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Jett Superior laid this on you on || November 8, 2008 || 3:25 am

And it will be Months of Sundays

He seems pretty certain of what he wants to do; it took me a little bit to start really accepting that. I mean, when he came to me and his dad last Sunday to talk about it, Sam had his facts ready and spoke to us in solid, earnest tones. He outlined how he’d like to explore his first handful of years post-high school in the military.

There was a part of me that was heartily bucking against my calm and reasonable demeanor. I lobbed a few mild counterpoints at him, like ‘If you want money for school then there are plenty of ways to go about it; this isn’t your only option’. With a shrug he told me that the G.I. Bill money was only part of this, and a relatively small one at that. He wants to get out of here, at least for a while, and damn my gypsy feet and itchy soul, for he seems to have inherited them both. He wants to learn more places and people. This child who –once when he was small– burst into tears when I asked him to walk five feet from me to deposit an ice-cream sandwich wrapper in the trash can. I was firm with him: I’m not going anywhere, Samuel. I’ll be watching you the whole time. One dozen steps there, one dozen steps back. One dozen steps straight back to me, because I’m not moving from this spot until you are right at my side.

He wants to go Special Ops. He wants adventure, he said, and now all I can think is that this is my fault: I have always encouraged these, my babies, to live vigorously and not be afraid to chase after big or scary things if they set your heart to throbbing or place a blaze in your eyes. I like to think I prepared them for the dragon should it come along, but I had not one clue that I might be enticing them to mount up and go the fuck after it. He seeks The Test.

I once said here that ‘Part of a boy becoming a man is having a momma who knows when to shut up and just sort of be stoic while cringing on the inside.’ I had to remind myself of this, my right index finger and thumb pinching the meat of my left thigh. Pinching it hard. He wants to be tested, to see if he will be found wanting. He wants to exert himself in a way that will make damn sure he is not.

The last-ish point Sam covered with us is that he has a desire to do basic between his junior and senior years. “I just want to get started,” he said. I protested politely, telling him enjoy being a kid while he could, to enjoy what would be his last carefree summer, to ship out post-graduation.

“Woman,” Maxim said to me (and he never, ever calls me that, so I took notice), “He’s no kid. In a little over a year he will be eighteen, in a year-and-a-half he will be striking out on his own. Let him go about the business of being a man.”

And there was not one fucking thing I could possibly say to refute that. Not in a way that didn’t say ‘I’m disappointed’ or ‘I don’t think you are entirely capable’ or ‘Don’t be silly’. I don’t think any of those things, so I nodded. I told him that I would sign the paperwork if that is what he really wants. At present he is not giving me any reason to believe otherwise. Sam is pursuing this in the exact same fashion as every other thing I’ve seen him be passionate about and, in turn, excel at.

Still. It’s one thing to have a parent, a sibling, a spouse on active duty. For all my strident belief and patriotism in this arena, I can’t for the life of me equate any of those to feeding your child into the machine and fervently desiring that he is one of the ones that come out markedly better for the experience. If I think too long on it, I get physically ill.

From the time he was in utero, I used to sit up nights worrying that Samuel would be taken early from me. I’ve never done this with Scout or Mathias, only Sam. At the eight-months stage in my pregnancy, the one where you cannot seem to sleep for the life of you and thus sit on the couch with a glass of milk in one hand and the remote in the other, I magically awoke at one each and every morning. So as not to disturb his father with tossing and turning (because he had PT at five each ay emm), I’d go on downstairs and watch a block of People’s Court. This was back when Wapner had the helm and the intro music sort of punched you out a little….this was groundbreaking stuff at one point, remember? Court. Live. ON TELEVISION. I swear, after that child was born he would hear that music or Doug Llewelyn’s voice and actively try to discern from whence it came, wiggling and turning as best as his minor motor skill level would permit.

On more than one of those nights, an infomercial about St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital would come on and I’d be powerless to change the channel. I was more than familiar with that place, with Danny Thomas, and I smirked at the irony that would have me sitting atop the cold tundra of Alaska only to watch infomercials about a renowned hospital in my hometown of Memphis; it was a hospital I’d done volunteer work and fundraising for, making my awareness even greater. Cancer kids and cancer babies would appear in and disappear from that box at two in the morning, when all things were weightier and infinitely more probable. Fear further and further seized my heart that my unborn Samuel would take the bullet of cancer to his developing innards after I’d had a good three or four years of being in love with him. How does one do that, how does one usher their child through something that is so singular by its very nature?

I never understood my father’s reaction to my announcement that I’d be joining the Marine Corps; I felt completely shafted at the time. But now I understand. Life has a funny way of illuminating things for you, especially if you begrudge them of others.

I feel like I’m now somehow paying penance on my begrudging him that particular instance for all those years. It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me as of late: If you require people to earn your forgiveness, rather than giving it cleanly and purely, then it has potential to tax you on their earnings.

He told me on a Sunday, my Samuel, and it occurs to me now that once he raises his hand –as I did and his father did and our fathers did– to be charged with his oath it will be Months of Sundays before the machine fully releases him back into the arms of his family. On my heart is stamped a soundless ‘Godspeed’ and already it aches.

10 worked it out »

  1. ramblerock 11.8.2008

    We kids do tend to want to be tested. I guess it’s to prove we belong in the adult world we’ve been rather unceremoniously thrown into. I think Sam will be ok.

