A Parade of Mysteries

August 22, 2016

Ethan started classes at 8:00 this morning after getting up at 4:00 to do training with the Marines.

But, first… a weekend recap.

The New Cadet Parade on the Drill Field at Virginia Tech on Saturday was nice, but I could’ve done without all the pageantry. I just wanted to get to him - to answer that mystery - was he really okay?

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. It’s only been a week, for goodness sakes! That’s true. I’ve been apart from Ethan many times before and for longer. But, this was different. This was Ethan leaving home and doing something completely foreign to a typical college-lifestyle, so cut me some slack.

Finally, after the fanfare ended, we found him amid a crowd of uniformed cadets, got major hugs, and even some nice pictures. We asked him how his week was, and he summed it up, “It sucked.”

After an organized dismissal, Ethan was permitted to change into his casual uniform and gather his things. The cadets were given leave until Sunday afternoon. He’d be staying with us at the hotel.

Joe and I took care of Ethan’s laundry while he rested up and hung out with Abby at the hotel. Later, we had dinner at Red Robin. He revealed that the week had been awful for him and that he’d talked with one of the higher ups about leaving the Corps already, but since he couldn’t leave the Corps without leaving Tech, he knew he had to stick it out. At the end of six weeks, he could leave the Corps without leaving school altogether.

When we asked what was so horrible about it, Ethan didn’t elaborate much, except to say that he was being yelled at all the time. Isn’t everyone? I asked. Ethan said he was getting more than his fair share of yelling. Who’s to say if that was real or imagined? It's a mystery we'll never know for sure.

What wasn’t a mystery was that Ethan was exhausted and unhappy. Ugh.

We gave him a pep talk, though it was hard. Neither Joe nor I had ever experienced the kind of regimented, military lifestyle he was going through, so it was difficult for us to assure him. But, we explained that the worst was over, things would get better with the start of classes. He seemed resolved to see it through.

On Sunday, we slept in. I woke up crying. “Lock it up, Mom,” Ethan ordered.

We ran errands. Had lunch at Macado’s. We went back to his dorm. I started crying again in the car. “Lock it up, Mom.” And I did.

We stuck around to help him set up his computer stuff. We had to be quiet - whisper quiet - so he wouldn’t get into trouble.

Despite our efforts, he got in trouble anyway. He whispered to a bud across the hall - apparently that’s against the rules. What he was supposed to have done was walk all the way down the hall on the right side, turn at the end, and walk all the way up the hall again to the other room and enter to ask the bud a question. He and his bud stood at attention in their doorway while they were reprimanded by a girl in regular clothes who was speaking as loudly as she wanted.

Ethan knew what he was supposed to do and didn’t do it. I get that. Why he couldn't follow the rules - another mystery!

But, still.

We ended up having to run back out for a new printer. Ethan had to ask permission to make sure that was okay. It was all very regimented and nervous and uptight. The dorm was pin-drop quiet. Sure, that kind of environment would be perfect for intense studying, I decided. But, at the same time, it was sooooo tense that it felt like the opposite might be just as true. How can you study in a stressed out place?

On our way out of the building, Ethan ran into one of his buds. “Anyone yell at you yet?” the kid asked Ethan jokingly. “Yes,” Ethan admitted. Ugh.

We scored a new printer and returned to the parking lot outside Ethan’s dorm. It was nearly 4:00. Ethan told us he’d let us go on home, he had a lot to do. Cue waterworks.

“I love you. I’m proud of you. You’re going to do great,” I said as I hugged him. He hugged Joe and Abby, and then reached for the printer.

“Wait, can I have one more?” I said tearfully. (We’ve already established that I’m a baby, so this should come as no surprise).

After an eye-roll and a smirk, he let me hug him again.

However much I know this experience will be good for him if he can stick it out, it breaks my heart to see him so unhappy. No child going off to college for the first time should be made to feel this miserable. Right?

So, I cried more than I care to admit on the way home and the days and weeks to come. And I prayed for Ethan with every thought I had of him.

“As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him.”

Psalm 103:13 The Message