I left the house like every other morning, except this time, it looked like there was a garage sale going on near the front door. To exit the house, I had to navigate an intricate maze of large duffel bags, suitcases, boxes, garment bags, and backpacks. As I walked toward the end of the driveway, I walked past the old black Suburban. I lingered for a moment looking over the stickers representing national parks – Zion, the Grand Staircase, then hopped in my car and headed to work.
The day came and went with the usual parade of meetings, emails, phone calls, and project work and when I got home, the driveway was empty. The girls were at Mid Sib’s gymnastics practice and the old black Suburban was gone, too.
I walked into a foyer devoid of any luggage – no bags, no backpacks. I trudged up the stairs, peeked in Mid Sib’s room, which looked neat and tidy as always. Then I peeked in the Mid’s room, which was also neat and tidy … which it never is when he is home.
That’s when the realization that I’d been avoiding for the last few weeks surged past my mental defenses and smacked me upside the head. The parade of lasts is underway.
I’ve written many times about the ceaseless cadence of the Naval Academy. Despite all the ups and downs, despite the anxiety and celebrations, time at the Academy is like the tide, it just keeps rolling on.
It seems like just yesterday that we left Annapolis with tears in our eyes after the horrible shock of Induction Day. And we soon become subsumed by the parade of firsts – our first visit on PPW, the first weekend home, the first extended break home for Christmas, learning about his first summer training and his first sprint football camp. Then came the parade of the routine, where we embraced the cadence as if it were the way things would always be – another Hell(o) Night, watching him play Sprint Football, enjoying a meal at the Iron Rooster, talking about summer cruises, arranging fire pits for his trips home.
We went to visit him this summer during his professional training, an internship with Microsoft. When we left for the airport, in the back of my mind, I thought, “this is it, the parade of lasts.” It was his last summer training. To be followed by his last summer block at home. And he headed back to Annapolis today for his last Sprint football camp in preparation his last – his very last – football season.
There are a lot of exciting things to look forward to – Sprint football, service selection, his last times playing with the orchestra and the Trident Brass and, of course, Commissioning. It’s all good stuff. And when we drive over the Bay Bridge for the final time, it will be with hearts overflowing with amazing memories. It will be with tremendous appreciation for all who nurtured us through the journey, especially those dark early days. It will be with joyous anticipation of the adventures that await.
But if I’m being honest, there will be a measure of sadness. Some things will change for the better, maybe some for the worse, but one thing is certain, things are going to change. The comfort of the parade of the routine will be gone forever. The parade of lasts is on. The old black Suburban won’t be back in the driveway for quite some time and his room will remain neat and tidy for quite a while. And the countdown, the real countdown to commissioning is truly on.