Every since Induction Day, most posts from fellow Academy parents about their Mids returning to The Yard have carried a variation of, “it never gets easier to say goodbye.”
Honestly, I haven’t found that to be the case, but it’s clear to me that’s about to change.
The Summer Block home is good for a laugh – the Mid goes from looking like a 30-year-old dad to a 12-year-old kid as he prepares to return to The Yard.
Induction Day was my worst day as a parent and it was the hardest goodbye ever. The goodbyes during Plebe Year were difficult, to be sure, but once we got into the second semester and could see Herndon in the distance, it started to get easier. In terms of goodbyes, Youngster year was a breeze, but it’s only now I realize why the goodbyes weren’t that hard.
Actually, there are two reasons. The first is that our Mid comes home whenever he can. When he takes a weekend, it’s usually to come home. And he’s been home for every Christmas and Spring Break so far. I’ve come to understand that’s not entirely common. The second is that we live pretty close and that’s afforded me the opportunity to be on The Yard with my Mid a lot more than most parents, even if it’s just to stop by and have dinner with him.
In between him coming home (which inevitably included me picking him and having him to myself for three hours), we’d send notes and care packages. But the USNA starter loan has shifted the equation.
It’s a long story, but my son loved the first Chevy Suburban we had – a 1998 – that we lost in a flood when he was about 10 or 12 and he was determined to find another one like it for his first vehicle. Even before he had his license, he’d spend hours on car websites searching to see what was available.
The starter loan made that dream possible and he finally found the one he wanted, a 1999 Suburban in, of all places, Kentucky. So, after Mid Mom & I attended the Sprint Football banquet on a Friday, Mid & I flew out to pick it up.
It was a great adventure – driving more than 10 hours through a torrential downpour in the Appalachians. Sounds bad, but we made some great memories. He dropped me at a hotel near the BWI train station (we arrived too late for me to catch a train home) and off he went toward Annapolis.
And that’s when it hit me. He wouldn’t need me to pick him up at The Yard. He wouldn’t need me to drive him back to The Yard. I probably didn’t need to ask him if he needed me to send him anything – snacks, etc. After I checked in with Mid Mom and turned out the lights, I started at the ceiling and a flood of recent memories rushed by – the anxiety of Plebe Year, the emotional release of Herndon, driving back and forth across the desolate Eastern Shore stretch of U.S. 301.
To punctuate the point, the Mid drove himself home for Christmas and Santa left a number of truck-related items under the tree for him. There were a few glitches in the truck he had noticed and we talked about them. I then suggested he leave the truck with our mechanic and give him some time to look it over. Side note – we are blessed to have a truly awesome mechanic who is not only honest but understanding. He’s done thousands of dollars of repairs on our vehicles when money was tight and extended us an incredible amount of grace to pay him back. The truck spent a day at the garage and came back with a list of things that needed to be addressed.
After some discussion, the Mid agreed that leaving it home with the mechanic and giving him time to “get it right” made sense. That meant he would need a ride back to The Yard and, I can’t lie, I was thrilled. So one last time, we packed up my car with his sea bag and other necessary items, pointed the vehicle south and hit the road. As has become our norm, we stopped in Middletown, Delaware to grab a bite – this time a grab & go at one of the Wawas. We chatted about the upcoming semester, options for summer training and how his weekends might shake out.
Once we arrived at Bancroft, it took him and his roommate two trips to get the gear up to the room. I hugged them both, holding me Mid just a bit longer than normal, snapped a picture and they were on their way. I might have one more reprieve – when it’s time to collect his truck in a week or two, but maybe not. I know it won’t get any easier and this is just a gentle reminder that he belongs to the Navy and, once he commissions, we will lose him for long stretches at a time.
The solo ride home is always quiet, but this time I kept the radio off and just let the thoughts and memories provide the soundtrack. Enjoy each moment, I reminded myself, because the next goodbye will be the toughest since Plebe Year. We’ve turned another corner on this wild ride.