Life with Boys
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So, everyone IS on FB! We found out that Navy Boot Camp has a FB page, and Roy and I eagerly ‘Liked’ it. They occasionally post random pictures, have contests to get a picture of your Sailor’s Division, etc.

Today, they posted about 50 pictures, and though Joe wasn’t in any of them that we could see, one thought ran through my mind as we clicked through:

"They’re just babies!"

My father was career Army and we grew up around military bases. I was a teenager on the last base we lived on, and I remember my parents telling my VERY clearly, “NO dating the younger soldiers.” 

My girlfriends and I looked at these guys and saw them as ‘the older guys.’

And now, our son’s one! The kids he went to school with, played video games with, ordered pizza with-THEY are the soldiers!

It blows my mind!

And I feel old…

A post by me on ScareTissue .

So, I started work this past Monday. I was hired as a cashier/customer service, but they have all front end hirees bag for a few days to get the lay of the land.  I also performed something they call a ‘safety sweep.’ Really that just means I go around the store, sweep up any little messes, call someone if there is a bigger mess, etc.

And I’m surprised!  I’ve worked retail before, and because Roy and I both have, I like to think we make sure to understand that ANYONE can have a bad day, and that being nice goes a long way. We also have kids that work in the service industry and the thought of someone being rude to them ‘just cause’ bothers me, so I do my best to treat anyone serving us the way we would want to be treated.

And for the most part, the customers are wonderful! They smile at us, they joke around with us, ask nicely for help as opposed to expecting it, and overall are just a pleasure to help.

I’ve had two customers, that I asked while I was doing my safety sweep if they needed help, both (two separate occasions). They forgot their glasses and were having trouble reading labels. One gentleman even complimented me when he got up to the check out lane after I’d returned and resumed bagging. The manager happened to over hear!  Felt nice!

But we have had a few…WOW!  Is common courtesy out the door? Civility?

I’m not the quickest bagger, but most people don’t seem to mind.  One of Roy’s first jobs was a bag boy, and he reminded me cold with cold, warm with warm, etc.  So, I go out of my way to follow that guideline. Try to bag veggies with one another, meat seperately, cleaning products on their own-this guy was in a hurry and started grabbing things. Hey, if you want to help out cool, but grabbing things out of my hand, and then hitting me (I assume it was accidental, but he said nothing by way of apology or acknowledgement)?

A few of our older shoppers have asked for help with bringing their bags to their cars-I don’t mind, and I certainly don’t’ expect a tip, but a thank you would be nice.

I realize that I’m fortunate to be in a position to not need this job. My husband has a good job, and I know that I am lucky in that I have the choice to work right now, but I am also looking forward to this opportunity.  The idea of simply buying Roy a birthday gift with money I earned gives me a little thrill each time I think of it. So, I approach this job with enthusiasm and give it 110%.

But it has also reminded me that the people helping us might like a smile too, a friendly hello and a pleasant experience as well.

Pride winning out for me. Roy sent me a link to a website, Navy For Moms, and it’s been helpful.  I’ve been gathering up information about PIR (Pass In Review-their graduation from boot camp)-where to stay, car rentals, etc. There are overviews of what the kids do at boot camp, when they might be able to call, etc.

And it’s wonderful. It’s nice to get information from Mom’s who have been there.  And yet it hard too.

When it got to the point where i realized that Joe would be leaving soon, I realized I had two choices: 1) I could cry and cling to him or 2) I could enjoy the last few months I had of him being at home full time.

I like to think I chose two.  And again I think a big reason was because of the type of person Joe is-he’s got a big heart, and he’s the type that would rather hurt than hurt someone else/see them hurting.  I knew my fear, sadness, or whatever else i was feeling would rub off on him and that’s NOT what he needed when it came time to take this new path.

Nuke School isn’t going to be easy-it’s elite, it’s tough, and he needs to feel secure, motivated and confident to succeed. 

