Army Mom’s Safe Haven

RAY PORTER

A Poem Prompted by the Passing of
STEVE MASON

This Memorial Day

I am at a loss
I am not lonely
I am so sad
I am unafraid

My life changed for the better some 16 years ago when you (some short Brooklyn army captain) slipped through the perimeter carrying a Hennessy's cognac and a lit Winston.
You were not loaded
Your questions were

You: "What the hell is that beret?"
Me: "Uh, it's just a beret"
(It was just a plain old beret, nothing military about it. I was dumb, not crazy)
You: "yeah but you're wearing it with that jacket, do you know what that looks like?"
Me: "it's cold outside and this jacket was given to me by my uncle Phil Kline who was a Green Beret in Vietnam and died six months ago."
You: "What'd he die of?"
Me: "Cancer, they said it was from Agent Orange."
You: (raising your glass) "To Mr. Kline."

The conversation that began that night still hasn't ended. It never will.
It took me some years but I did move up
Student
Mentor
Friend
Family
I mean no disrespect but I can say now:
Basic was a bitch:

"If you stand like that in a bar, women will never come up to you"
"You don't walk fast past a group of guys looking for trouble; walk slow"
"Do some sit-ups".

I listened and I learned
Then the real school began
The stuff a guy should know
The stuff a man should not live without
Like how to eat chocolate cake (with your hands)
Like a man laughs only as real as he cries
Like how I better not come over to your house after eating because I can't leave without 18 pounds of pasta with sausage and chicken and,Oh God, the sauce and a nice Pepsi.
MORE SITUPS
You also taught me honor and respect.

I could write about every adventure, it would fill a thousand pages and it wouldn't be as good as one paragraph of yours. You once said: "If a two week vacation was any good it should take two weeks to tell it." Well, I am too weak to tell it all.

So... in brief:
-You tell me you trust me with the lives of your children
-You call me "The brother I never had and the son I always wanted"
-You tell me you got killed in Vietnam 30 some odd years ago by the one word in the English language that refuses to rhyme: Orange
-Your daughter asks me to check for your pulse.

I will feed your daughters, I will worry about them, I will pester them, I will make them laugh.
I will try to hold the mirror up to people and show them themselves in the best possible light just like you did
I will work for peace
I will show my humility, respect, and unending gratitude to every veteran.

And yeah, I'll do some sit-ups

©Copyright May 2005 by Ray Porter

For Steve,
Love,
Ray