When women run out of conversation before their husbands do, and the men wipe tears from the corners of their eyes, something powerful is happening.
Bruce and I attended the reunion of former Marines who graduated from The Basic School at Quantico in 1967 before shipping off to the steamy jungles of Viet Nam. It provided a catharsis for long buried feelings.
It had been forty-one years since the newly commissioned officers were sent to face the stench, the sights, and sounds that the best of training couldn't fully prepare them for. Stateside fear was only a shadow compared to the terror of what lay camouflaged ready to spring.
But they'd been trained well, these Marines. Fear would get them killed, so they ignored it, stuffed it deep inside where it hardened like a concrete plug keeping so many other feelings trapped inside as well. Survival trumped emotion. Decisions were made by the mind, not the heart.
It had been forty-one years since most of these men had seen one another. Hair has grayed, gaits have slowed, and bellies hang over belts. But the same indomitable spirit-- albeit tempered by experiences no human should face-- remains. The same laugh, the same twinkle in the eye, the same firm handshake erased forty-one years in an instant.
As the men shared memories most had not stirred up for decades, the concrete plug began to soften, and emotions found a way up and out with the tears that flowed along with their laughter.
And the wives? We shared laughs . . . and tears, too, for no one was left untouched by that war, even if it was only experienced through letters and the TV in a living room so long ago.
When our memories outweigh our dreams, we have grown old. ~Bill Clinton