Transferred from OS, today, 12/1/2012 for safe keeping here. No mean feat, getting in there.
Feb 22, 2011
Even before the Navy recruiter smiled up to our door, I knew I would sign the parental release. Against my own instincts, I had promised.
The night before, Eli and I sat down together to talk. He explained his thoughts and rationale... the positives and negatives. I was impressed by his logic and maturity as he calmly and coherently laid out his life's plan to me, the pacifist. Me, the anti-military, anti-government father. Me, who had never bothered with a life plan of my own.
The disaster known as the Viet Nam war ended, finally, when I was his age, or just less. We grew our hair long (or in my case, big), sewed peace signs on our big bells and cotton-hemp clothing.. attended war protests. Eventually, the golden age of hippiedom faded. The disco and cocaine era kicked in as I floundered towards adulthood, but my fear of the draft and disgust with the shameful government of my youth never disappeared. If anything, the disgust is now magnified.
The memories of body counts reported routinely on the nightly news remain with me. Memories of my own conflicted thoughts too. What would I do, me, a white punk on dope still reliant on my parents, if I turned 18 to find myself drafted? Shoot myself in the leg? Rehearse a gay act for the draft board? That one was worn pretty thin... Flee to Canada or elsewhere? All I knew for certain was that no matter what I had to do to avoid it, my future plans did not involve wearing green and carrying an M-16 in the jungles of southeast Asia, shooting 'bad guys' for the benefit of THE MAN. Worse yet, sacrificing my own young ass for 'my country!' Yeah, as if.
"Dad, I'm doing it one way or another. I'll be 18 in July and won't need your signature. I'd like to get this process started now, and with your blessings. I'll be in for four years, can take 15 hours of college per year, and leave the Navy needing only the advanced courses for a degree. They'll pay for it all including living expenses. Please don't think I'm blowing off college Dad. I'm not. This is just something I want to do."
He scored eighty-eight on the pre-test. The average recruit scores 42. Whether that means my son is exceptional, or that the general quality of kids desperate enough to join is suspect, I don't know. A little of both I imagine. Whichever- or neither, or both- apparently he would have his choice of the top jobs in the Navy, up to and possibly including nuclear engineering, be that good or bad. Personally, I cringe at the thought of him working on nukes..We had that talk too. He's more inclined to be a corpsman he thinks, which is like a medic. He used to say he wanted to be a surgeon.
Having had four or five days now to digest and adjust, I am coming to grips with all of this, at least partially. My rational mind knows that most likely he will not be killed or maimed in the Navy. I know too, that he will see much of the world; places and cultures I never have and never will get to experience. He might even learn to make his bed. Then, maybe, on leave, he can teach me.
Today is President's Day so he is home from school... for a minute. He sits on the couch in the next room playing his guitar, expertly if I say so myself... a complicated arpeggio piece that I would never even attempt. I know now the real reason for my personal angst. He will be gone from here, gone from me. It's myself that I grieve for; my job is finished.
At the end of the recruiter's pitch, an hour long presentation during which I mostly listened, the shiny faced 26 year old kid wearing full Navy uniform fielded my questions that I had rehearsed half-heartedly.
I signed it...
... shook hands with the recruiter, then turned towards my only child, the smart and personable guy on the threshold of his adult life. We shook hands then, attempting to out grip each other, looking eye to eye. I realized at that moment, dufus that I am, that he is now a man.
Before he leaves for boot camp I will cut off and bag the hair that he 'combs' only with his fingers. No way will I allow it to be swept into the compost depository by the Navy barber's assistants.. the ones who scored 42 on the test.
Endsley, the recruiter, gave Eli a ride to work. Once back behind closed doors and alone, I broke down for the first of several times since then, including this moment.. as I type.
When E returned from work, we promised to spend as much time as possible together this spring and summer, fishing and what not.
This fall, he ships out to boot camp and beyond...
foggy day long ago catching walleye-- printer out of black ink
May 2009, at Melvern Lake, Kansas
my favorite pic of him... ever. July 4th, 2010 at Lake of the Ozarks