Great sadness fills my heart today.
The afternoon started out joyfully as I went out to the country to visit with some old friends. Actually, they were closer than friends; about 20 years ago I fully expected these would be the people who would become my in-laws. After a long relationship with their son, those dreams were shattered. We stayed friend for several more years before I moved on and made a bad marriage with someone else.
During those years, though, I was as close with them as with my own family. And at times, closer. I was friends with their other sons and their wives and we always joked about me being the "out-law" instead of an "in-law."
At any rate, I knew their grandchildren from the days they were born and considered them neices and nephews. They would stay with me for weekends and I would spoil them like an aunt should.
Unfortunately, over time relationships among the adults had to change. I had to step back -- how creepy is it for my ex to see me still involved with his family, after all? It wasn't fair to him or me.
Anyway, the kids I was closest to included Derek and his sister (I'll withhold her name because it's so uncommon.) Derek was always my little buddy. He was the one who was willing to wake up in the middle of the night for a drive to watch the meteor showers in the summers. He's the one who would borrow my dome tent and bring it back stinkin' like an 8-year-old boy. He's the one I helped pull out of the lake when he missed climbing on his uncle's sailboat.
And now, while visiting his grandparents this afternoon, he's the one I've just learned was injured in Iraq last week. They tell me his injuries are not life-threatening. That's all the grandparents know so far.
Everyone else in his unit wound up with head injuries when suicide bombers tried to drive a garbage truck loaded with explosives into a building at their location. Derek's lieutenant shot the driver, then shot the engine to stop the truck and the explosion. Everyone in the unit was wounded; Derek had an injury to his upper arm and his shoulder, and a belly wound. At first, the story was that Derek was the only one who had time to get his helmet and flak jacket on, but the belly wound was below where the jacket ended.
I don't know where he is or if he is being sent home. I can't help but cry, like I did when his toe got stuck under the door at the post office. This is much worse.