"I won't be home for Christmas."
BackstoryHe called just a week before, in Dec. of 2002, to tell me this. My son, the Marine. He wouldn't be getting leave after all, he said...but he couldn't tell me why.
He was stationed in North Carolina at the time. He had been to Japan already...missed Christmas at home that year too, but he sent a video greeting of him wearing a Hawaiian shirt, sitting in a big rattan chair, with a tropical background behind him. It was full of his signature good humor and bravado...of the "I-bungie-jumped-off-a-mountain-and-it-was-SO-cool" variety.
I never learned until much later, long after he was stateside again, that he actually spent most of his Japanese tour in the mountains of Afghanistan...and his bungie jumping was more of a military rapelling mission than a fun vacation activity.
All he could say this time was, watch the news. You'll see it when it happens, and you'll know where I am then, he said. That phrase and "I love you, Mom," were the last words he said to me before he left, the last I heard from him until he returned months later.
But...return he did. And I will always be grateful for that. He missed that Christmas, but he will be around for many more.