Tag Archives: Navy Mom

You’ll Hear From Me In A Month, Mom

As I write this, my 18-year-old son has been at Navy boot camp for about 10 hours. (Maybe 11 ”” I don’t do well with timezones.) I got the scripted phone call yesterday at 9:08 pm. “I’m supposed to tell you I got here, you’ll get a box from me next week, and you’ll hear from me again in about a month. And I love you.” He sounded confident and strong. Maybe a little nervous, but that could have just been my ear.

Because I’m a Navy mom veteran now, I know the box is what we call the “Kid in a Box.” It contains everything ”” down to his lucky boxers ”” that he had with him when he left home. I picture them standing inside the box, stripping down, then stepping out naked and shivering before they slip on their boot camp clothes.

He’ll be there for about two months before he graduates. After graduation, he’ll leave Chicago for San Antonio for a couple of months for his training to be a Master at Arms, a Navy cop. He’ll have so many options after that, from Counter Narcotics (which I don’t think has anything to do with retail sales) to K9 units to Counter Terrorism (again, nothing you can buy) to Fleet Protection Force. Very heady stuff for someone who just earned the right to buy a cigar.

We had dinner with him the night before he left and tried to cram in 18 years of advice we might have forgotten to tell him along the way.

He’s kinda following in the footsteps of his older brother Adam who has been in the Navy for a year-and-half, except he is a corpsman ”” Navy medic ”” stationed in Okinawa.

When Adam left, I was more afraid of the unknown, but with Jeff, I think I’m more nervous about what I DO know.

Some of the things I thought I knew about the Navy have proven to be untrue. For instance, I pictured the young enlisted guys as being in a protective bubble of Navyness. But the reality is that the Navy treats them as the young adults they actually are, free to make mistakes ”” big and small ”” and take unfortunate risks.

I probably wouldn’t know much about that part of Navy life except that Adam divides his time between working at a fire station on the ambulance crew and in the ER in one of the base hospitals.

He had a rough couple of shifts over the July 4th holiday. One of his patients was a fifteen year old who drank so much that “his brain forgot how to breathe.” I asked what they did and he said, “We tried to breathe for him.”

Another patient remembered driving himself to a bar, driving away from the bar, and being in the ambulance.

Two patients were ginormous, combative Marines who had to be chemically as well as physically restrained before they could be treated for their drunken injuries.

All of these young men will face severe consequences from the Navy and from their mothers. My heart breaks for everyone involved, but I’m so proud they had Adam to take care of them. I know it affects him, as it does all ER workers. How could it not? I hope he continues to share his work ”” the funny stuff as well as the tragic ”” with us and with other people and that he’s able to keep perspective.

He’s a confident, competent, generous and warm-hearted person, both with his patients and with his family. Especially his younger brother. Jeff is lucky to have him to answer his questions about boot camp, solicit his advice about Navy stuff, and as a confidante.

Honestly? I’m not sure how I feel right now. It’s hard to see the last little baby bird fly away, but I’m not exactly unhappy about it. I know he’s been looking forward to this adventure for a long time. Frankly, it will be nice to have only the two of us non-risk adults on the auto insurance. I can’t wait to buy half as many groceries every week and not have anyone say, “There’s nothing to eat around here ”” only ingredients.” I’m looking forward to not having to keep up-to-date on his constantly-changing social schedule. And the whole spare bedroom thing? I’m all over it.

I stood today in his newly emptied room. Bed made. Furniture dusty. Floor needing vacuuming. I looked at the things he left on a single shelf. Samurai sword his brother sent him from Japan. Obama button. Eagle Scout medals. Belt buckle collection. Bottle of Jones root beer specially labeled with a picture of his friends.

That was his life last week, but this week it’s altogether different. And so is mine. Neither of us will ever be the same.

I know I’ll miss the little boy who, while packing up his room, found a box of Star Wars action figures and played with them for two hours. He’d just seen Toy Story 3 and felt bad for them. And I’ll definitely miss the little boy who, just a few nights ago, wanted to watch a Disney movie to cleanse his palate after watching an über-scary one.

He’s a man and a child.

May God protect him out in the world.

Bravo Zulu, son. Be safe. Be smart. Bedazzle.

ps ””I’ve written lots about my older son’s experiences ”” and mine ”” as we started our Navy journey together. In the sidebar you’ll see a “Navy Bits” category with all the posts. Scroll to the very first page. Also, if we’re Facebook friends, you can read his letters home from boot camp in my “Notes” section. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel like hugging your children. Friend me but send a message with it that says something about the Navy. I don’t friend just anyone!

Okinawa Bound

My son leaves today for Okinawa. Two years he’ll be gone.

He doesn’t know exactly what he’ll be doing but he’ll be working at the Naval Hospital there. He’s heard a rumor that because he has his EMT certificate, he may get to work in the emergency room for his regular job and when he gets assigned duty he might be driving an ambulance. That would ROCK!

Regardless of what he does, though, I know he’ll be an entirely different person when I see him next.

I got all maudlin when he left for boot camp and needed Abba to help me through.

Honestly? It might happen again. But I feel more under control now, stronger, smarter.

Why, you ask?

Boot camp, for one thing. I learned so much about the Navy while he was there. Corps School for another. I learned so much about him during the three months he was learning to be a corpsman. (I suspect he did too.) And as you know, knowledge is power.

