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How We are Coping

Dear Rooster,

While you’re off learning how to wear camo and keep your face clean-shaven, we’re just over here, counting down the days until we get to see you again.

We still have a longgggggggg way to go.

The waiting is exhausting.

If you need us, we’ll just be chillin’…in between letter writing…you know, like sleeping, which is something you’re probably not doing a lot of these days.

We love you and are praying for you, even while we snooze our days away.  Honestly, sleeping helps pass the time until we can be reunited with our boy wonder.

Love,

Mama, Pele, Molly, and Gambit

Little Things

You’ve heard the saying that it’s the little things in life that make a difference.  I can honestly say that it’s been the little things that have made my heart soar and the tears flow lately.

As of today, my Rooster has been gone for one week.  He’s officially in Week 1 of his basic training.  The first week isn’t really counted because of all of the processing that has to be done.  I can’t say that I have found a new normal yet because seemingly small things keep hitting my heart.

Little things like a student whispering, from the back of the room, that she’s praying for me after I broke down in tears last Tuesday morning when her class came in.

Things like pulling up to the house, opening the garage, and seeing Rooster’s car…clean from his last trip to get it detailed.

My heart did a slow dive when, on Thursday, we drove that same car out of the garage and met Super Sis and her hubby and turned the keys over to them for my youngest nephew.

Pulling up to the house every day since then and seeing the empty spot in the garage still makes my heart sad.

A simple thing like the sound of my cell phone going off during my lunch break on Thursday, looking down, and seeing my boy’s name on the caller ID made me jump up like I’d seen a spider.  He was calling to give me his mailing address.

His small, deep chuckle, given at least twice while we chatted, assured me that he was happy.

Who knew that a mere two-minute phone call could stir the heartstrings so much.

There was the sunny afternoon, which I spent part of outside on Saturday while on a lunch break during a school district-sponsored technology expo I attended that day.  Oh word, but my soul was refreshed as I soaked in the warmth and the view.

There’s the grocery shopping, which the Mr. mostly does for us, and the fact that we don’t have things like Cheez-Its and power bars on the list any more, and the two empty chairs around the table…one of which was only recently vacated.

That hit pretty hard on Sunday.

And then today…one small piece of card stock…

A postcard from my boy in the scripted language of his military branch announcing that he’d made it to Basic safely.  On it was his mailing address, which he’d tailored to fit his specific information.

Knowing that he had held this card in his hands only a few days ago…that he wrote my name on that card…these thoughts made my heart rise in joy.

I don’t know that I’ve been one to take things for granted; however, I am especially sensitive to the smallest occurrences in my life right now…evidence of God orchestrating everything, fulfilling His purpose in my life and those I love.

The Art of Letting Go

Last summer, on July 9th, I was awakened by Rooster.  He said, “Mama, I’ve decided to join <insert certain military branch>.  I’m going up to MEPS to take the ASVAB.  See you in two days.”

That was it.

It was quite out of the blue and a bit of a shock.

Then, he left.

I spent the next two days crying, uncertain of what this meant for him…for us…for the future.

Don’t get me wrong.  I was proud.  My boy had always been extremely patriotic; however, nobody in our family had served in the armed forces before, so this was going to be a brand new experience for all of us.

It was at this point that my mama heart broke a little…a lot…as I officially began wrestling with letting go.

Through conversations with my sweet young man…through the dialogue that opened up…we began investigating and exploring his career goals.  In this way, we shared the burden of uncertainty, lightening the load as we began to forage our way toward this new season of our lives.

His dreams became mine as I did what I’d always done and walked beside him, figuratively holding his hand, watching the excitement in his eyes as he envisioned a future filled with service and adventure.

As the months passed, he continued preparing his body for service.  He quit his job, worked out diligently at the gym, and went running several times a week.  He had a few disappointments as he waited for jobs to come open (that’s how this branch of the military works).  We didn’t know exactly when he would be leaving.  All I knew was that every single moment with him was a countdown toward the time I’d have to say goodbye.  I was going to make the most of those moments.

Although I put full effort into my professional life, I began to balance it out with home and family.  My goal was to spend as much quality time with Rooster as possible.  I was also grateful for a laid-back summer of working out with him at the gym and fixing him lunch afterward.  Those conversations at the table were priceless then, for I did see their value, but became even more so when I went back to school and lost that time with him.

We were able to get through a September trip to Universal, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and a January trip back to Universal before he got offered a position he couldn’t refuse.  He received his ship date shortly afterward.

My heart broke a little more when I got the news at work.  I rejoiced with Rooster but began to quietly lament the shortened time with him.

In the midst of all of that, Rooster met the girl of his dreams.  I’ve talked about her before.

Well, the Friday that my Spring Break began, March 18, they got engaged!  It was done in Rooster’s way.  We were fortunate to be there, and I snapped photos.  Despite the rain (it must have rained for a week and a half straight), he got down on one knee, and she accepted from the hood of her green rain jacket.

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The Mr. and I would not have an empty nest just yet when he would leave.

Time flew.  Lord have mercy, but it flew.

This past weekend was hard in many ways.  I knew it would be the last time he would be in my home as my baby.  He and his girl spent Sunday packing up his room.  He had done some cleaning out but not enough, apparently.

