Friday, February 5, 2010
This month is all about love love love. Normally, I'm not a big fan, because I don't like the reminder of what isn't in my life, what wasn't in my life when I thought it was, what shouldn't or couldn't or hasn't been. But occasionally, I need the reminder that there are different types of love. Friendship love. Learned love. Learning love. Superficial love (which isn't always negative). Almost love. Could-be-love. Comfortable love. Endurable love. A love that continues, across seas, from country to ocean, that transcends earthly barriers and limits. A love that continues, even when a person is no longer with us.
When we moved to Italy, the first family we met was the Navarro family. They had moved in down the hall from us, only a couple days before us. It was three boys: Peter, the oldest who was my brother's year; Danny, the middle who was a year older than I; and Kevin, the youngest, who was roughly 6 years younger than me. There is hardly a memory I have of my first few months in Italy that doesn't have them in it. I'm positive my brother and I spent equal amounts of time in our apartment and their apartment, constantly playing with them or hanging out. Those boys became brothers to me. I can't ever play the game Scattergories without thinking about them, or think of Rome because I remember when we lost Peter in the Vatican and spent all day searching for him, or see a slide without remembering Danny standing up for me in a playground when someone was being mean to me. When we moved away, we unfortunately lost touch with them
I don't know the details because I can't find them, but Danny Navarro would have been 24 this year. He was killed in July 2005 in a car accident.
Peter Navarro would have turned 25 today. Right out of high school, he joined the Army, feeling it to be his duty to serve his country. He became an Army specialist, and was soon deployed to Iraq. In July of 2005, he came home for his brother's funeral and was offered the opportunity to stay longer and return to Iraq at a later date. He refused, knowing his unit would be one man short. He told his parents his unit needed him. On December 13, 2005, Peter's unit was traveling in a Humvee; they usually traveled in a tank, but for whatever reason, not that day. Their Humvee was hit by an IED in Taji, Iraq. Peter and one other man were killed.
As it always happens with military families, information and news makes their rounds. You always hear where people moved to, were stationed, retired to, etc. Likewise, you hear who was lost. I didn't find out about either death until mid-January the following year (I suppose it was a blessing in disguise that I found out about both at the same time). And even though I hadn't talked to this family for 7 years, the amount of pain and anguish I felt reduced me to a ball of sobbing tears, right in the middle of my friend's dorm room with over 10 of our friends there. Even in the years we weren't in touch, my family referred to the Navarros regularly. They were such an integral part to our years, there's no way we could ever think of Italy without them. It's been four years since Peter and Danny's departures, but there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about those boys. They were my brothers, and that little slice of my heart they occupied hurts every day. Even when I wasn't in touch with them after our Italy years, there was always the hope that one day I would be. And now, every time I realize that I won't hear Peter or Danny's voice again...it's enough to take my breath away.
The human's capacity to love and feel is amazing, that it can sustain without literal contact. But it's there for a reason. What never changed--and will never change--is the love I have for them. It never went away, even when our communication did. They are a part of who I am, and even if they aren't physically here to enforce it, it still exists. It's a love that exists based on respect, on appreciation, on memories and smiles and the knowledge of what wonderful boys they were, and what wonderful men I'm sure they turned into. It's being able to see and to feel just how much they impacted my life, and to know how they changed me. It's a reminder of who they were, of what I have to appreciate and be grateful for every day, of what I need to live for since they cannot.
And that? That is a love worth celebration.