Seventeen Days

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.

“Mom?”

I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.

“Mom?”

“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.”

Silence.

Tears.

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.

40 thoughts on “Seventeen Days

  1. Nancy P

    Oh good lord but I have goosebumps. I am so near to tears myself just reading this. My youngest is 23 (will turn 24 on June 4th) :) and no he is not in the service but the mere thought of what you are facing just makes me want to call up Andrew’s boot camp instructor and yell “BE NICE TO HIM” LET YVONNE KEEP HIM FOR A FEW MORE MONTHS AT LEAST!

    Reply
  2. Theresa

    Oh, Y. My heart aches for you. I cannot even begin to imagine how hard this is for you as a mother. You’ve raised an incredible son and we’ll all be forever in your debt. Just keep breathing. Wish you lots of love and hugs and support to get you through the next few weeks.

    Reply
  3. mary

    I totally cried reading this. My oldest son just turned 18 and I have some of those fears but not the depth you’re feeling with your son enlisting. Speaking from my own military relationship, I feel he won’t lose any of those things you love about him. My boyfriend is the most peace loving, compassionate, bighearted person I know. And this goes for most of the people I know that are serving. It takes a special person to dedicate their life to something bigger than themselves, and to want to make the world a better place. I admire his commitment, and I send you lots of love and bean dip.

    Reply
  4. Maggie

    Oh I definitely think you deserve that wine and bean dip! I will raise my glass to you tonight, and in the meantime, sending lots of hugs & loving thoughts your way…

    Reply
  5. Jaime

    Beautiful post. And though my children are still young yet, I know that when the time comes to let them be the people I’ve raised them to be, it will be one of the hardest things I will ever have to do. Lots of wine, indeed.

    I’m sending good thoughts both your way and your son’s.

    Take care.

    Reply
  6. Christine

    Oh my. I know. I know. Hang in there. Watching our children become adults is so hard, so very hard.

    I think you’ve raised a wonderful son and he will come back to you exactly the same person at the core. His kind spirit will never leave him.

    Passing you the Kleenex…

    Reply
  7. Michelle

    Many, many positive thoughts coming your way from over here. As hard as being a mom to two girls is (oh the hormones and drama and. . .), I can’t even imagine what being mom to a future Marine is like. I live among 3 generations of career Marines and despite my tree hugging pacifist nature they are some of the people I respect the most. I hope that you can get what you need out of the next 17 days to fill your heart up while he’s in training, I also hope that time goes by quickly for both of you.

    Reply
  8. Amanda

    A neighbor’s son enlisted without telling his parents, so rather than a conversation it was an announcement. They were devastated and terrified. As weeks have passed, they have been able to latch on to a sense of pride, but still they murmur, “Pray for our boy.”

    I will keep you all in my thoughts. I feel honored that you shared this with us.

    Hugs.

    Reply
  9. Zoot

    I just wrote E’s graduation on the calendar for next year so I this hit a bit close to home. And E will just be going off to another school in the same state, I can’t imagine boot camp and then God Only Knows Where. I’ll hug you from across the country and pat you on the back and sob with you for the next 17 days, and even more after. Hang in there.

    Reply
  10. Kathy

    When we first met he was 9. NINE. I can’t even comprehend how you feel but just the simple reality that that amount of time went by so quickly…. *sigh* I can imagine how you feel. I almost feel it for you because I know at some point I will go through the same thing in some way with my own boys. It makes my heart ache. I hope you get the hugs, wine, bean dip and support you need. If it’s any help, my husband (who is a Marine) said that at his most difficult moments in boot camp, he thought about his mom. You’ll be with him there and he’ll still be Andrew when he gets back. :) Hang in there mama.

    Reply
  11. Sarahviz

    Y, this post brought tears to my eyes. My youngest brother left for Army boot camp in August ’11 and has already been to Afghanistan and back. Yes, he’s changed, but yet still the same.
    And, I have 3 young sons. I can only imagine putting myself in your shoes someday. Thus, the tears.

    Reply
  12. Debbie

    Ok, good, at least I wasn’t the only one crying when I read this.

    Maybe you and Andrew can go to Disneyland together before he leaves? Have a really good “you’re still a kid” day?

    Big hugs and squeezes from CO. I remember when my little brother went off to the Air Force Academy and I still miss having my “baby bro” around..and that was in 1991.

    Reply
  13. Lena

    I love you so much. Andrew has an incredible mother and I know that he will in fact come back a stronger, more mature, version of the boy he leaves.

    I’m here for you. To dip things. To laugh. To cry. …To have soooo much fun in Miami! SO MUCH.

    hahahhahhah

    XOXOX

    I LOVE YOU!

    Reply
  14. Jen

    Oh Y, this brought me to tears. I can’t imagine everything you’re going through. You’re totally allowed to be both proud and completely shattered, it’s your right as his mom. I’m sure that even if he comes back a completely different person he’ll be just as great as he is now. And really, no matter how old he gets, he’ll always be yours. x’s and o’s to you mama.

    Reply
  15. Lyndsey

    Oh, I am so sorry for you. I don’t have children so I can’t really understand what you’re going through, but the man I was supposed to marry was in the military and so I do have a bit of experience in that regard. I remember how hard it was to say goodbye before he left for bootcamp. How hard those first few months were when we couldn’t speak. How much I worried when he was deployed.

    The only thing I can tell you that I hope may give you some comfort is– they don’t all change. Especially the funny ones. I think that humor is something that really gets these kids through the rough times, and something that is so recognizable when they come back.

    Reply
  16. Jackie

    My heart hurts for you. I’m trying to hold back the tears because I’m reading this at my office.

