocles. Also, Bono is the only man in the world who can wear tinted glasses and still be deemed trustworthy. You lose, Johnny Depp.
I was in Yuma with my pretty friend at IHOP and we were both wearing glasses (but of course she looked better). I’ll be honest, it felt a little strange to be at IHOP because neither one of us was a truck driver, over the age of 60, or coming off of our high school prom. Yet there we were. It felt a little weird, but mostly it felt good.
I think the IHOP goodness outweighed the IHOP weirdness because the weird scale had just been shredded to bits.
As many of you know, there was a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion yesterday that killed two Marines in southern Afghanistan. They were from Yuma. So yesterday, any military spouse or family member who had a Marine in that area was consumed by one thing, the only weird thing that happened that day.
This weirdness, this worry, it takes your breath away until you know for sure that your Marine is not one of the two. This robbery is especially cruel when coupled with the fact that deployed Marines are unreachable. You can’t call to check on them and military bases go into communication shut-down when they are attacked. Silence. You fear the worst and are held captive without any information at all. You hold your breath.
I have experienced several of my own breath-holding exercises, but last night was not one of them. My pretty friend in glasses was the one holding her breath, waiting to hear from her Marine. Two seems like a really small number until you consider the possibility of just one, your one, being part of the equation.
So we did what any American does when they feel uncomfortable. They attribute the vague discomfort to hunger.
We went to IHOP and ordered short stacks. We sampled the blueberry, strawberry, butter pecan, and old-fashioned syrups. There are so many of them! We talked about anything else. We laughed. We drank bad coffee.
And the next morning my pretty friend had some bags under her eyes that even her pretty glasses couldn’t hide, but it didn’t matter, because she woke up to an e-mail from her Marine. He was okay. She exhaled.
As I write this, I’m reflecting on how weird military life is. I’m not sure there is anything else like it.
It makes a lot of things seem normal that really aren’t. It makes living in Yuma feel really normal, it makes it home, even when it is living in the desert, nearly in Mexico, and sweating all the time. It makes deployments seem almost normal, when mostly they are really hard and downright brutal.
Military life is so weird that it makes IHOP at 10 p.m. seem natural. And even though life here is weird, losing two Marines will never feel normal. It is not normal. It will always hurt like hell.
In times when my heart hurts like hell, I feel thankful for all the times my short stack, breath-holding adventures have been with parties of two or more. Because the saddest thing of all is to be at IHOP at 10 p.m. with no one to make your short stack feel normal. No one likes to eat alone.
And we are not alone. Military life is weird, but the military community is unshakeable.
Here’s to all the military spouses who have faced many a short stack. I’m really glad to share a booth with you.
And here’s to the Marines that paid the ultimate sacrifice. You are not forgotten.