Casualty of War

Who realized we were going off to war?
As for me, I knew nothing of the battles ahead.
I'd only said the word 'cancer' seven days before.
Just Tuesday the judge had said, we're a family.'
Now 'cancer' would splinter that union to four corners.

One clue was all you gave me. "We just got him, so
how can we lose him like this? It doesn't seem fair."
You should have talked about it more. I should have
been there to listen, but in war, a good soldier does
what all good soldiers do, including the 'good-byes'.

"How can a four-year-old have cancer, maybe die from it?"
I knew what you were asking me. I had no answers.
Somehow, I thought a high school graduate would cope.
My war was waged on the frontlines in the exhausting
bloody trenches of hospital rooms, IV's, masks, shots.

Yours was waged at home with your dad, who was
limping through the halls of martyrdom, suffering
in silence, because he thought my battle demands
were numerous enough; taking your brother for
anesthesia, radiation treatments, recovery every day.

Looking at an album of family photos from that
time, I see the stark stress on all our faces; fear on
yours, pain on your father's, exhaustion on mine,
illness on your brother's. Surely, you bore the brunt
of your father's pain while Hunter and I were gone.

Your dad says he was alone when he fell down the
stairs, but the falling wasn't your fault. We'd all
seen him fold like an acordion when his bad leg
gave way. I would have been here when he was
scheduled for surgery, but your dad said 'no'.

It was true, your brother needed me, but to be torn
between three people I loved--it would have been
easier to come, but like the good soldier I've become,
I stayed and we finished the war. Even the end was
a chore, taking three times as long as it should.

When you were arrested for possession, it hit me
what I'd done leaving you alone to cope like that.
You said you 'felt like crap, the weed made you feel
good, and you liked 'feeling good', even for a little bit.
You were my unexpected casualty of war, Dear One.

Love, Jody