There’s also the fact that my youngest has already sworn in on the Delayed Entry Program and will be joining the Navy too just as soon as he graduates from pesky ”˜ol high school.

So I feel very much the Navy Mom these days.

I think, too, that the unknowns are more known now and his real adventure is beginning. He gets to do a job he’s trained for and has been excited about for a long time.

It’s hard to feel sad when the baby bird flies away to do what he wants to do in an exotic, beautiful locale. As long as said baby bird remembers to email and Skype and help his mother plan her trip to Japan, that is.

Bravo Zulu, boy. Your life is really beginning. Be smart, be safe, bedazzle.

Slipping Through My Fingers

So many people have asked me about the song lyrics from yesterday’s blog about my son that I decided to post the video here. It’s a scene from the movie “Mamma Mia.”

You’ll note the stage is set differently. That’s Meryl Streep, not me. And it’s her daughter getting married, not her son going away.

If you don’t cry when you watch this, you’ve never left home, or you’ve never had a mommy, or you’ve never had a child leave, or you are carved out of stone and aluminum with a heart fashioned from wrought iron. You know who you are.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was that before we left home, my son wandered through the whole house, telling me he just wanted to take it all in and remember it.

It was then that I realized he’d be just fine. He had already balanced on that teeter totter inside himself between knowing he wanted to leave but that leaving changed everything.

Something I couldn’t teach him.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib-AZ3Sf3kg&feature=related]

If you can’t make the video work, here’s the link straight to YouTube.

The Navy Owns My Son Now

The phone rang at 11:18 last night. I told the operator I’d accept the charges then heard the quiet, composed voice of my nineteen-year-old son. He said, reading from a script, “I have to tell you three things. I arrived safely at Great Lakes. You’ll be getting a package from me in a few days. You’ll hear from me again in about a month. Now I’m supposed to say my goodbyes and I-love-yous. So goodbye and I love you.”

It’s official. He’s begun Navy boot camp.

It feels very indulgent to worry about him when other mothers are sending their kids off to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hotspots around the globe. I’m only sending mine to Illinois ”” for now ”” but I’ve heard it’s a strange and often inhospitable place. Could be they’re only talking about the weather or the Statehouse (it is where Rod Blagojevich hails from, after all), but still.

It’s a bit surreal that my son is actually leaving. He’s been on the Delayed Entry Program since August so he’s been counting down the days. I’ve been counting the days, too, but probably for different reasons.

I don’t come from a military family so this is all very unfamiliar turf for me. New lingo, new protocol, new clothes. The lingo and the protocol I’ll leave to him, but I am looking forward to seeing him in clothes that fit. I’m expecting the Navy to finally get his pants to stay up over his skinny butt. Levi’s and Dockers haven’t been able to lo, these many years, so it’s obviously time for the government to step in.

People have been giving me well-meaning advice about his upcoming departure. One soul, bless her heart, tried to tell me it was no different than when I sent my older daughter off to college clear across the country. I smiled, nodded, accepted her advice in the spirit it was intended. But inside? Disputing her logic with every synapse firing in my brain.

First, I drove my daughter to college and we had a sparkly good road trip. I didn’t offer her up to strangers in front of a hotel at 4:30 am.

Second, I could call her whenever I wanted to hear her voice or give her some last minute advice or ask if she stole my favorite sweater. My son, on the other hand, won’t have regular access to a phone for ten weeks or so. The ten weeks, coincidentally, that he might need to hear friendly voices the most. But I’m fairly certain he didn’t take any of my clothes with him. In fact, he barely took any of his own clothes, and those he’ll ship back home in a few days.

Third, she had 24-hour access to the computer lab ”” even when she studied in London. We were only a couple clicks away from each other. Son? No internet, no computers, no mouse clicks.

Fourth, after she graduates she probably won’t be shot at by snipers or have to dodge laser-guided missiles. And the only pirate she’s likely to see is Johnny Depp as Cap’n Jack Sparrow.

After boot camp he’ll go to school to train as a corpsman, the Navy’s medics. I thought that sounded pretty safe … until I learned that Navy corpsmen follow the Marines. Wherever Marines are deployed, so are corpsmen.

I’m not complaining, though, really I’m not. I’m just pointing out that sending a loved one off to defend our country isn’t the easiest thing to do. In fact, it might be the hardest. So far. For me.

For his part, he’s excited and thrilled by his decision. He’ll get to see the world, he’ll learn real-life skillz, he’ll meet fascinating people, he’ll do honorable work, he’ll become a man.

I know he’s enlisting with mindfulness. He’s hip to what he’s agreed to. I just hope the government keeps their end of the bargain.

For every situation, and because this is BeckyLand, there are appropriate song lyrics, probably many, but these words from ABBA have been twirling around my brain lately. I’ve also posted the video of the song.

Schoolbag in hand
He leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye
With an absent-minded smile
I watch him go
With a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I’m losing him forever
And without really entering his world
I’m glad whenever I can share his laughter
That funny little boy

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what’s in his mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
He keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sleep in our eyes
Him and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake
I let precious time go by
Then when he’s gone
There’s that old melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt
I can’t deny
What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
Well some of that we did
But most we didn’t
And why I just don’t know

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers

Godspeed, my love.