Life is good for throwing curve balls. I believe in my life, personally, I have had some doosies. But as I sit here and write, I am watching my husband mow the lawn after one of the weirdest winters of my life on this, the second day of Spring and all I can do is sigh and thank God.
I am sure, just like everyone before me, there was a time in my life that everything seemed so unsure. I didn’t know my head from a hole in the ground. I wanted so many things. I wanted my military career, I wanted to be a minister, I wanted to be a wife, I wanted to be a mother…. and not all in that order. In fact… truthfully, I had no direction at all when I started out on my own although I had all the direction in the world. I was in the United States Navy.
The first thing they told me that I can recall is that my mother and father were not with me anymore! What a bold concept! I was a daddy’s girl, too. I needed my daddy’s approval more than I needed air. So hearing that hurt me to my heart. I had always been at enmity with my mom so hearing that she wasn’t nearby didn’t faze me so much. What I didn’t know is that I would immediately start looking for a father figure.
My company commander served well for the first 8 weeks of my military career. I did my best to be in the lime light so that he always smiled at me in that fatherly fashion they use when you do a good push-up. His female comrade didn’t smile so much. They reminded me a lot of my parents actually. Which makes me laugh now that I think of it. When I wasn’t performing so well, he encouraged me to give a little more … to push a little harder. She, on the other hand, screamed her head off and made me do pushups until the walls began to sweat. Either way, I learned how to exercise.
After bootcamp, at my first duty station, the search for father figures continued. This time, he came in the form of my Command Master Chief. He really wasn’t a master chief. He was a Chief Warrant Officer. I don’t even remember his name. But he was an older man. He was about my daddy’s age with a permanent smile in his eyes and everyone called him the Gunner. One of the best lessons he taught me besides always paying myself first with my paychecks was, “sometimes, you just have to breathe.” I remember running into his office all out of sorts because I had to walk the field. That’s code for searching for unexploded ordinance on a bombing range. I had never done this before. I was only 17 and I did want to make it to 18. I literally dropped all military bearing and said screw the chain of command and ran to my “daddy.” I wanted him to tell me I didn’t have to go. This was a curve ball I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hit.
As I sat in his office crying uncontrollably I could see him searching for the right words to say. He was an old Sailor addressing a new, female Shipmate and I could see he didn’t want to say the wrong thing. He wanted to tell me the way to go but he also wanted to teach me the proper way to enter his office. He waited patiently for me to realize what I had just done. And when I did, I cried all the more… which made him laugh. Finally he told me to stow my tears! He wanted to talk. “Brown, breathe!”, he said. “Gunner, I don’t want to die today!” I moaned. “Oh, I thought you loved The Lord.” He said slowly. “Says so right here in your file.” I leaned forward to see my file and he closed the folder on his desk and looked at me sharply. He asked me, “DO you believe in God?” “Yes, Gunner.” I replied. “Then why are you cryin’ in my office? Everything is in His divine plan. If it’s His will that you come to Him today, that’s a thing you’ll rejoice about. If not, you’ll be stuck with Ol’ Gunner another day.” That made me smile. When he saw my smile he yelled, “Now Git!”
As I sit here with my husband rubbing my back, I realize that even though I don’t remember Ol’ Gunner’s name, I still remember Ol’ Gunner. And I will always remember him. I will always remember that even in the middle of a bombing range, God had an angel there just for me. Sometimes you just have to sit and breathe and thank God.