("10 Things That Guys Love" is based upon an online article written by Sara Eckel. (c) 2004 Settummanque!)
"4. You, in his clothes.
So, here I was, standing at the Christmas dinner table, waiting for everyone to assemble.
I had been invited to attend several Christmas dinners over the past 24 hours. Some of them were exactly as scripted for one of those old movies: everyone sitting around, sipping warm cider, telling stories on
each others, laughing, looking and admiring all of the children and remembering their Christmases as a child.
Some of them were as free-flowing as an episode from the old sit-com "The Jerry Seinfeld Show", a show "all about nothing." Their conversations bounced around from the music on the radio ("What's with this 24 hours of nothing but holiday music? Why can't they give us a choice over what we wanted to hear??") to current issues ("Why can't we have a winning team...I'm about two steps from driving over to the
Coach's home and throwing some coal in HIS stocking, if you know what I mean!") to dress ("You let him dress LIKE THAT?? My Lord, you're gonna make him into a sissy!") and back again...you needed a ping-pong paddle to reflect the fast-moving balls being zinged
at you and a playbill to identify all of the players for the first two hours!
I had made the mistake of coming to one of the dinners of friends of mine who loved me. I mean, they REALLY loved me!
Denise and Colin wanted me to come by every chance they got and "talk Army" with Denise. She was enlisted in the Army like me, became an officer through ROTC at the university like me, and travelled around the world like me. Colin married her after she retired from the Army and the Army life as a high-speed nurse. When Denise starts talking "Army"
and "Army life" to him, it's like she's speaking some exotic language: it sounds wonderful but what in the hell is she REALLY saying?
That's where I came in. Colin met me at a book signing about four years ago. I was hawking my first book, "Patches and Pins..." and he commented that he had never met "up front and personal" an "Army hero." After I commented that I'm not a hero...that title is
reserved for people who actually "did something to earn that title" and after I signed a copy of my book saying the same things to him in written form, he invited me to his home for dinner.
I've been invited to his home for dinner several times since.
I also was not thinking clearly when I accepted his invitation to come stay at his home for a week when I returned back from Iraq. "Look, we have a bedroom suite we don't use. There's lots of closet
space, and well, you're always welcomed here!"
Natually, his wife was beside herself with the prospect of being able to talk the "Army talk" with someone who actually UNDERSTANDS what it is she went through, the people she worked with, the places where
she worked (we worked in some of the same locations, not just at the same time) and the situations she was sometimes in as an officer and leader. Denise and I went to a dinner my command held and she got to meet some of the people currently doing her type of job in the Army Reserve. I thought that she would come out of retirement to join one of those units...she really misses the companionship, the espirit, and even, she said, she missed being addressed as "Colonel".
Denise came from a big family, so she knew just how to plan, prepare, design, display and of course eat, the various meals served at holidays. So it was no surprise to me that holiday dinner time at their home was a community event of sorts, with people from all over -- relatives, neighbors, workmates, and just people like me -- showing up to eat dinner, sit around and talk, and then politely make our get-aways in time
to sleep or attend midnight religious celebrations of "Baby Jesus' birth".
So, I was standing along with everyone else, waiting for the meal to start, talking with some old man named Kyle. He wanted to know if I "shot someone" while I was in Iraq.
Everyone asks that question.
"No," I responded, and I could see the disappointment in his eyes and face. I quickly added, "I came in there after all of the major fighting was going on...and it's not my job in the Army to shoot people."
His face lightned up and I continued, "besides, that's not something you want to hear about, is it??"
"You betcha it is, Mike!" he boomed. For a second, everyone turned their attention to me and Kyle. After they realized it was just the old man talking, they turned back.
Only for a second though.
Denise comes walking out of the kitchen wearing nothing but a Army dress shirt and black tights. No shoes. I could not tell if she was wearing underwear under the shirt and tights...nor did I really WANT to know; there are some things that you really do not want to know about the habits of your friends!
She walks over, carrying the large 20 pound turkey, browned to an extraordinaryly fine brown glaze. That is when I realized that this was not just a regular Army "class B" shirt -- it was MY Class B shirt.
The one I was looking for in my closet two weeks ago.
The one the last time I remember, I was wearing it over at Colin and Denise' place and....oh yeah, I changed clothes at their place.
She sasheyed around the table, standing beside me and whispered "Does something look familiar to you, Mikey?" in my ear and kissed me on the cheek. Almost immediately, everyone else came to the table to see what the commotion was about.
She placed the turkey on the center of the table.
"I am wearing this shirt to remind everyone that while we eat this meal this evening, that people like Mike and me are defending our way of life. Some of them have come home briefly for a respite from being in harm's way. Others have come home, unfortuately, forever. Still many others have accepted our request of them, performed their roles, and have returned home to the gratitude of the people who sent them over."
She was always a great speaker, I thought to myself.
"So, instead of a centerpiece, my wearing of Mike's shirt, will serve as a reminder that men -- and women -- are at this very second protecting us, defending us, and making it able for us to sit together, laugh and sing together, and enjoy this meal together. May we never forget them, their families and friends, and the nation, for better or worse, we are citizens of."
She winked at me, then reached down to find her crystal wine glass.
"Please join with me in toasting our men and women around the world, in and out of uniform, and their families." She raised the glass toward the ceiling.
"To the servicemembers and their families!"
Colin does not know how fortunate he is to marry a woman as wonderful as Denise. She reached in, held my heart, and made me tear up and desire her at the same time.
Too bad she's a lesbian -- why she had to retire after 24 years of service.