Sure, I still cry on occasion.  We have a five bedroom house, and right outside the door to each of the bedrooms we have pictures of the kids. Addi’s room has Addi’s picture next to it. Today, Roy moved Joe’s picture and hung up Dean’s-it’s now Dean’s room.

Dean has bunk beds, and I thought it would be cool if Joe slept there when he came home, Dean loves the idea of having Joe sleep there, but it’s still HIS room.

I did laundry today, and there was nothing that belonged to Joe. No, basketball shorts or gym socks-nothing. And it was a reminder that he has moved on.

And though it hurts, and I miss him dearly, I find the pride is surfacing more readily now than the tears. The more I read about Nuke school the prouder I become-this is a big deal!  And Joe is going to attend!

Hayden now has his own room, and Dean is not sitting in his booster seat at the table any more-there are only six of us, usually five as Corey works five days a week now. And I’m finding my own way.

I got a job-it’s only about 15 hours a week at our local grocery store (I’m working at Customer Service/Cashier) but it’s perfect!  I’ll leave early, but be home to get the younger boys off the bus, help with homework and cook dinner, things that are very important to me.  And I’m so excited about actually buying Roy something for his birthday with money I earned!  It’s been a long time since I could say that!  It isn’t a lot of money, or a lot of hours, but this fits perfectly into what I want right now.

Joe knew about the job before he left, and when I told them I got the job he gave me a hug and a high five. All the little boys have said they will be good-Addi and Corey assured me they will help out when I’m working during the week as Roy also has to work. It’s feels good.

And wouldn’t you know it-I’m writing about how strong I’ve been, and I started crying as I typed this!  Oh well, I’m getting better.

I find myself now counting the days that have passed since Joe’s been gone. Apparently, that is now my way to mark the passage of time.

The day Joe left, we got home and Roy decided to take us all to the local state park. They have a wonderful little swimming beach, and it was great to get out of the house.  I don’t know if he wanted to do something, or he was trying to get my mind off of Joe leaving.

It worked.

We drove to the beach, with the three younger boys chattering in the back seat. We swam, and played in the water, and then went for a quick dinner at Five Guys.

Course then we came home to sand and rocks in our swim suits, but it was a small price to pay.

Being home, I had one thing on my mind (and I think Roy knew this and wanted to distract me) when would Joe call?

We were told we would get a quick call from him when he got to Basic, and boy was it quick!  The call finally came in around 11:30 Tuesday Night.

I was about to fall asleep, when Roy’s phone rang. I popped up and he grabbed his phone and put it on Speaker.

"Hello?" We both said.

"Hi." Joe said, sounding very formal, "I’m here. I’m safe. I should be able to call you in about three weeks, but I’ll write soon. You should be getting a box with my stuff in it soon. Bye!"

Roy called out words of encouragement and I said I love you, but the line was dead.

"Huh." Roy said, with a grin on his face.

I was stumped, but thrilled that he got there ok. Boy that was fast!  Later the next day Roy told me that the phone call is scripted, and they have about 20 seconds.  I laughed.

"They don’t think the kids should say, I love you! Sheesh."

But he’s ok. He made it up there. I have poured over websites detailing the things they do in boot camp, and it sounds like a packed two months. Roy and my sister keep reminding me how smart he is, and how he is ready and is going to do great.

And I find myself more at ease. I miss him terribly, I still get choked up walking into his room (more on that in a bit…tomorrow) but he’s finding his way-as Roy reminded me. 

Now, we have to work on Corey!

I’ve been absent for a bit-we were getting ready to send Joe off to Boot camp, and from there he would go down to Charleston, SC for Navy Nuke School.

And it’s hard! SO very hard. I didn’t want my blog, something I’ve enjoyed writing for years to be months of me crying and weeping that I was going to miss him, so I kept to myself a bit. We helped him clean out his room, get his accounts in order, and just get ready.  I peppered him with little tidbits here and there.

"Please make sure you eat healthy, ok?" I would tell him over breakfast, "Eat some fruits and vegetables, promise me?"

"Stay away from those girls that are just looking to marry a guy in the military, ok?"

