The last couple of weeks have been busy enough that a client congratulated me on my Weightlifting Masters World Championship win and I had to think back to how long ago that was. 22 days, it was 22 days ago. Practically a lifetime.
So much has happened in those 22 days that I am finally able to move like I train or something; function throughout my days as if I actually sleep, and my stress level has gone from highest possible to undetectable. 22 days. More on Montreal another day, today of all days belongs to my soldier.
The U.S. Army mom education protocol is trial by fire. Your loved one ships off to Basic Training (BCT) and suddenly it’s as if they’ve been swallowed into a black hole. Especially if your loved one isn’t a writer, which mine isn’t. I was fortunate enough to find some mommy pages on the Facebook and quickly became acclimated to army life.
Each day I would open my computer in hopes of a picture of my trainee; a mention of him on a group page, or an actual letter from him. Most days I was disappointed. There is an outfit that takes pictures and while Oz was in a few of them, he hid from the camera the rest of the time. While Mom’s in various pages mentioned their loved one’s battle buddies, Oz was never on the list. And while other mother’s bemoaned the fact that they’ve only received 10 letters in 3 weeks from their trainees, I held onto my one letter sent his very first week and reread it. Basically, we were in radio darkness.
The call I received from Oz while still up in Duluth in July confirmed that he loved army life; didn’t think it was very hard, but still had to pass that PT test. And that was it. We literally went all the way to the Monday evening before we were flying out to South Carolina for graduation before his call came in saying, yes-he passed his PT test (actually did weeks before. Thanks for telling us Oz;) and can’t wait to see us on Wednesday.
My first reaction? Phew. My 2nd first reaction? FUCKYA!!!!! He did it. We knew he would but getting that confirmation call was the absolute best. I knew the next few days were going to be long and busy and I focused on how to take in and enjoy each moment. Oh boy, did I enjoy each moment!
As the weeks passed while Oz was in BCT and I was trying to cut weight and train for my meet, I would focus on Wednesdays. See, Wednesdays were the best days. Family day for that week’s graduating soldiers at Ft. Jackson and the ceremony where they would walk out of the woods and smoke into view. Every celebration of hard work and success got me to the next week and the next. Just as I visualized making weight and winning in Montreal, I visualized Oz walking out of that smoke. Every week. Every Wednesday. One more week down to our goals.
One of the traditions of family day after the soldiers march out of the smoke is to have a family member “tap” them out. What this means is that they stay in formation until they’ve been tapped. (It is common for soldiers to not have family be in attendance and this was a tough reality. However, those who do not have family get to still tool around the Post with their battle buddies and we passed many during the day that were having fun together. Others literally will spend the day in barracks on their phones and enjoying some quiet, personal space. I took comfort in this.) At dinner the evening before, Oz’s dad; sister, and girlfriend and I talked about the tapping out. We decided that Oz would want Rachael (his gf) to be the one to tap him out and I agreed to that AS LONG AS she waited long enough so we could get video and pictures of it. I’m not gonna lie, it was a moment. I teased her that no one better question her size (she’s tiny) because she nearly knocked over 3 soldiers on her way to Oz. Atta girl.
Because there are literally thousands of people roaming the Post, I decided that we were going to pack a picnic and just chill out for a while. Thanks to not only one of the worlds strongest women but also one of the worlds best friend’s, Danielle Curry, we were able to do that. See, the week planned was awesome but also involved hella lots of planning, coordinating, and hoping. One of the things coordinated was connecting with Danielle who lives in Columbia and let us borrow coolers and cooler bags for our picnic. It was absoluting awesome. After the family day ceremony, we hung out in the parking lot for probably a couple of hours and snacked while we listened to story after story from Oz about his last 10 weeks. The coolers were key and getting to spend time with Danielle was such a treat I can’t even put in words how thankful I am for it.
Time flew, especially the sleeping part, and we left South Carolina for Virginia on Thursday after the graduation ceremony. I was extremely thankful for this extra time with Oscar and the girls had planned their flights around the hope that after checking into his Advanced Training Post on Friday, he would received a pass and we could spend even MORE time with him. I was also extremely thankful for arriving safely as tired as I was during the nearly six hour drive. I’m not gonna lie, there were a couple of times I hit those rumble strips on the freeway and a catastrophic accident on the opposite lanes of the road were terrifying enough to start barking at the kids to help mommy stay awake.
Our hopes that Oz would received a weekend pass paid off and we were able to chill and enjoy each other at the hotel for the weekend. It was even beyond our expectations because he didn’t have to check back in each night. I let Oz lead the way as to how much or how little he wanted to to do before the girls flew out Saturday afternoon and just chilling all weekend was the priority. It went by so slow yet so fast that I take that to mean that, yes, I took in each moment and yes, time between goodbye’s fly by.
Suddenly it was Sunday morning and we had to get packed up (I had to get packed up basically since Oz wasn’t taking anything back to Post for him and I was changing hotels to get closer to the airport) and say OUR goodbye. At one point, I came out of my bedroom to this:
I had read from some family members that saying goodbye at AIT was far worse than sending them to BCT. This didn’t happen for me. There were twinges of sadness, that is true, but I got to see where he was living and where he was going to school and felt far more connected to his space than I was at BCT and that helped me a lot. It also helps that he has his phone now and we can snapchat often and sometimes I even get snaps like this:
The entire week was a gift. An amazing gift. I’m so thankful to my husband for his help in setting it up. We missed him throughout the week but truth be told, all of the people and the heat would have made him crazy. I’m so thankful to our friends who are family who have supported Oz throughout his life. I still have T-shirts for y’all, I just remembered that. I’ll send them off tomorrow. I’m thankful to my ex and my girls (at one point during the graduation ceremony Rachael said, “MOM!” and we laughed. I said that’s fine, you’re one of my girls) for helping make this week so very special for Oscar.
Most of all, I’m thankful for my soldier. On this day, I’m thankful for he and every person who has shown love and commitment to their country. There are so many and often times uniforms aren’t worn but on this day, those who love our country and their fellow countrymen are thanked. Oscar’s journey is just beginning, as is ours as an Army family. I’m thankful it’s off to a very good start and I’m so very, very proud of my boy.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to ensure the survival and the success of liberty.
John F. Kennedy