As most of you know, my brother, Noah, is a Tech Sergeant in the Airforce National Guard. A couple weeks ago he deployed to Qatar (North of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East) for a 6-9 month tour of duty. There is a chance he may come home as early as September 22 (thus the countdown to the left) but with the military being the military, we aren't counting too heavily on that.
In the weeks leading up to it, we had been trying to prepare Nathaniel for his beloved Uncle Noah's disappearance. Uncle Noah is one of Nate's best buds and for him to be away for so long, would no doubt be unusual. Throw in several dozen family get togethers with no Uncle Noah sightings and you have the makings for real confusion on the part of a three-year-old. So we did our best to talk to him about it, educate him, and warn him of what to expect.
On the day he left I told Nathaniel the story of Uncle Noah's plane ride to the desert to fight the bad guys (apparently there are no actual bad guys in Qatar to fight directly, thank God, but the reason he's there is to help in this mission so it works to explain why he's gone). Immediately following, every plane Nate saw he was convinced held Uncle Noah and when he'd go to bed at night, sad yet again that he wasn't going to see Uncle Noah the next day, he'd say "I ride airplane to see Uncle Noah?". Breaks your heart, doesn't it?
Since my brother's departure, we have been fielding constant questions of "Where Uncle Noah?" and "Uncle Noah come over visit all day?" (FYI - "all day" = "today"). But when you ask Nate where Uncle Noah is he'll quickly answer "in the desert" so I know he gets at least some of it.
Well, this morning the day started as any other. I woke to the sound of Alex fussing in his crib. I got up to feed him and then started my morning routine. Shower, dress, hair, make-up. Somewhere in that routine Nathaniel usually wakes up yelling "Where Boo Bankie? Oh, NO! Boo Bankie GONE!"
Today though, he woke up and said "Where's Uncle Noah?". Having answered this question a time or two before, I asked "Where do YOU think Uncle Noah is?". Nathaniel looked up at me with his weery, sleepy dusted, morning squint and said "He far far away in the desert, playing in the sandbox" :) Then he said "crab gonna PINCH him" and started pinching his cheeks with his fingers like claws. It was SO cute. And so genuine.
So when we talk about Uncle Noah, being in the hot desert, fighting bad guys so that the rest of us can sit at home and have our freedoms and our rights, I'm not sure my three-year-old quite gets it. All he really understands is that his favorite Uncle Noah is missing. There are parts of war, I guess I'd rather he NOT understand right now, though. So for now, I'm ok with him picturing his beloved Uncle Noah playing in the sandbox, getting pinched by the crabs until we see him again.