I need to write this post to help me work through all of the emotions that I’m feeling. I probably won’t go back to proofread. Not right away, anyway. Please excuse any mistakes I’ve made. I’ll come back to edit things later.
Last night I was at Ethan’s basketball practice watching my son run suicide after suicide. I picked up my phone to play a game of Draw Something when I noticed I had missed a call from Andrew. I was about to call him back when a text message from him came through.
“Mom, can you please call me right away.”
I didn’t panic, but I was definitely concerned. My mind started to race a bit. Was he in a car accident? Did he get pulled over? Did he run out of gas? I hope everything’s okay…
He answered the phone.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yes.” He said. “Mom, a few people were discharged last night and so they’ve moved my ship date up. I’m leaving for boot camp on May 1st.”
I was stunned into silence.
I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.
“Are you joking, Andrew?”
“No, Mom. I’m serious. I’m leaving on May 1st. I have to go to L.A. tomorrow for testing. Can you take me to the recruiting center at 5am tomorrow?”
He was supposed to leave on June 4th. We were supposed to have a going away party for him that weekend. I was supposed to have seven weeks left to spend with my son before he was shipped off to become a United States Marine. I had so many plans for the next seven weeks. Those plans have been changed. Now, there are only seventeen days left with our son.
On the drive home from practice, I told Ethan.
“Your brother leaves on May 1st.”
“Are you joking?” He said.
“I wish it was a joke. Are you going to miss him?”
“Not really. Well, I’m going to miss joking around with him about Troy Murphy. Actually, yeah, I’m going to miss him.”
I started to cry.
He asked me why I was crying. “It’s not like he died! He’s just going to boot camp! He’ll be back!”
“I know he’s not dying. But for me? This symbolizes the death of his childhood and it’s difficult for me to handle emotionally.”
All night, tears.
Still today, tears.
Tears of sadness. My little boy is all grown up. For the next six weeks, he will be stripped down to nothing physically and mentally only to be built back up. He will leave here an innocent, kind, loving, joyful kid and return a strong, proud, disciplined United States Marine.
Unless you’ve gone through this with your own child, you can not understand the emotional roller coaster me and my husband are experiencing right now. I know I should be proud of the brave young man that I’ve raised. And believe me, I am. But there is also a sadness that I can not explain. There is a fear that gnaws at me– fear of what I know will happen to him, fear of what I do not know is going to happen to him.
I’ve spent the last nineteen years of my life making sure that boy is safe, healthy, happy. I’ve laid on his bedroom floor when he’s been sick just to make sure he’s breathing. I’ve held him in my arms when he’s been scared, I’ve wiped tears from him eyes when he was hurt or sad. I’ve told him hundreds of times that I would do whatever I had to do to be sure he was safe always.
It’s a new chapter in his life and also in mine. While I’m still his mother, I will always be his mother, it is no longer my job to keep him safe from harm. I must now let go of the idea that he is a little boy that needs to be sheltered and protected.
Every person that I talked to who has been through this with their child tells me the same thing “He will come back a completely different person. You won’t even recognize him.” This is both exciting and also terrifying. I like my son exactly as he his. He’s kind, gentle, loving, considerate and funnier than you can imagine. I have to believe that when they say “different” they mean is an “improved version of the wonderful person you’ve raised.”
I am going to need a lot of hugs and possibly lots of chocolate/wine/bean dip to get through these next few days.