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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.

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4 Responses

  1. I can only imagine how hard saying goodbye must have been for you! However, it’s a brave and noble path your son has chosen, and you must be so proud!

    I met my future husband, right after he’d joined the army (way back in 1969). Our courtship/engagement was filled with many such goodbyes, but we made it through, and got married 3 weeks after he was discharged, after 3 years of service.

    Best wishes to your son and his lady, and may God bless and watch over him, always!

  2. They never grow up enough where it doesn’t hurt to let them go

  3. Such bittersweet times, filled with pride, sadness, anticipation, fear, and happiness. I think you handled his departure well. Another one of your chicks has grown and chosen his own path. I think you and Rooster have “got this!”

  4. I have no words but sending you a big hug.

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