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Japan, Morse Code, and Cream

Posted Thursday, May 22, 2008, at 12:22 PM

The phone rang at 1:08 AM. Fortunately for me the phone is next to Kay and so she gets to answer these things. I just lay there, my heart pounding out of my chest from a combination of being suddenly awakened and experiences with previous late night phone calls.

It was someone with an Asian type accent asking for Matthew. Kay told the caller Matt was not here, that he is in the Army. "Is he still in Japan?" the caller inquired. Assured he was, the caller apologized and said he'd call "the other number." It eludes me exactly how our phone number could be confused with a phone in Japan.

The call reminded me of an episode of TV's M.A.S.H. and its portrayal of the Korean conflict in the 1950's. In this particular episode Father Mulcahy is called upon to perform a circumcision. Specific directions had to be relayed from a Rabbi on board a ship in the Sea of Japan. As I recall the directions were transmitted by Morse Code to Seoul Korea, decoded, and relayed through Radar to the Priest. The ship passes out of range, leaving the good Father to improvise. This was communications to which I could relate.

I do not relate well to how the communications work today. When we recently renewed our cell phone contract they gave us new free phones. I'm pretty sure these are the same phones which used to go for $50 or so. They have a whole lot of features which I doubt either of us will ever figure out -- much less use. They can give us GPS directions (for a fee), text messages (for another fee), and even allow Kay to take pictures and send them anywhere in the world (I assume for yet another fee). We could even use the darn things to call Japan; but the guy on the phone didn't give us Matthew's number.

Other than having something to do with satellite communications, I don't really know what Matthew does for the Army. It's something Top Secret, and he claims that if I understood what he did he'd have to kill me. He did ask me to critique his resumè recently, so now I know even less about his job. He said once that if we left a Pepsi can lie on our lawn he had the ability to tell it wasn't Root Beer.

Anyhow, Matthew called back about 9:00 a.m. our time to tell his mother he'd been selected for Warrant Officer training! This is something he has wanted for a long time, and had been overlooked for twice. He seemed to feel his Army career may not be going anywhere since he is one of the few who have not served in a combat zone. We have mixed feelings about this. We are justly proud of him even if the Army only needs his particular skills set in a few places on earth -- none of them being Iraq. On the other hand, we have a parent's worry about his diabetes; which would keep him out of any combat zone, anyhow.

Matthew prefers to be called "Matt." I almost always think of him and referred to him as Matthew (except when I call him Matt-the-Brat, but that's another story). For me I think calling him Matthew is a term of respect.

I knew that (even) the Army would wise up and make him a Warrant Officer. It was that or lose him to a much better paying civilian job. Everyone who knows Matthew, from subordinates to commanding officers, knows he is someone worth having around. Do you know the difference between water and cream? Water seeks its own level, cream rises to the top. In everything our middle child has done in his still young life, he has risen to the top -- except for that thing about giving our phone number to the Japanese.

David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at kayanddavid@joink.com.

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What a nice story! You have every reason to be proud of your son!

-- Posted by madmom61 on Thu, May 22, 2008, at 2:45 PM

In fairness, I usually just tell people to call me whatever they're comfortable with. Oh yeah, and it definitely is not Root Beer.

-- Posted by theoneinthearmy on Wed, Jun 11, 2008, at 7:31 AM

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