    My son went off to collge. It’s his second year. But, this time he moved over 4 hours away. It crushed me.

    I’ve always said the hardest part of parenting is know when to let go and how much. But, I was wrong. Letting go completely and allowing them to become the young men (or women) they are destined for is the hardest part.

    I would say you and others like you with a child going in the military do have it harder. But, every child changes to a certain degree as they grow into adulthood.

    I’ll be sure to keep all of you in my prayers.

    Jackie

    Reply
  17. Suzy Q

    Sending love and hugs. You are an amazing mother, and you have raised a wonderful son. I’m so sorry you’ve been robbed of those last few weeks you were expecting, but please know you are sending a strong young man into the arms of a brotherhood who will protect him as their own, as he will also protect them. That he is to become a Marine is a testament to your and your husband’s parenting and his own generous soul.

    Reply
  18. LisaK

    I have an 18 year old son, too ~ thinking of you and sending you virtual hugs, wine and Sanders chocolate from Michigan.

    Reply
  19. Mommabird2345

    I can’t even imagine all the emotions you are feeling. This is both heartbreaking for you and exciting for your son. I’ll be thinking of your family.

    Reply
  20. Miss Britt

    Oh, Y. I am so sorry for this change. I can’t imagine. I have been so impressed by how supportive you have been of your son through this decision, but this last minute shift has to be rough. Thinking mama bear thoughts for you. xo

    Reply
  21. jadine

    Even when you see it coming, a gut-punch still knocks the wind out of you. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but that’s how I felt reading this. I have two boys, know soldiers, and can’t wrap my brain/heart around what you’re feeling. I wish you much chocolate, bean dip, and wine. Emphasis on the wine.

    Reply
  22. NDGIRL

    I felt these same feelings two years ago. It’s hard and I cried every morning on my way to work in the weeks leading up to his leaving. On a different note, his graduation from Basic Training was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

    Reply
  23. Janette

    My twin boys are 20 months old and this post made me bawl my eyes out. My heart HURTS for you!! I have loved reading your blog and watching your kids grow up. Be strong…I know you are so proud of Andrew and you’ll only be that much MORE proud of him when he completes boot camp. Sometimes I complain about how hard these days are lately with 2 toddlers (by the way, I’m a year older than you), but I know the day will come when they will leave.

    Hang in there, Sister!! BIG HUGS!!

    Reply
  24. Katie

    I can’t begin to imagine what this feels like for you, as his mother. I have a cousin who is about 6 months younger than me who is a former Marine. When he said he was enlisting we all laughed because it seemed so unlike him, so serious, but he did it, and the man he became after his time there is someone I am proud to be around today. I hope that Andrew has a similarly wonderful and uncomplicated career with the Marines. Much love to you and your family, Y. xo

    Reply
  25. Rachael

    Oh, Yvonne. I can’t imagine any of it, to be honest. My oldest son is only about to be six, and the idea of him growing up… leaving me, is enough. But the idea of boot camp, of all of it, I cry for you and your heart. (Hugs)

    Reply
  26. eb

    I have a son who has been in the army now for 6 years, so I totally understand how u are feeling. I cried like crazy when i read this remembering bringing him to his recruiting center the day he left. hes also been deployed twice already and nothing is like the fear you feel while they are on a mission. Its not boot camp that changes them, its the deployment. But I can tell you care packages and letters from home make ALL the difference to these soldiers. It keeps them grounded and sane during such a trying experience. He will be different, but underneath he will always be the sweet, kind man u raised. Its just all wrapped up in a uniform now! Good luck to your son and your family and welcome to the armed services!

    Reply
  27. Leeanne

    He will be the grown-up, manly version of the wonderful son you raised. My husband is a Marine as well as my son from another mother and they dont change in boot camp. They do grow up though and learn to value the important things in life that they may have taken for granted before their life as a Marine. I am so proud of Andrew and the choice he has made. Good luck to him! I’ll be thinking of you and your family as May 1st approaches. Enjoy your time with him.
    Now go get some wine.

    Reply
  28. Dee

    I come from a military family (Army, Coast Guard and Air Force) and while I am not a mom myself my Godson is jumping out of perfectly good planes and his brother is an MP “somewhere” in the middle East.

    I am sending you hugs, strength and your son is on my list of people I pray for each night.

    Love,
    Dee

    Reply
  29. Amy

    Just a word of warning, you probably need to count on your last night with him one evening earlier. The Marines have them spend the night in a hotel the night before they report to boot camp. I found out three days beforehand and burst into tears as he told me in the car.

    My relationship with Alex has only improved since he’s been in…and we were close before he left. Andrew will mature and change, but he’ll still be your son…just a grown up version.

    The 13 weeks of boot camp are tough for moms to get through. Stay in touch with other moms in his company…it helps immensely.

    Reply
  30. Sarah

    I’ve spent the past few hours rediscovering baby pictures and videos of my kids, watching and looking at them with them, and so wistful at how big they’ve gotten and how long ago and yet “just yesterday” that life seemed. And my kids are “only” 9 and 11. (I say “only” because to me, they are still the baby and toddler in the pictures). And then i get online and I read this and I am a weeping puddle of tears. I can’t even imagine what I would do; probably exactly what you’ve been doing. So sorry for the not-so-good surprise:(

    Reply
  31. justme

    I can’t even begin to imagine how you feel if this post made me cry! I hope you are able to squeeze some of your plans in in the next couple of weeks!

    Reply
  32. Jennifer

    It is incredibly hard. My husband and I have been married almost 20 years and I have only seen him cry once.. and one of them was they day our son left for bootcamp.

    Reply

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