Chasing The Moon

“Daddy! Daddy! Uncle Benjamin found the moon!”

It was Family Weekend here at Benjamin Wagner Dot Com. Abbi and I hopped an an early Amtrak out of the city Friday. One frosty cold Sam Adams and a bag of pretzels later, we pulled into Wilmington, where we were greeted by her parents, and whisked away to a delicious dinner. It was, come to think of it, my first solo meal with Abbi’s parents. Which is to say, there were no siblings or friends to distract them for goofy ole’ me. It didn’t feel like an audition, but it’s difficult not to think of it that way. And auditioning for anything with an allergy-clouded brain is not ideal.

Saturday morning, I ran in the Brandywine Valley, trying in vain to shake loose my nearly-debilitating allergies. They’re bad in The City. They’re worse in The Country.

Later, Abbi and I drove to Delaware Park to meet her 89-year-old grandmother for lunch. Mrs. Dick (aka “Mom Mom”) is the Queen Bee of the track. She has a prime table high above the finish line, and gracefully engages all comers. She bets two bucks on every race. “It’s just as much fun,” she said.

Abbi walked off to wager, and left me alone with her grandmother. It’s a situation that’ll make any bachelor nervous. But instead of grilling me, or lecturing me, she smiled and said, “I’m so lucky. I just love all of my grand children.” (She did grant me her blessing as we left. “You may continue dating Abbi,” she said with a wink.)

Later, Chris, Ethan and I were sitting by the creek in my mom’s back yard. Frogs were croaking in the stream. The sun had dipped below the trees. We were dressed for dinner at the country club. Ethan was scanning the sky for stars and planes. I walked inside to leave father and sun alone, then spotted the moon just above the trees.

“Ethan!” I shouted. “I found the moon! Can you see it?”

“Daddy! Daddy! Uncle Benjamin found the moon!”

If only I had. If only I could. If only I could find him the moon, wrap it up with a bow, and tuck him in with it. We would do that for each other, wouldn’t we? Grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, we only want the moon for each other; a bright white beacon to keep each other from getting lost.

I tore through Paul Reickhoff’s “Chasing Ghosts” this weekend. His book really is a triumph. I wrote him first thing this morning.


As context, you should know that I’ve read many of the “classics” that precede Ghosts: Jarhead, Dispatches, Band of Brothers, Flag of Our Fathers, and many, many more.  For me, only Ghosts puts me as close to the situation as possible (shy of having been there with you).  First person narrative goes a long way, and you’ve used it to its most powerful.  Likewise your candor, clarity, and integrity.  Congratulations on a compelling, challenging, moving, and inspiring read.

I have already begun proselytizing to families and friends to purchase a copy, and consume it with the same zeal I have.  Additionally, Gideon and I spoke about potentially using your interview for an on air brief, and an online brief.  I’m going to pour over the transcript of that interview, and determine whether it’ll serve us online.  If not, I’ll be callin’ for more on the book specifically.  Meanwhile, thanks for the great work.  And I hope to see you Wednesday night.

Best, Benjamin

It’s difficult to imagine Paul’s parents staring up at the moon, worrying about their beloved son thousands of miles from home in harm’s way. It’s difficult to imagine Paul staring up at the moon in Baghdad, worrying about his girlfriend in Brooklyn. Heck, I worry about Ethan when I lose sight of him for two seconds.

I’m sure Paul’s family are proud. I imagine Abbi’s family is proud. I hope my family is proud. I know that I am.

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