Making the Hurt Go Away
The time I endured in the military was made infinitely more bearable by the support I received from everyone at home. Mama had advised me upon my departure, that if I wanted to get mail, I needed to write letters first, and so I did.
“But you can always unload the stuff on me; if it makes you feel better to let it all hang out, you can write it to me. I think back a long, long time, fifteen, eighteen years, to when you were a little kid and when you got hurt or somebody pushed you around you’d come in crying. I used to hold you in my lap, or put my arms around you and make “the hurt go away.” But now you’re not a little kid anymore, or even a big kid, you’re a man and doing a man’s job every day, a cruddy, dirty, detestable, job which you abhor and hate with a passion. But you’re doing it and doing it as well as you can and keeping your head on straight while you’re doing it. I can’t take you in my lap like I did when you were a baby. Right now I can’t even put my arms around you like a mother wants to, but I can tell you that I think about you and feel what you’re feeling and know your pain.”
Even now, 45 years later, the words soothe, cascading over me like the aloe vera oil that takes the sting away from a burn, or the cannabis salve that eases the pain from the dirt-caused cracks in my fingers and heels.
The comfort derived from these words is inestimable, simply because the setting was so abysmal. Amidst the triviality of the comings and goings at home, that which made up the bulk of Mama’s letters, might be a passage like the one above.
Mama sure could turn a phrase, and in doing so, she made a lot of “the hurt go away.”