It's been a week since he left. The picture above is the cake I ordered for his going away party which was June 14, 2008. The picture doesn't do it justice. It was a magnificent piece of work. I was grateful it turned out so well. I cried in the bakery department of Cub Foods, the day of his party because it was now real. Then I went back to my favorite coping mechanism.
Yes, I've been playing that game this week.
My one and only child, my son, left home a week ago for boot camp. As I've mentioned previously, my son enlisted in the Navy. He left on June 19, 2008, for boot camp. I took two days off to "mourn" his departure.
I just repressed it.
Enter a distraction to keep me occupied this weekend. We went to the "Back to the 50's" Car Show at the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. That repressed it even more for me. I thought, "Hey, I'm doing pretty good!" Until...
The package arrived yesterday afternoon. I thought it was for QH, but it wasn't. I recognized the handwriting on the box immediately. It was Alex's handwriting. Oh, Joy! Some word, finally, of my son! I opened it as fast as I could. Here were the contents:
1 pair of white tennis shoes,
1 pair of blue jeans,
1 under shirt,
1 pair of boxers,
1 pair of socks,
1 Minnesota Driver's License, stuffed into one of the tennis shoes,
1 ballpoint ink pen from the Marriott,
Several scraps of paper, stuffed into the other shoe,
1 airline ticket stub from American Airlines, and finally,
1 black T-shirt that reads, "Just Do It" on the front in white letters.
I laughed because I had just finished his laundry! I then pictured my son, standing in his military issue skivvies putting his clothes in the box thinking, "Mom's really going to love getting this!"
It took me a while, but I finally realized, they were sending the last remants of my son as a civilian. This part of his life is over, for now, and a new one is beginning. It's symbolic and painful at the same time. We go through the usual milestones in life, but this is a new one for me, sending your son off to become a sailor, a military man.
I know that the young man who left wearing the clothes in that box, will not be the same young man when he returns home. It breaks my heart, it really does.
But I also realized, I won't be the same person either. I hope to be a better person when my son returns.
Everything is different now. It was reality hitting me in the face. And that's when the meltdown began.
I'm not sure who I was kidding.
I guess I thought if I was super strong and didn't show it on the outside that this is what was going on in the inside, then I could sail through the remaining 9 weeks before he comes home.
So, here I am trying to be brave. Trying to keep my emotions in check and trying to get my own stuff together. I have to cry, I have to let it out, and I have to let him go to become the man he is to be, no matter how painful it is.
We raise our children to become their own people, to live their own lives, and to be self-sufficient. But we have to allow ourselves to grieve for that chapter that closes in our lives, and embrace and celebrate the new chapter opening.
He called and left a message on my answering machine that he made it to boot camp okay, and he would call in 2 weeks. One week to go. I now understand the meaning of the AA slogan: Take it one day at a time.
I will take it one day at a time.
I will write to my son and as soon as I have an update or an address, and I will update all of you. I will pray he stays safe.
I will pray he excels (as I know he will) and makes it through boot camp and finds the strength he never knew he had within himself.
I pray that for me and QH, too.
Now I have to wipe the tears away and get on with my day. I have a lot to do before my son comes home.
I hope he's as proud of me as I am of him.