Sitting at my kitchen table with my flavor of the week and my parents wasn’t exactly how I envisioned Thanksgiving 2006. But there it was. The four of us, sitting there, talking if you can call it that.
Brad wasn’t exactly everything my parents ever wanted for me. He was a Republican. He was very much not Catholic. And he was a Nascar fan who cheered for the Cubs. Politics. Religion. Sports. The three most controversial subjects known to man. Or at least to my mom. She loves to argue her point(the only point). So of course, she loved him. Not because he agreed with any of her points. No, he argued with her and didn’t back down. Not once.
My dad hated him. That made Brad feel really bad. He knew that he was blitzed (I had picked him up from his parents’ house to save him from whatever was pissing him off at the time). He knew that he had fucked up, but really, I didn’t care. I knew he wasn’t going to be around in my world for too long.
So there we were in my parent’s kitchen and he was rambling the drunken ramble. And mentioned his dog tags. Dog tags. Mom got up from the table. “Did Dad tell you we got dog tags in the mail?”
“What?” I looked at her. Knowing. But not knowing. Wondering. And thinking. And feeling the inner turmoil spew its way up from the depths of my heart. She dropped a set of dog tags in front of me on the table, along with some pins and a chevron. I stared at them. Brad kept talking, but I didn’t hear a word he said. It was as if I was overcome with this feeling. By far, the strangest out-of-body experience I’ve ever felt. I was in another place. Tears welled up in my eyes. “Did she send a letter?” The boy kept talking. I had no clue what was going on outside of the inner sanctum of my mind.
Back in the 80s, it was apparently very popular to wear camo, army gear, dog tags, and just about anything relating to the army. My teenage sister(yes, older sister) took Daddy’s army stuff and wore it. For the 10+ years since we had last heard from her, she had kept these things. You see, Deven disappeared from our lives when I was 12. She was 10 years my senior, and I adored her. As a kid, I literally worshipped the ground she walked on. But after she graduated from college, she left and never came back.
So that Thanksgiving evening in my kitchen, Mom pulled out an envelope and showed it to me. I stared at the handwriting, not unlike my own. The tears almost fell. I stared. And just as abruptly as she had mentioned it, she pulled the envelope back. And somehow Brad reappeared as if I had forgotten for those minute seconds that he was there. In my kitchen. With my parents. And Brad. And I was finishing a bottle of vodka. Except, the vodka bottle was empty. And the things my mother had just shown me were gone. And everyone was still drunk. It was almost as if a dream had pulled me out of existence only briefly, to be shoved back into reality with a force that could not be reckoned with.
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