Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Momism: Tough Noodles


There's a story that has long been shared in our family. When my oldest child was born, I was just 20 and not the greatest cook. One of the best examples was the not-so-simple task (apparently for me) of making macaroni and cheese. My son had just turned five years old when I made him a bowl one afternoon. My mother informed me that I needed to cook the noodles longer. She got on to me about the “tough noodles” and how macaroni and cheese was one of the easiest things to make. I'm not sure if it was the look in my eyes of not feeling like I measured up once again or the tone of her voice but suddenly, I had a hero come to my defense as my little boy exclaimed “I love you tough noodles, Mommy! That's the most you can love anyone!”

From that day on, “I love you tough noodles” became our own symbolic way of saying how much we cared about each other. It was the phrase used for the longest time as he would get out of the car each morning for school. He used it the first time he saw his little brother and his little sister.

Through the years, people would raise their eyebrows when they heard our expression. Some raised them even further when they heard the story behind it. Still, it was a phrase of deep meaning and love and those who knew us understood how special they truly were when we used the phrase towards them as well.

In time, my son outgrew that special phrase. When he read it one day on my old blog, he showed it to his girlfriend. It brought up memories for all of us, my mom, me and my kids. Although my now adult children think I need to “let go” at times, I think even they still appreciate such moments when I go down memory lane.

When my older son returned from war, I knew there were major changes within him. We found out he had a physical head injury on the left side of his skull that caused a brain injury, epilepsy, mood swings and memory loss. It was after the discovery that he read my blog post about our “tough noodles” phrase. We began using it a little more, usually when it was just family around or in a text.

One day, in a moment of frustration with his TBI and PTSD, my son asked me why I bothered to help him. I looked at him and said “Because I love you tough noodles and that's the most you can love anyone.” He hugged me and walked away.

The five year old boy who declared his love for his mother in spite of her lack of cooking skills, the one who was so proud of his younger siblings, the one who loved his country and his family enough to go to war for, that is the person I continue to fight for (and yes, sometimes with) so that he continues to get the help and respect he deserves.

Just the other day, I talked to him on the phone. Once again, I was reminding him of things his memory issues have made it hard for him to remember. He has decided to allow me to help him with those reminders as he knows I just have his best interests at heart. Before we hung up, he said “I love you tough noodles, Mom.”

That's why I help veterans. For the five year old still inside the soldier who left to defend our country and came back different, injured, stigmatized by society. If you have a family member who fought for our country and came back different, please know you are not alone. We are here to help all of you. We understand. We are moms, such as myself, we are spouses, such as so many within Family of a Vet, we are family members dealing with PTSD and/or TBIs every day on some level. We are here for each other and we are here for you. Why? Because we love our veterans and our FOV tough noodles.

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