I’ve been back on the road again for the last month and some, traveling from Connecticut, through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and here to Texas, where I’ve been for a week.
Our youngest son graduates from Basic training with the Air Force this week. He’s been here at Lackland AFB for 8 weeks, going through initial training for a career with the Air Force. I know that I don’t need to tell you what this is like for me, emotionally. I know you get it.
This is so good for my son and I’m so very proud of him. He’s following in his dad’s footsteps in this and I know his dad has been on his mind continually, from the beginning when he got off the bus from the airport to the yells and shouts of the instructors, through Beast week spent outside putting the training into practice, to this Thursday when he’ll be presented with his first coin for finishing Basic, to Friday when he’ll walk front and center carrying the American flag and take the Oath of Allegiance, swearing to protect and defend his country against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Chuck served his country for 24 years and loved his time in service and he would be so proud of his youngest son. And he should be here to witness this. He should be here with me and he isn’t and it’s another special kind of heartbreak that thrums and throbs through all of us left behind that he isn’t.
How do we who are left behind deal with this crushing of our deepest selves when these massive milestones happen? How do we do this? How? But we do and I don’t know that any of have necessarily figured out HOW we do it. We just do it, don’t we? And then we look back and wonder at ourselves and our survival and how we put one foot in front of the other when we seemingly had nothing in us and one year passes and then another and somehow, here we are...here I am, at almost 2 1/2 years since my beloved husband died and our son is doing this thing that would make his dad’s heart swell with love and pride.
A cousin of mine made some buttons for me to give to everyone to wear for all of this week's events. Each one has a picture of Chuck on it, in uniform. In one of them, he’s saluting. My gift to Nick, my new Airman, is the tie from Chuck’s dress Blues uniform. Nick will be able to wear it with his dress uniform as his career develops, carrying a part of his dad with him.
I know tears will be blinding me when I greet my son for the first time, after he takes the Oath, and my heart will be breaking with love for him and love for my husband, Chuck, who helped me raise a small boy into the man he is now who will honor his dad, his country and his family, always.
And I know it will bring tears to Nick’s eyes when I do this but I need to do this, because it’s what his dad would have done....
I’m going to hug him, shake his hand, take a step back, and render him his first official salute.