Thursday, November 13, 2008

Reporting For Duty

Nineteen years ago, I probably looked down at my rounding belly and said: “In eight short months, you will arrive!” Today, I found myself saying: “In eight short months you will be leaving home.” And to be perfectly cliché, I then found myself musing out loud how the time had passed so quickly although their were moments in his infancy and boyhood that felt like years. The paradox of motherhood. One of many.

I’m not sure why it hit me between the eyes today that Wally will be shipping out in eight months. And it isn't like he will be gone for a week or two but for three months, then a year and after that? Who knows. He will belong to the navy. At first I thought he joined impulsively as some sort of revenge because I’m obviously a poor money manager and didn’t save 80 grand for the college of his choice. A school--I hasten to add--that wouldn’t accept him even if he were waving the cash outside their gates. Yea gods we had heated discussion about his lassitude in school. Wally isn’t a stupid kid, he just isn’t that into school. Over the last month he has finally accepted this and carefully considered all the military branches and chose the Navy.

How ironic we considered immigrating to Canada to avoid the United States military machine way back in ‘91. Now I’m proud he will be a part of the very thing we wanted to escape. Wally even knows what he wants to do after boot camp. He wants to work with the Marines and special ops as a corpsman as a medic. Of course, he is going for some testosterone Play Station job he couldn't’t be content with a safe Mom-friendly job, on a base, away from the shooting and bombs. Nope, he wants to “play in the sandbox with the Marines”. (I do know some of the lingo) He leaves in eight months. Leaves home. Goes away. Leaves.

I suppose the grief that is sitting in the back of my throat, threatening to spill out of my eyes and onto my cheeks at any given moment is in part due to my mother’s death. I must say good bye to my boy in eight months. How exquisite it’s almost as long as my pregnancy.

This morning, I was graced with the rare opportunity to spend time with him before school so we went to the very loud and very crowded Starbucks across the street from the school. That he wasn‘t embarrassed to be seen with me on his turf speaks to his new found maturity. I quizzed him why he was joining the military. I was afraid he was going to tell me he couldn't’t wait to get away from me because he was sick of my bitching about his deadbeat father. He spared me that humiliation and explained to me he knew the only school we could afford was the commuter college in town; he also maturely admitted even though he will be 19, he knows he isn't ready for college. And then he said these magic words: “No offense mom but I’m ready to leave home. I need to leave home. It’s time.”

The loudest Starbucks in the whole world was suddenly dead silent except for my son’s sincere intonation of those very important words. After taking a deep and steadying breath, I quietly explained to him how proud I was of him; how this was the moment healthy parents worked towards. “From the day we brought you home from the hospital, I knew and hoped we would have this conversation. Of course you are ready to leave home. As you should be.”

Although I have been whining how horrible he as treated all of us the last six months, I'm still sad. Until last Tuesday, I was counting down the days to his 19th birthday because I could legally inform his father "due to Wally's attitude and behavior, he was no longer welcome in *my* home." But he is a different boy man since he decided to sign his contract. Wally is calmer and seems at peace; no longer picking at Beav or treating me disrespectfully. He is holding his head higher, looking us straight in the eye when we speak to him. Wally has a purpose.

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