We had a lovely dinner Sunday night and sat for two or three hours afterward…TV turned off…enjoying sweet conversations with one another.  This time will replay itself in my mind when I need to feel close to him.

While he was out spending precious time with his girl, I sat down and wrote him a book letter.  Ok.  So it was four pages long.

Ahem.

After reading something about not being mushy on a Facebook support group I joined a couple of weeks ago, I decided to give him the shortened version…along with the longer one.

I smuck the letters into his bag when he wasn’t looking.

And then Monday…yesterday.

Oh heavens.

Rooster was beside himself happy, although he played it cool.  I did everything in my power to hold myself together.  Breaking down in front of him wasn’t in my plans, although we had, throughout the months, talked very openly about how hard his leaving would be for me.

When we got up to leave yesterday, he was kind and allowed me to snap a few last pictures.

They are priceless to me.

I prayed for him before we left, and then we drove him to the recruiter’s office where we sat in the parking lot for an hour watching the time creep up to when we would have to say goodbye.

It was like ripping a band aid off a wound.  Fast.  No warning, really.

And then he was gone.

Just as he’d done when we left him at college, he never looked back as he walked away.

We texted back and forth yesterday and today.  He had to go back to MEPS and go through his swearing-in ceremony and last-minute medical checks, before flying to basic training today.

But yesterday.  Folks, I did the ugly cry a time or two or three during the day.  I had taken the day off from school, thank heavens, and while out shopping had a fit of crying in the Michael’s parking lot.

That’s my “I’m really going to miss my son” face.  😦

I did have some better moments.  The day was too lovely to waste completely on sadness.

Still, the nighttime was hard, and I went to bed exhausted.

I did the cry thing three or four times today…even at school.  My students were very sweet and understanding.  I waited for news of Rooster’s travel itinerary.  He had a few hours of flying ahead of him after a 3:45 wake-up call.

I got a minute-long phone call when he landed, and he sounded happy and strong.  This phone call did my heart so much good.  I’d spent two days crying on and off, and I needed to know he’d be okay.

And now I sit…and wonder…how bad is he getting yelled out by the MTIs?  Is he in bed (hopefully so after the early start to the day)?  How in the world am I going to fill eight weeks with busy-ness so that I won’t feel as though time has stopped?  I’m already looking forward to attending his graduation.

He’s gone off to be rebuilt into the military’s version of a good service member.

I know he’ll do himself and us proud.

I hope I’ve done him proud by how I let him go.  I hope I did it gracefully.  I hope I left no doubt how much I love him and cherish the time I had as a hands-on mama.

Memorial Day 2013

Today we remember.

Today we honor.

Today we thank our servicemen and women for the sacrifices they have made to keep our liberties secure.

Let Us Never Forget…

I live in an area that houses two bases from two different branches of the military.

It’s not easy to forget about the sacrifice that our soldiers are making.  In fact, I’ve taught students who had parents serving tours of duty in the Middle East.

On this 4th of July, I thought I would post a video for the Dixie Chicks’s song, Traveling Soldier.

The words of this song never fail to bring tears to my eyes…especially more so now because my friend, Jane, lost her first husband to the Vietnam War.

So, while we’re busy barbecuing with family and watching the night skies light up with brilliant flashes of color, let us never forget those serving all around the world, lighting up the skies in a much different way and often making the ultimate sacrifice…their lives.


A Time to Honor Those Who Served

Today is Veteran’s Day.

My children had the day off from school.  We all got to sleep in a bit.  Yet, I wanted my family to set some time aside to honor those in the armed forces.

We are privileged that The Moving Wall is visiting my city.  This is a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located in Washington D.C.  It travels from one location to another to allow those who cannot visit Washington the opportunity to honor the fallen.

This morning, I announced that we would be taking a trip downtown to see it.  I met the usual resistance from the teenaged crew members; however, they could not convince me to change my mind.  We would be giving up one hour of our time; those whose names are on the wall gave up something far more precious…their lives.

Here are a few pictures…

58,260 names are inscribed on these walls…

The Department of Defense originally designated 1959 as the first year of casualties; however, it was later discovered that a serviceman had been killed in action in 1957.  It was too late to change the Memorial.

There are eight women on the list.  All were nurses.  16 of the men listed were chaplains; two were awarded the Medal of Honor.

There were a few mementos left, such as those below…

I ran my hand over some of the names…felt each letter etched into the memorial.  Each name…a person who was a son, perhaps a grandfather, father, or brother.  Many of these men died without ever knowing the children who were born after their passing.  I once worked with such a fellow and remember him talking about how his mother raised him and his sisters alone.

When you look at the names, you see diamonds, pluses, or pluses with a circle around them after each name.  The diamonds indicate those men and women confirmed dead.  The plus signs signify those who are missing in action or prisoners of war.  If an MIA serviceman’s remains are recovered, the plus symbol is changed to a diamond.  Plus signs with a circle around them indicate that a person was later brought home alive.  I did not see any of these, but I’ll admit that I didn’t look at every single name.

I am so grateful for the price our servicemen and women have paid to ensure that freedom reigns…not only in the United States, but in countries around the world.

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