When Words Lose Their Meaning

Awesome (awe-some) adjective

I use the word “awesome” too much. Awesome is defined as “inspiring awe.” Awe is defined as “a mixed emotion of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or might.”

Last night I told my wife that her pork tenderloin was “awesome.” In other words at this very moment my fridge contains leftovers that will inspire wonder, dread, and respect within me when I decide I’m hungry again at 2:00am.  This is why I don’t feel prepared to thank my friend Matt who is returning soon from combat for more than a year in Iraq. 

What he did for our country is awesome in it’s most literal form, unlike when I used awesome as a synonym for “tasty” with my wife’s pork tenderloin, or as a synonym for “mildly amusing” when I told my classmate his lukewarm presentation on diabetes was “awesome.”  Because of my overuse of this word, I’ve rendered it useless. I tried to look up synonyms online, so now I can choose from one of the following words to complete the phrase:

“Matt, what you did for our country was”:

  1. Splendid 
  2. Grand
  3. Far Out
  4. Cool
  5. Humbling

Apparently the people from synonyms.com don’t have a large vocabulary either. Most of these options make me sound like I’m a hippie or from England, so humbling will have to work. 

I am humbled when I think of how my grandpa received a silver star for bravery in WWII, and liberated Metz, France from German occupancy. His platoon are referred to as the “Iron Men of Metz,” who used only grenades and rifles to fight Nazi panzer tanks and machine gunners holed up in the city center. When his commander had a nervous breakdown during the battle, my grandpa took over control of the platoon and led them to victory against a much larger German force. I didn’t take out the trash last week because the stray cat that lives under our porch hissed at me when I walked outside, and I was scared that it might scratch me.

My grandpa’s bravery is humbling because the closest I’ve ever come to a title like “Iron Man of Metz”  is in college when I found out the Iron in my blood was elevated. I later found out that this is called anemia. I have two cousins that are currently serving in the armed forces, so my grandpa’s genes for courage and mental toughness were not lost completely (Just like my other grandpa’s gene for anemia, apparently.)

I have also been honored to know some of the most intense and impressive warriors in the American armed forces; the Navy SEALS. When one of their team, my friend and future brother-in-law Eric, passed away in a training accident the caliber of people I met as a result blew me away. The SEALS came from literally all over the world to celebrate Eric’s life, and they all stayed in the same hotel as I did. I’ve never felt safer in my life.

At one point I thought I was relaxing alone in the hotel’s 5 person hot tub, but later found out that 20 of the SEALS were in the hot tub with me and I couldn’t even see them! That was a lie, but I bet they could do that if they wanted to. These guys are a force to be reckoned with but they are genuinely great guys, and what they do for our country is awesome.

I was lucky enough to be present when Eric’s closest friend in the SEALS, Brett, paid tribute to Eric’s love of Crown Royal (he was a true connoisseur) by adding a crown to his sea turtle tattoo. If you are like me, your first reaction is to think “a sea turtle tattoo? That’s not very intimidating.” Just trust me on this one; He could get a tattoo of Hannah Montana feeding cotton candy to Bambi and it would be intimidating. Here is a picture of his tattoo:      

I was honored to have befriended these guys, especially Brett, and once again I lacked the ability to express it. Then I had a Good Idea about how to thank Brett and let him know that I truly did appreciate him; I decided that I would make him a 3-D model of his tattoo to take back to Hawaii. The picture below is where it sits now, on the dashboard of Brett’s car in Hawaii. (I also gave it a cape because I thought that was a Good Idea too).

I forgot to mention that I pulled an all-nighter making this, and didn’t study for my final exam for that reason. I think Brett appreciated that part of it more than the actual result, which looks like a 3rd-grader did it in art class (or maybe a really advanced 2nd-grader.)

Now as I get excited for Matt’s return at the end of this month, I am struggling to find a way to earnestly and suitably thank him for the last year+ that he was in Iraq facing real danger daily, being away from his new wife, friends, and family, and being responsible for the well-being of his subordinates. And he did it for us. I just don’t think it is possible to thank him appropriately; My vocabulary just isn’t large enough. I guess I’ll just have to keep searching for that Good Idea to come to me, and in the meantime I can invite Matt and his wife over for some of my wife’s tasty pork loin. And maybe when they get here the stray cat will hiss at them, giving me the chance to be brave and defend them by chasing the cat away (but most likely I’ll just signal for them to go to the back door.)

2 thoughts on “When Words Lose Their Meaning

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  1. Well said! I am not good with words either. That is why I am an artist. Im much better at relaying a message visually, kind of like yourself! Although, buying people things is a good way to thank them (or at least my somewhat “lazy” way of substituting for words).

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