"If you need help with laundry, just give me a call."

And to his credit, he rarely snapped at me, and he promised me he would do all those things. If he needed help with his nuke classes, he would ask for it, and he would study hard.

He promised that he would write, and call when he could.

I told him he had to make time for fun too, I don’t want him burning out. He promised he would, and that he would make friends.

I want him to be 18!  Nuke school is the top (and forgive my bragging here a bit!) 10% of Navy recruits!  The top 3% of high school seniors are the qualifiers here, and our Joe is one of them!  I know the school is grueling, the hours are long, and at the beginning the pay off might seem far away, but in the end, if he finishes this school, he’ll be set. This type of training can translate into a good job in the private sector if he chooses not to make the Navy his career.

But he’s still only 18. The boys he will be going to school with, and they are boys, will be his age or just a few years older. They need time to be kids, and I hope they take advantage of their liberty-responsibly!-but they need that time.

And yesterday was the day.

Driving down to the recruiting station I thought back to exactly one year ago.  We were on our way to a family vacation in Gatlinburg, TN. I looked behind us as Roy drove-Joe was asleep, they younger boys either staring out the window or playing games.

"I only have a year left with him." I told Roy, choking on the already present tears.

Roy reached across the seats and gripped my hand, “We still have a year.”

And we tried to make sure Joe was ready-we made memories, and pushed him to get his license. We made sure he prepared himself physically, and encouraged him to get a job to save some pocket money.  

We kept on top of him, it was his senior year after all, in regards to his grades.  And before I knew it, he was graduating.

"We still have a month." Roy told me.

And we watched movies, went to  the ‘water hole,’ and I fixed his favorite foods. And that month became a week, and that week became 24 hours.  

I struggled-do I pack as much as I can into those final 24 hours at home, or keep things normal-as Joe is the type to appreciate normality.

I decided to keep things normal. I let him sleep in-as surely days of sleeping until 10 am will be few and far between.

I did make a big breakfast-it was Corey’s 20th birthday too, but I kept it simple. Corey’s favorites, and everyone around the table.

For dinner I made something I figured everyone would like-but it wasn’t a five course meal.

And I think Joe appreciated it.  It was a final day of being taken care of by mom. He played with his younger brothers and assured Dean that he could have his room when he left.  He took out the dogs and watched a silly movie with Roy and I.

And then, when he finally went to sleep I crept into his room at around 2 AM. It was the last night this would be HIS room.

Sure, he’ll come home, but barring an emergency (knock on wood) Joe has chosen his path and is finding his way. And because this is how things are supposed to work, I have to let him go.

And I did, though there was some tears on my end. Joe is just like Roy in this respect-he’s a rock, a stone wall, but he hates to see his Mom hurting. So, I tried not to cry in front of him too much. I didn’t want to make him feel guilty for being excited, for looking forward to this next step in his life.

But I couldn’t help it yesterday.  We didn’t have much time in the recruiter’s office. We got to say goodbye, and then Joe was off. I know Roy purposely wanted to not prolong anything-the more upset I got, the more upset Joe would get. And that isn’t any way for him to start this amazing new phase in his life.

I hugged him,  and had trouble articulating what I wanted to say:

That we were so proud of him. That no matter how hard things get, we know he can do this. That despite being bigger than me, he’ll always be my little boy.

I wanted to tell him that I loved his big heart, and his amazing kindness. I wanted to thank him for making me laugh over the years, and for being a truly wonderful big brother.

I wanted to tell him that he was taking a piece of my heart with him, and that I love him more than he would ever know.

But all I came up with was, “Be careful, and do your best.”

Roy hugged him next, and I couldn’t hear what he said, but Joe turned to me again, hugged me and whispered in my ear, “I love you Mom.”

I felt his arms around me, and remembered the little boy that would hug my legs and ask me for a ice pop. But these arms were strong, and I wanted to cling to him for just a moment longer.

"I love you too sweetie. So very much."

