I have written often about the Naval Academy’s ceaseless rhythm and how despite all manner of life swirling about, life there continues on schedule. Now we understand that we learned that lesson as preparation for life in the Fleet.
While my son was a Mid, his maternal grandfather passed away. My kids spent a lot of time with their grandparents, so it struck particularly hard and the image of my Mid snapping a crisp salute at his grandfather’s casket will forever be burned into my memory. Yet, we knew we were lucky he was there at all and the day after the services, he was on his way back to Annapolis.
Late last week, his maternal grandmother joined her husband of 60 some years leaving behind a legacy rooted in her family. Her lone grandson is now a LTGJ and preparing for his first deployment aboard the USS Florida. In fact, while he couldn’t tell us exactly when he was leaving, by the time you read this, it’s pretty safe to say he’s out there.
Being assigned to a guided-missile submarine means we won’t know how long he’ll be gone nor where he’ll be (other than “under water”). We do know that we won’t hear from him for quite some time.
I should note here that in many cases the Red Cross can help members of our military get home for a funeral but not every time. Because of “the needs of the Navy,” that phrase we’ve all learned to embrace, that is not the case here.
Mid Gram took special pride in her lone grandson’s path. While her husband’s service in the Navy during the Korean War can best be described as “reluctant,” her generation understood sacrifice for country better than most. An only child who grew up during the Depression, most members of her circle of friends were connected to the military in a personal way. Coming of age during “The War” meant that most fathers and uncles were overseas. Stoic sacrifice was the order of the day for those back home.
All grandparents love their grandkids in a way that only grandparents understand. And grandparents take pride in whatever their grandkids do. But when her grandson embarked on the journey that would lead him to Annapolis, our Mid Gram nearly burst with pride. For many in her generation, there were few honors higher than serving as an officer in our mlitary. To attend the Naval Academy was prestigious beyond imagination.
I’ve been witness to a number of people seeing my son in his summer whites but the look on his grandmother’s face will always be the image that defines pride for me. Every conversation with friends, of course, would include mention of her grandson’s path.
We bundled her up for some pretty chilly Sprint Football games and joined us for an All Academies Ball. For the latter, she reveled in seeing her grandson in his Mess Dress in Philadelphia’s historic Union Clubs (“You know, women weren’t allowed inside in my day”) reciting part of the Grog ceremony. Ws we prepared for Commissioning Week, she was a major factor in our hunt for lodging. By that time her mobility had degraded and we searched for a home in DTA that would be easy to get into and had a first-floor bedroom and full bath. After a lot of searching and phone calls, we found it. Of course, COVID-19 made those plans moot, but nonetheless, she sat with us as we gathered around the television for the virtual ceremony honoring the Class of 2020. And when it came time to snap pictures after we changed his shoulder boards, Mid Gram was right in the thick of it, beaming with pride.
Over the next year or so, Mid Gram’s health and memory continued to slide. She knew her grandson was in the Navy, but would often tell people he’s on a destroyer, which is where her husband served. She would light up when he came to visit and though I’m not sure she really grasped what was going on, she would seem enthusiastic when he would how her how he played Rocket League on his laptop or pictures of his right-hand drive car.
They say God’s timing is perfect, and who am I to argue? I’m sure there’s a connection between Mid Gram going home to the Lord at about the same time her grandson deploys for the first time. Maybe she felt her grandson needed another angel watching over him and now she’s able to keep a closer eye on him no matter how deep the sub descends.
Those are questions for another day. For now, we can only wish Catherine H. Kuchinsky the fair winds and following seas she deserves.