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There 31 minutes of birthday left. Most of it was spent in the car, driving back from DC. Konnie leaves out in the a.m. Tim is already in Spokane, driving home. Konnie and I took Stephan back to Williamsburg earlier today.
Bob had an ice cream cake waiting for me when we got back to town tonight. He and the waiting staff sang Happy Birthday to me. They weren't the first. Ann called me from Boston and sang it. Ashley called me from Washington State and sang it. Linda threatened too. My brother and my editor sent me similiar email cards, making mention of how old I'm getting.
The thing is, I know they are right. When I went to blow out the three candles Bob put on the cake -- "Red, white and blue," he said -- I couldn't even dream up anything to wish for.
So I settled on good health for the coming year.
I would have never wished for such a thing in my 30s.
But then back then so many wishes had gone unfullfilled, whereas now there are so blessings I never imagined have come true.
Take this Veterans Day for instance.
There was this one moment when I was standing in the Caucus Room at the Senate Bldg. taking in the scene that had just unfolded before me.
My father's assistant gunner, Doug Johnson and his wife, Dee, had come in from Hastings, Nebraska to surprise me. They certainly did that. This was Doug's first trip to the Wall. He had no idea that I'd worked with the board of directors of the Women's Memorial for the past year planning a reception at the Senate Bldg. Doug didn't know that this was done in conjunction with Senator Chuck Hagel and his staff. He didn't know that his own Senator would be at the reception, along with hundreds of others.
I never imagined when I was planning the details of this event that I'd have the opportunity to introduce Doug to Senator Hagel. Afterwards, when the reception as the reception was wrapping up, I looked over to see Konnie with tears in her eyes, Tim with tears in his eyes,, and Stephan, misty-eyed. I took a deep breath and prayed a prayer of thanks. God's vision for my life has always been so much bigger than I could ever imagine.
Ten years ago I'd never imagined spending one hour at the Wall much less days in DC. I didn't know the name of the man who founded the Wall -- Jan Scruggs -- or the woman who founded the women's memorial -- Diane Carlson Evans.
I did not know the name of the man from Hastings, Nebraska who had only been a kid of 19 when he served under my father. Or the name of the man who stood behind my father, next to a gun, in the last photo taken just weeks before my father was killed. Now I know them both by name and have heard their stories. Like the one Dave McIntyre told this weekend about how my father had to have coffee every morning. How he would dig around for any firewood he could find to make a pot.
Ten years ago, I never imagined the time our family would spend in DC. The friends we'd make there. The reunions we'd share. I never thought that Georgetown would become a familiar haunt, but it was there that Konnie and I found the wedding dress she has to have. Now if only she can find a way to pay for it.
Ten years ago, I never imagined the stories I would collect from military veterans and their families. I never imagined that when I walked from the west end of the Wall to the east end, the names and the stories those names now evoke.
So you know what I whispered to Senator Hagel as we both stood in front of that reception hall?
"I am hoping Obama gives you a cabinet post."
He laughed and said, "Thank you."
I could tell he hopes so, too.
Maybe that's what I should have wished for instead of good health.
Either way, I'm sure that many of you feel the say way I do -- that God's vision for your life has been so much bigger than your own.
There are seven minutes left of this Birth-day.
I'm hoping that God's vision includes a special place of honor for Senator Hagel.
He's earned it.