Happy Birthday to a Sailor

Today my navy son turns 21. It will be the second one where I won’t see him – he was away last year in Navy training school. This is the first one where I can’t speak to him at all. Thats bc he is now deployed somewhere in the depths of an ocean. He is a submariner. He is in the silent service. One where once they are under you only hear from them via email and that only rarely.

This is his first underway – so it is the first for Kevin and me as well. It ain’t easy. There is so much he can’t say- like even when he is going or returning. I can’t say much here either. There are rules for so many things that I am just learning. I can tell you he is in a ride-along as a guest bc hi sub is in dry-dock and he has to do some things that earn him qualifications that lead to him earning a medal that will make him an official bubblehead (aka submariner).

I can only imagine from what I have read what sub life is like. I know he will be busy. His rack (bed) is small and quarters tight. I’ve read the food isn’t bad. And lets hope it is good- as the days (if they even know day from night) are long- good food must be a respite. I can’t imagine begin crammed with that many people in one place for long stretches. But the duty time become the times where they focus on protecting our waters and nation. The stinky sock smells become part of the journey and the mission at hand. I am proud of my sailor …but I am proud of him no matter what.

Selfishly I didn’t want him to do subs. Because of my own issues with claustrophobia and just fears of things I can’t control. Most control is an illusion but when he is on land I can text him and call. It has no effect on anything that might happen to him but for some reason that ability to communicate is a panacea for moments when I need to feel connected to my kids. It is very very hard to not have that contact.

I had no idea until I became mom of someone in the military how hard it is – especially when you first have your child go in. There is just so much I didn’t know. Acronyms for everything. I sometimes had to ask my son to explain something he said in layman’s terms as the navy way was too confusing. And your kid isn’t yours anymore – they belong to the navy…but that is just one way they fly away -i suppose. It happens inevitably—the strings loosen– but they are always attached from the mom’s heart to the child’s.

I am learning to let my anxiety go and give this to God. It helps some. But in the water somewhere on this earth is part of my heart. Today I made him a cake and we will eat it in his absence. But when he comes home – sometime- we will raise a glass and toast his 21st birthday – and have some cake whatever kind he’d like.

If you have time send some thoughts of love out to my sailor and to all of the men and women in the military who give of themselves to keep us safe and free. Many of them have spent their 21st birthdays in places where nobody but their bunkmates could wish them a happy day- if they know at all.

Maybe between watches my son will get in a game or two on his Switch with some friends. Maybe someone will get out of him that it’s his birthday. He is pretty tight lipped. Maybe he will know that at his family home far away – his mom made a cake with love for a young man with a heart of gold.

The sailor…

to loath or not to loath thyself?

I think I am surprised to find myself writing again. I really thought I would stop- I could not fathom sitting down to try. I thought over the last few months that- well it began before that really but came to a head over the winter – I had lost my way. I felt I was lost and was not sure of my purpose. I just felt stagnant and blocked. What little creative blood that was a trickle much of the time this last a couple years had become a drip drip drip. I know it is there as I feel it light up sometimes. Today I felt it when I received a notice of a local photo contest. And yesterday when some uncanny thing happened involving the IRS – maybe uncanny is the wrong word when using it with IRS – I heard the thought in my head- “you should write about this”. But as with so many of those same thoughts, with that spark that comes with those thoughts the light quickly flickers out.

This past couple years has been hard for me and my family. I guess I would venture to say since my cancer in 2013 things have been tough. There is nothing like a serious illness to change the dynamic of the family. I think I have been harboring a lot of guilt over my getting ill. I had no idea that my cancer treatments would lead to years of chronic pain and my just being unable to be the mom my teen kids probably needed. Sometimes I was someone I did not recognize. And this all during their neediest years. Forget toddlerhood – teens need us more than they ever let on.

I became an official empty nester in March 2020. Just as Covid began my youngest child went off to the Navy. That left me unmoored. I never thought I would be effected by my empty nest. I have my mother living with us, and we have lots to do around the farm. I have my job- even though it pays little. I have various hobbies (of course on hold in early covid). Anyway I was effected by his leaving. I know it was that he was going to the military and to bootcamp that made it worse. In bootcamp they can’t talk with you much if at all. You feel very disconnected and that is hard in a time when we can text our kids at any moment and hopefully hear back from them. As sure as I was that I would not have a life crisis I found myself crying – missing him, my two other kids, and something else… Could it be my identity?

I was shocked about this. And what followed has been months of my getting used to my kids being gone, the military owning one, the other two in various stages of finding themselves, and me doing some deep personal looking at myself. And up came so much guilt of every failing I had as a parent. And they keep stacking up! My daughter got pissed at me last winter. So pissed she didn’t want to talk to me. For like a couple months. This hurt. And also during that time a long friendship ended. That hurt too. There is nothing like the sting of rejection – especially by your kids-to get you to look into the mirror and try and see how things happened and if you can do better.

