A Tearful Mystery

August 11-15, 2016

It’s been a summer of traumatic transitions. Next came the biggest.

The evening of the 11th, we had a family dinner at our favorite seafood restaurant Fish Bites. It was meant to be a last hurrah - for a while - before we said good-bye to Ethan. Somehow in the course of that dinner, the tearful floodgates opened and wouldn’t stop. I was an absolute wreck. And I felt horrible about it because everyone’s dealing with their own sadness and anxiety over Ethan leaving. I just couldn’t hold mine in!

I cried the next day as we packed up the Honda Pilot.

I cried when we dropped Brownie off at the the vet’s.

I cried many times during the trip. It was LONG. Still, we made it to Tech in time to get the Cadet Box and a special surge protector from the Bookstore. Then, we loaded up on Dominoes and visited our friend Deanna. We were exhausted. I was emotional. We probably weren’t very good company and we didn’t stay long. But, Deanna was gracious and sweet, and it was good to be with her and her kids for a little while.

Still, we were anxious to get settled in at the hotel.

In the tradition of bad hotel experiences, our hotel’s elevator wasn’t working. At least, the manager called ahead of time to let us know this was the case, and to see if anyone was unable to climb stairs. We, of course, said we were capable - but we said so grudgingly. The guy at the desk insisted on helping us up with our luggage (they put us on the third floor). He could probably tell how exhausted we were.

Once we were finally in our room, Ethan left us to make a few phone calls in private.

An hour later, Ethan returned. He smiled and said, “So, I had to do one last stupid thing, right?”

“What’d you do?”

“I sat in the car with the AC going for an hour and now the battery’s dead.”

Huff. Smile. Huff.

Yes, it was a new hassle to deal with, and we did, but we didn’t harp on it.

I asked Ethan a few times in the days leading up to the trip, “Are you nervous? Even just a little?”

He’d shrug and smile. “No. It’s going to suck, but whatever.”

I was sure he was right - the corps' cadet week wouldn’t be a picnic in the park. Still, he wasn’t at all worried. I admire this so much about Ethan. Camps, trips, whatever - he’s always ready to give something a try. Abby’s the same way. To me, it’s a miraculous mystery. I suppose I do all the worrying for everyone.

The next day, we moved him in to a lackluster dorm room up three flights of stairs (no elevator) and without AC. While we unpacked his stuff, Ethan was taken elsewhere. He got back to the room much later, smiling and rubbing his freshly bald head. He said, “I look like a penis.” And he laughed.

Ethan sent us on some errands, and when we returned, Joe made it clear, “We have to leave him to get settled.”

And we did. (Cue blubbering baby)

We attended two Corps of Cadets events for parents - The Commandant of the Battalion’s address and the overall Commandant’s address.

We learned something we didn’t know before: Leaving the Corps in the first 6 weeks meant leaving Tech.

The Commandant warned us that some of us would be getting calls over the next few days - kids wanting to come home. He encouraged us to be strong and say no, that they must see it through. During hell week, I mean cadet week, he wouldn’t have his phone or computer or any way to contact us (except through higher ups), but the good part was that we could come back in a week to see him at the New Cadet Parade.

After our events, we lined up along the Corps’ drill field for the closing ceremony. The cadets marched out in their battalions - all serious and focused. They ended the day with retiring the flag.

Since the blubbering baby had already been cued, all I could do was cry under my sunglasses and hope that anyone who noticed would mistake my tears for sweat. When the ceremony ended and Ethan marched out of sight, we high-tailed it to the car.

“A minute ago, we were dropping him off at daycare and watching him toddle around chasing ducks at the Duck Pond,” I cried. “How can this be happening?” How I could've blinked and suddenly my son was all grown up - it was a tearful mystery.

Joe bought me Starbucks. I calmed down. My heart is full of prayers for Ethan.

“Those who plant in tears

will harvest with shouts of joy.”

Psalm 126:5