Sunday, August 5, 2007

Day 120 - July 22, 2007

This is what it looks like when Grandpa feeds the baby.

Day 119 - July 20

Frankie on the swing.

Day 118 - July 18, 2007

Here is one of my Favorite Memories of Chris, so I just copied from a blog last year.

Chris loved Maria and Patrick so much. Maria especially. I think that if he could have a child at that point in his life he would want her. Chris offered to baby-sit with Veronica all the time. When he found out that his unit was to be deployed to Iraq, he told me that one of his first worries was that Maria and Patrick would forget about him while he was gone. I assured him that I would not let that happen. I stuck his picture in the "Who loves baby" photo album for the kids to look at daily. We even made homemade cards for his birthday and mailed pictures to him. After he came back from Iraq he and Veronica would offer to baby-sit even more. Once they took Maria for the day to the mall. When they went out to eat they introduced her to others as their daughter.
June 6, 2003, we all waited anxiously for the busses to arrive at Fort Custer Base in Battle Creek, Michigan. We knew that after five months in Iraq we were finally going to see Corporal Christopher Kelly Willis. The whole family was there. Even Grandma Willis made the trip with several aunts, uncles and cousins. Even though Maria was only 19 months old and Patrick 6 months we brought them along for our reunion. We were told they would arrive at 10 pm. As 10 pm approached excitement grew. Even as 10 p.m., then 11 p.m. passed we didnt care, for it didnt matter what time the busses arrived we knew he was home. And he was safe. A short time after midnight the busses pulled up. I have never seen such a celebration. All the families were about to burst with happiness and love. Our soldiers were home!
As they got off the bus, we could see their tanned faces. Their bewildered yet proud eyes searching the crowd for family. As soon as we spotted Chris we rushed to his side. Everyone was talking a mile a minute. I could tell Chris was uncomfortable with the bombardment of affection, questions, and faces. Still it was hard to contain excitement at his homecoming.
We finally got to leave the base with our soldier hero in our caravan. Even though it was past 1 am, we followed to the house. Not wanting Chris to leave our sight for a single moment. Too afraid it was all just a dream and he was still far away. We drove through Paw Paw slowly. Many businesses had welcome home signs for him posted. The whole town was so proud and happy he was home safely.
When we got back to the house, I put Maria to sleep in the playpen in Grandma Bobbis room. Still holding sleepy Patrick, we sat in the living room with our chairs in a circle (everyone wanted a clear view of Chris). We all wanted to know what happened, how was he doing, give us some good stories. The uncomfortable look was back on his face. He looked like he didnt belong. Like we wanted his military family with whom he just spent 24/7 with, instead of all the strangely familiar faces that were interrogating him. I didnt say much. I just wanted to listen and to watch him. Just knowing that he was home was enough for me. Besides, no one wanted him home more than his parents who did most of the talking.
Several weeks later Chris and I were out on the back deck talking. He told me that the night he came home he was out of sorts. He couldnt erase the images from war, the constant heightened awareness, and the feeling that he didnt belong. He was uncomfortable with the way everyone was staring at him but he knew why. He told me that at one point he needed to leave the room, just to get away. He used the excuse of needing to use the bathroom. He used the bathroom in the hall to Bobbis room. He was unaware that I had placed Maria there. His movements woke Maria. When he looked down the hall, she stood up, stared at him with unconditional love in her baby eyes and put her arms up. He bent to pick her up. When he did she wrapped her little arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder. Children have a way of knowing when they are safe and loved. Chris told me that as soon as she did that all images and horrors from the war, all uncomfort, any awkwardness all disappeared. All he could think was how much this little girl loved him and how much he loved her. It was a moment of complete peace for him.
As he told me this story tears welled up in Chriss eyes. He hadnt told that to anyone else cause he was worried they would think he was just a big sap. I just thought he was the perfect uncle. Maria and Patrick were so blessed to have him as their uncle.
Another week or two went by and God decided to bring Chris home to Him. His work on earth was done. I miss Chris and am so sad that Maria and Patrick were so young at the time that they most likely will not remember Chris. Shaun and I do our best to talk about Chris and to put pictures of him in our home. We will make sure they know that they had an uncle who thought that they were the sun and stars.
Corporal Christopher Kelly Willis
March 2, 1979 July 18, 2003