     
  2. The Stiletto Mom 11.8.2008

    I can’t imagine hearing those words…just can’t, even though my husband was Air Force and I’m fairly sure we will hear those words at some point. And I’ll be so proud, sad and terrified all at the same time. I feel for you, though this totally shows what a good job you did raising him.

     
  3. Colleen 11.8.2008

    Not my child, but my Hubby, at 37 years old, JUST left for boot camp two weeks ago. As proud and worried as I am for him, and as great a role model as it is for our 11 year old Munchkin, I’m terrified in 7 years I will be going through what you are now.

    I’m sure it will be fine. He seems to have a fantastic grasp of life and how to move himself through it. You will figure out the same for yourself, how to watch him move through it. My thoughts are with you.

     
  4. Seaweed 11.8.2008

    I have had visions of my Dec disappearing under water since before he was born but so far, he only wants to be a teacher. Ask Sam if he will be as interested if all he can be is a “regular” (non special ops) soldier. I have seen at least two kids so far lured with that special ops promise, and neither was actually eligible once they got underway. It’s a gimick, I believe.

     
  5. Jettomatika 11.9.2008

    It *is* a gimmick, but one he’s not been party to as yet. He’s not talked to the first recruiter yet, but has done a bait of research on his own. We have a wealth of experience and connections in this arena, so he’s been able to ask question after question of several individuals pretty autonomously.

    One of my top five most valuable people is a seasoned recruiter in another state; he’s one of the first people I called and has assured me that he will walk us through this as best as he possibly can so that my kid isn’t loopholed all to hell and back.

    I’ve already discussed with him the fact that the words ‘open contract’ are of the devil and must be fled from post-haste.

    Don’t get me wrong: I think the experience(s) will do wonders for him. I’m just a momma, is all.

     
  6. bejewell 11.9.2008

    I have a Samuel, too – but instead of 18 years, mine is 18 months, and I still live in that blissful ignorance where I believe that I’ll be able to control his life decisions. I’ve told my husband a million times over that I’ll never ALLOW Sam to go into the military. As if I would REALLY have any say.

    My husband is a veteran of the first Gulf War, both of our dads were in Vietnam. Both of my grandfathers were vets, too – one an army colonel, the other an enlisted Navy man in WWII. It’s a long line, and maybe that’s WHY I’m so strongly against the idea of my son going in one day. Aren’t we due for a loss at some point? Hasn’t our family contributed enough?

    More than anything, it’s the idea of him going into a situation where other people call the shots, shots that will directly affect his safety. After the past eight years I’m gun shy (pardon the expression), I love Barack but who knows what nightmare might be our NEXT President? If the next guy (or gal, if I’ve learned anything from this election, it’s that anything IS possibloe) is a total bonewad like Bush, chances are my little guy could be sent into harm’s way, and he has no say, I have no say, nobody’s got any goddamned say.

    But you know, if that’s what he wants to do, and you’ve raised him to be smart, thoughtful, responsible, independent, all of those good grown-up things — I guess all you can really do is let him go and hold on only with your heart.

    What I’m trying to say in this totally fucked up, long-winded way, is that I completely relate to your pain as a mom and wish only good things for you AND your Sam.

    P.S. I was actually on Wapner’s People’s Court back in 92. We were “The Case of the College Party Gone Awry.” Used to show up on reruns all the time. If you ever catch it, look for me. I was the Plaintiff’s witness in the green dress.

    P.P.S. This may be the most obnoxiously long comment ever left inthe history of blogs. Sorry.

     
  7. I choked up at this one. Sometimes it’s a Michael Bay film… sometimes it’s a Lynyrd Skynyrd song… sometimes it’s when a politician is elected who deserved to… but every now and then I utter “God bless America” under my breath.

    Your nation calls people to service in a way that, like some of the people commenting here, goes back generations. Decades and centuries of service for the greater good of the decades that follow. Jett, I feel for you, I can’t imagine what it feels like when Uncle Sam comes ‘a callin’ in Son Sam’s heart. Still, as much as that must be gut-wrenching, take comfort in the fact your family (and many others like it around the US) impresses this New Zealander. A military family is a unique one that deserves all the respect it can get.

     
  8. Carolyn...Online 11.10.2008

    Man. I mean… man. I think you handled that so well. It’s so scary. And so great. And so scary… No matter which path they take their always your babies though I guess. I’m just.

    Well, I think he’ll make you proud.

     
  9. Laggin 11.10.2008

    “I feel like I’m now somehow paying penance on my begrudging him that particular instance for all those years. It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me as of late: If you require people to earn your forgiveness, rather than giving it cleanly and purely, then it has potential to tax you on their earnings.”

    Wow. Just wow.

    I’m going to go chew on that.

     
  10. Jettomatika 11.11.2008

    Dan, you have no bloody idea how refreshing it is to see America viewed sans cynicism from a resident of another part of the world.

    You’re right, we *do* have a call to service like no other place. It’s so strong that I’ve known at least a handful of men that have come from other countries for the sole purpose of serving in our armed forces. I think you inherently ‘get’ the notion and practice of it: A silent voice saying, “I love my country so much that I am willing to be of service to her twenty-four/seven.”

    I like you, Kiwi. Every now and again you will starkly remind me why we’s frans and why we’ll be tipping a bottle together one day.

     

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