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Five Weeks Ago – Going Home

Five weeks ago, today, I had to return home after spending the most amazing four days with my new Airman son, Rooster.

We had to wake up at o’dark’thirty to catch our early flight.

We were a quiet bunch as we left our hotel room…the Mr., Rooster’s girl, and myself.  Each of us was lost in our own thoughts.

When we got to the lobby, my heart lurched.  It was at that moment that I felt a great sense of loss, and tears started rolling down my face.

It was the realization that I was leaving my boy behind.

To make things worse, it was his birthday.  Although I’d given him a card the evening before, shortly before our last hug goodbye, it just wasn’t the same as getting to tell him on his day.  He wouldn’t have any way to communicate with us; he wouldn’t be getting his phone back until the following Monday, and I had no idea when he would be able to call during this eighth week of training, called Airman’s Week.

The pain is still as fresh right now as I’m typing this as it was that morning.

Rooster’s girl sensed the change in my demeanor and said, “I’m not looking at you.”  She was trying to hold herself together too.

She then said, “Gus pooping, Gus pooping.”

Gus is her dog.  She kept saying the above phrase to distract us from our sad feelings.

We did chuckle together as we made our way to the car, but my tears returned as I struggled to pull up the directions to the car rental place and, ultimately, the airport.

It’s a good thing it was dark.

The weather matched my mood.  The much-touted rain had finally arrived.

Ugh.

We got through security without having to wait long (that’s what happens when you leave at 4:30am), and we sat down to wait.

We grabbed something to eat to pass the time, and I began uploading pictures from my trip.

We finally boarded.  You can see how spent, emotionally and physically, we were just by looking at our faces.

I saw other Air Force families on the plane.  Most of us were easily recognizable with our flight shirts on or other Air Force attire.

I looked outside and saw that the rain had slowed but not stopped completely.

The first half of the flight to Houston was not good.  At all.  The weather tossed us about, and we were required to wear our seat belts for a good portion of the trip.  I prayed like crazy.  I’m a big fan of the old show Lost.  Unfortunately, I’d watched too much of it.

The skies did clear up three quarters of the way there.  I was extremely relieved to see the light-dappled horizon peeking over the clouds.

Landing in Houston was a relief.  So much so that Rooster’s girl and I did a bit of browsing in the shops.  We found a candy store called Dylan’s Candy Bar.  I guess it must be famous.  When you live in Podunk, USA, you aren’t always in the know about such things.  The merchandise certainly wasn’t cheap, but if you’re a sugar addict, this is the place to be!  I bought a few goodies…vegan candy bars and this cute container that I filled with cherry candy.  Yum!

Our connecting flight was much smoother.  We were able to enjoy refreshments served by kind flight attendants.

We did have one hiccup when we were very close to home.  As we circled around the beach, I felt the plane begin to climb instead of descend.  I knew the airport was nearby, so I didn’t understand.  The pilot came on the PA system and announced that, “there was a little problem,” and we were going to gain some altitude to run some tests.

Say what?  At that point, I wanted to be home.  I mean, I would have gladly stayed in San Antonio to be close to my boy, but since the Air Force has a policy that mamas can’t stay on base forever (I’m kidding…sort of), home it had to be for me.  I didn’t want there to be a problem with the plane (remember my love of the show Lost?).  Ugh.

Fortunately, we weren’t up too much longer and made a smooth landing.

I might have kissed the ground if the Mr. wouldn’t have been embarrassed.

We made our way home…dropping of Rooster’s girl en route.  The dogs were beside themselves when we walked in the door.  They were happy to have their people back again.

My heart was in Texas, though.  Even the drive home from the airport had reminded me of what a different world my son had entered into…one that was faster paced.  If you’ve ever driven around San Antonio, you understand what I mean.  We had come home via back roads…it’s the country way of life for us.

It took me awhile to process all that we had been through from last July, when Rooster had told us he was enlisting, through BMT, and then finally during graduation.

We’d all become a part of something bigger.  Rooster’s decision has broadened our worldview.  I cannot hear the name of a base without thinking of the servicemen there…the jobs they may be doing…the families back home waiting and praying for them.

I never fully understood why people went quite so crazy over parades…or other patriotic events.  Yes, I have always loved America, but boy did I take things for granted.

I will be that crazy lady who has a lot of red, white, and blue in her wardrobe and has a lot of decorations (sorry, Rooster, but this mama is fully invested now).  I have already become the woman who tears up when I hear the National Anthem played.  When I see an Air Force sticker on a car, I want to find the owner and ask if they’ve served or have a loved one serving.  Seeing an Airman in uniform, whether it’s ABUs or formal dress, will forever make me want to reach out and hug that person in gratitude (I’ll try to hold back).

I am so proud to say that I am an Air Force mom.

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