December 18, 2016

Bear Down

I was flying the Sunday after Thanksgiving and had a layover at the Denver airport. It was deluged with Air Force Academy cadets delaying their return to campus until the last possible moment. Every fast food place was slammed with cadets trying to get their “last meal” before back to the basics and rigor of academy life.

I am intimately acquainted with this phenomenon. Three of my children graduated from the Naval Academy. During that ten year period between my first son’s Induction Day and my daughter’s commissioning I grew used to the rhythym and flow of service academy life. I could count on the times they would be home and the last few days before they would leave, except during the summers which would begin to mirror the vagaries of active duty.

Basic training while difficult also is predictable. Week 3 means they are doing this, week 8 schedule is this, and then there is graduation. They move from the expected to the great unknown. And in the midst of that we moms struggle. We thought we let go when they left. Now we find that it is a continuous process of letting go. An unexpected deployment, lack of communication, no idea when they are coming home-these all leave us frustrated and trying to cope.

Semper Gumby-always flexible. It is a mantra for every military family. We must learn to bend or we will break. But there are times when it is hard to stay supple. Maybe it’s when families are beginning to gather or when someone asks you for the 18th time if everyone is coming for Christmas. It can be hard to stop your lip from quivering as you answer, “No, the needs of the service you know.”

We got a tree this year from our new ranch in Montana. We learned quickly that all trees are not alike. This western pine has a much smaller trunk versus height so our tree stand for bulky Ohio trees does not work. We had to build braces to have any hope of an upright tree and add some fishing line reinforcements. The branches are so flexible that they can bend with the weight of the lights. I needed to reinforce the top to handle my tree topper. As I look at it struggling to hold the weight it reminded me of how I feel at times. The load in my proverbial backpack can be so wearying. As I contemplate the star I realized although it is not completely upright it is doing it’s job and I need to do mine.

Even if  I am “doing the holidays” in fits and starts, that I have days when I don’t want to do anything, and I feel a little wonky at times, I am on my feet. I am finding the strength to do what must be done just like in those last few pushes of childbirth. Bear down. It is not easy. But we keep pushing, because we are moms. It’s what we do. You can do this. We can do this. There will be joy and love-even if it is being sent across the world.

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