Learning how to parent young adults is an art. I will think that I am helping my kid- no I am overstepping. I think I say something constructive – no I hurt their feelings. And since they too are learning how to adult they themselves lack the expertise on how to communicate constructively. It is easier to just not answer the texts. Or to curtly say they need space. SPACE? If anyone should need space it should be ME – the mom! I get to say I need space before you do!

I went from anger to sheer sadness to anger and back during the time my daughter didn’t want to talk with me. I sent emails apologizing. And then I realized at some point this issue of my feeling so awful about her need for space was not about her need for space. It was somewhere inside me. The lost me. The me that feared rejection – this fear goes back to my childhood- dysfunctional family -blah blah- we all have some baggage! Just when you think you have dealt with your issues…and believe me I had spent years trying to deal with issues in many a therapists office- on a soft couch or chair -only to have these feelings of rejection pop-up when my young adult daughter got mad at me. Son of a gun.

Once I got down to the issue(s) I knew I needed to jump back into therapy. First working on how to be the parent an adult kid needs and also to look at these rejection feelings…this lost feeling…finding my purpose…maybe even what color my next vehicle should be…ok thats a joke. But here I am trying to figure out what this next chapter of my life will look at. Deal with the sadness over losing some years to illness and pain and to try to not live in fear… but most of all self loathing over the many many mistakes I have made in my life. For not being the “greatest mom ever”.

My therapist told me she has had no mother come in touting how great a mom they were. Most moms beat themselves up over their parenting at some point. And when your kids are young adults and out making their own choices and trying to become independent persons and inevitably making mistakes- (inhale Anne)-you want to help them to not fall down! And when they do it is so easy to blame ourselves for the fall. And when they tell you they want to figure it out on their own it hurts bc we know so much more than they do, right? So much more that we want to instill all our wisdom on them – and yet they would rather hear from an earthworm than from us…it hurts. Then you ask yourself what did I do wrong that they would rather take the advice from the earthworm over me?

And if you keep hanging on to all that stuff it will just drown you. Well it was drowning me anyway. I needed to get off the drama triangle- its a thing -I can come back to this in another post. I needed to step away. Let them live their lives. Let them fall and not feel blame.

I had a kid who two years ago had to go to a rehab for severe drinking issues. He went to Florida to a rehab and a half way house, then another rehab out-patient, and another half way, and during covid another rehab out-patient for depression. I felt terrible for him and for months I didn’t know how to navigate this world of addiction. I still don’t really. As we went along I did realize that I was enabling my son. Not to drink–no no. The drinking was a shock to me (I always thought I would know if my kids were drinking too much being a child of an alcoholic – turns out that is false). Turns out I was helping him too much in rehab and in his making his way in his half way. So I backed way off. We had to. He needed to figure out things for himself. But crap that was so hard for me. But it was a good thing we did it. I am happy to say he found an apartment this winter with a sober friend. Got it on their own. He is working in a steady job – and prayer after prayer -hopefully staying sober.

Just as these accomplishments are not my accomplishments neither was his drinking my fault. Why would I take credit for either?….but I would easily blame myself for my fails as a mom for his drinking. Logically I know it isn’t my fault but I beat myself up when I found out he had a problem.

The things I accomplish in therapy this time may be better for my kids as I learn to parent adult kids. But for me it will be granting myself forgiveness for real and perceived failures. I hope this will help me open up again creatively. But most importantly – maybe I won’t feel so lost and I can begin to navigate where I fit in. What I want for the next chapter. Anne 3.0 haha!

Navy Son – moving through training

I think I have written before about my trepidation about my kid joining the Navy. I have nothing against the military. I soooo appreciate our armed forces. I just never saw this son as a military man. He is sensitive and quiet and shy. I was also worried what may happen in this political climate. But I soon realized that anything can happen at any time -and he signed up to serve his country. He wants to be doing this.

Boot camp seemed to go so fast and was also so long at the same time. For me it was waiting for letters and phone calls. For my son it was waiting for letters and being able to make phone calls home and waiting through three two-week quarantines because of Covid! But at the end of June he made it! He became a sailor in the US Navy.

We are so very proud of him. And as a mom I am nervous still and I think I will continue to be. It is just a different thing to have a kid in the military. And if you don’t have one you just don’t know. Thats why there are loads of Facebook groups for mom of military kids. Its a great help I can tell you. And the groups are not only a comfort but a great source if info for this newbie military mom.