Roy put his arm around me and said to the recruiter, “Take care of him for us.”

And I felt the tears course down my face, as I saw him smile and wave at me one more time before the door closed.

The ride home was quiet. I looked out the window, and remembered so many things: His smile, how excited he was to graduate. His pride at being accepted to this program.

When we got home, Roy said he was proud of Joe.

I nodded and Roy took me in his arms, “It’s going to be ok, honey. He’s going to be great.”

I just nodded.

When we were dropping Joe off, one of our favorite songs came on the radio. “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas.

"Are you kidding me?!" I said, and the three of us laughed. 

Joe’s not wayward. He’s not unpredictable or volatile, he’s a rock. A calm port in the storm, just like Roy.

And Roy reminded me of something yesterday, and no doubt he will again:

Joe is finding his way down that path we call life, and we should be proud of him.

But still, when I walked into his room this morning, and looked around, it felt strange. He wasn’t at his desk, in fact his computer is gone-he sold it to a friend that couldn’t afford a brand new one. The books he wants to keep have been boxed up, and stored in our basement. The clothes he didn’t want passed down to the younger boys. All the little things that made it his room-are gone. Either packed up, passed on or thrown out.

I stood there, and looked around and the tears came again.

This is what happens next. The kids move on, and I have to hope we did all we could to get them ready for whatever comes next.

But still-I miss him so very much. I see his face in my mind constantly, and it sucks that I wont’ get to see it every day anymore.

A post by me on ScareTissue .

A post by me on ScareTissue .

Yesterday, I was wondering where our sweet little Dean had gotten off too. He’s getting older, and not only is he pushing boundaries, but he wants more independence, the chance to do things on his own, and I have to let him-whether he succeeds or fails, he has to learn.

But, as I keep saying it’s hard to lose our boys-whether it be to the military or simply the end of babyhood (is that a word?).

So, this morning I get up, shower, and get dressed. As I’m leaving the bedroom, Dean’s eyes pop open, and he looks up at me sleepily from his sleeping bag on our floor.

"Hi Mommy." he says quietly, mindful of the fact that Roy is still snoozing.

"Hi sweetie, " I smile down at him, "How are you?"

He told me he was still sleepy, but he wanted to get up and come downstairs with me.  Now, it’s Thursday and that means, “So You Think You can Dance” was on last night.  The kids will watch it with me, and sometimes they even get into it.

One of the contestants was distracted because his wife was in labor with their son. They showed a bit of him Skyping with her, and you could hear the pain in her voice. The young man started to cry a bit, no doubt frustrated that he wasn’t there, perhaps feeling all the more guilty because she told him NOT to come home to stay and fight.

Dean heard something in her voice.

"Mommy?" he asked me.

I turned to him.

"Is the baby trying to come out of her tummy?" He asked me.

I assured him that it was.

"Is she hurting real bad?" 

"Sometimes, it hurts real bad,"I smiled at him.

He looked thoughtful for a moment, and then turned to me, “Did you have to go to the hospital when I was in your tummy?”

I wanted to keep it simple, he’s only six after all, “I did. When it was time for you to come out-to be born-Daddy took me to the hospital, and the doctors and the nurses helped mommy push you out.”

He sat up, and stared at me, possibly wondering if I was hiding something, “Did it hurt?”

I didn’t want to lie to him, for fear that perhaps one day, I would get a call while Dean’s wife was in labor and he would yell at me for lying to him about their not being any pain during labor.

"Well," I began slowly, "It did hurt, but Daddy helped mommy breath, and the doctor gave mommy medicine to help so it wouldn’t hurt so bad. And then I had you, and that made Mommy forget all about the pain!"

He slowly nodded, and I thought that was the end of it. I opened my yogurt and went to take a bite, when I felt small hands on my knees. I looked up into Dean’s eyes, and he leaned into me, putting his head on my chest, “I’m sorry I hurt you Mommy.”

Wow…that made my year right there.

A post by me on ScareTissue .

I hope to keep this updated as I select the next book to enjoy!

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