Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Stood Waiting

I stood waiting in front of the barracks building that housed me and my classmates at Fort Benjamin Harrison. My uncle had told me to be there at a certain time and my cousin would pick me up to bring me to their house for a home cooked meal. If you’ve ever been sent to military training and been away from home you know just how big a deal that is. Of course I bragged to my classmates as I daydreamed about what wonderful food I would be served. They were jealous but in a good natured way. Glad for me but wishing it was them. Just the idea of being around people who had nothing to do with the Army had us all excited. It seemed it was a fortuitous thing to have been assigned here after all.

My uncle, aunt and cousin and I weren’t exactly close, mainly because of the distance between our homes. They lived in Indianapolis, Indiana while I lived in tiny, little Ironton, Ohio. Growing up, if we saw each other more than twice a year it was out of the ordinary. The times we saw each other my cousin and I always did hang out with each other though. Regardless, we were family and they had offered to feed me and let me get away from the post for a few hours. The thought of it all brimmed with the excited aura of what seemed like normal life from before I had joined the military and was engulfed into their way of doing things. So still, I stood waiting in front of the barracks.

After a time doubts began to slip into my brain, after all, my cousin should have been here by now. To counter those thoughts I came up with possible reasons for the delay. Perhaps traffic was excessively bad or maybe he had to work late. Maybe they really didn’t want to see me. Wait, no, I couldn’t think like that. He was now more than an half an hour overdue so I went inside and tried to call their house to see if the plans had changed. There was no answer. I walked back outside as my anxiety level slowly ratcheted higher and higher. Time went by. After more than an hour had passed since the original agreed upon time, once again I went inside to attempt to call them. Once again, no answer. I walked back outside where I stood waiting.

What a sad, pitiful sight I must have been. This lonely scarecrow waiting and waiting as his faith in family slowed slipped away. More than two hours had passed before I finally gave up my last shred of hope and dignity and I slowly shuffled back inside. I tried calling one more time. The result was the same, no answer. My classmates were asking why I hadn’t gone and all I could do was hang my head and mumble “I don’t know.” The rest of the day I spent by myself, withdrawn and disappointed. No longer standing out front waiting but waiting inside my head. That’s the day I learned that the idea of extended family was overrated and not to be trusted. I never did call them again for the rest of my time in training at Fort Ben Harrison. As a matter of fact I never spoke with them even at the funerals that came later. I guess I gave up waiting.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

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