My son will be on subs. He will study to be a MT (missile tech). Right now he is completing sub school in Connecticut. Then he moves to Kings Bay Georgia to A school. This is where the MT training begins.

The Navy moves on its own time. I am getting adjusted to that. I get frustrated because patience is not my best trait. I was asked to send an important document to my son at his base – and it is now lost there somewhere! I can replace that one – but another document is now needed and I don’t want to send it! There is no replacing it as it pertains to my son’s international adoption and many items cannot be replaced if lost. I said I would drive it there! But you know Covid and no visitors- no leave – etc. I just have to chill. This is the military way. I am a parent but I don’t hold any authority. If the Navy says I need to send something I have to do it. So not I am trying to find the safest way to send this document.

I don’t know when I will be able to see my son. We haven’t seen him since March. Some families have gone a couple years without seeing their Sailors. At first the time went slowly and I was really missing my kid now it is better. I have moments of really missing him but mostly I am dealing with it. It is nice to be able to FaceTime some. But when he is on the sub there will be that time of no contact – except by email I think- but that is sporadic. That will be tough – an adjustment. I am learning to be more flexible I suppose – maybe…sort of.

It is hard- and I write about this as a mom and about my feelings. I deal with these feelings and accept my worries and fears because I know this choice for him to be in the military was his and it was something he really wanted. I also know it is a good thing. However fearful I am for him at times and however much I miss him – I still think this was a good path for him to take. He was lost- college wasn’t his thing, working and doing community college wasn’t his thing. Serving his country and getting education, a salary, and great benefits it a great choice- and it will have to be his thing for at least 6 years!

I see his growth in this short time. He is still the same sweet kid- but he’s is building confidence and learning skills. He’s been to new places and met new people. He has been pushed out of his comfort zone. And he has done it with great courage. I am very proud of him.

The Sailor

In May of 2001- eight months after my son was born in a far away place called Kazakstan – this little boy was placed into my arms in front of the airport terminal from where he had just arrived. My first child – my son. You have dreams for your kids when they are that age- you lay out a path in your head of what their life can be. I will tell you none of my three kids took a path that I envisioned for them! But they are making their own way – taking their own paths.

It is not always easy as a parent to let them make their choices. You want to help steer the boat- but in the end you realize you can’t. You can help at the dock to set them a-sail – you can be their anchor when they need reassurance – – but they have to decide their course. It has not been easy for me to let go and let live – I am not that easy going. But I am doing it- trying to keep myself from trying to steer the boat. Basically I am learning to shut up! Each of my kids is on a different path and I am learning you just love them right where they are.

Maybe this Navy mom is learning.

Navy Son- Phone calls

 

Recce Dog

Reece wonders how you all are doing….

HI. How is everyone? Are you holding up during this pandemic?  I can tell you that I am trying to do many things to keep myself from getting too stressed or scared. I have tasked myself with building a new website for our business. I think that will give me sufficient time to not be thinking about this virus. I am exercising, and riding my horse. These things balance me. If I read too much news I am become overwhelmed. I have tried to limit myself to certain times of day to watch or read any news on the pandemic.  If I spend too much time thinking about things my mind go bonkers.

I have been spending some of my time on Facebook pages dedicated to support the loved ones of the Navy recruits that go through the training center in Great Lakes Il. They train over 32.000 navy sailors yearly. Thats amazing.  I am sorry I won’t get to see the place. Covid-19 wrecked graduations for these sailors – and so many other 2020 grads in the world.

The RTC is a well-oiled machine. At the moment they are trying to battle outbreaks of the virus by quarantining new recruits before they begin training and they have had to quarantine divisions if an outbreak occurs. This significantly slows the process of getting new minted sailors out the door to get them to their career training which can take up to 15 months in some cases- and  there have been delays for those waiting to go to training. The Navy has had to make changes on the fly to deal with this unknown enemy.

I have depended on these FB pages to provide me with updated info but also to give me support during a very stressful time. One day we are talking about getting mail and then another about PIR (grad) gifts. Some days wives or husbands need support as they struggle with the separation of their spouse or moms just need a virtual hug.  We share photos and joys of our SR (Seaman Recruit), we celebrate when a family gets the “I am a Sailor” phone call- as that’s the only real celebration these sailors get right now.  And we get rumors about this and that and the admins help navigate those.  And sometimes we get wind of the best rumor of all – phone calls.

The SRs don’t get calls very often. In normal bootcamp (aka no virus around) that SRs get to call a loved one four times. Once when they get to bootcamp- a quick scripted call- I got that one at 3am; then at around three weeks- that one can be longer; and again at five weeks; then the “I am a Sailor” call. Of course if there is an illness or injury they are able to call home as well.

During this pandemic the protocol has changed a bit. We have had three calls already. The I am here call, then the one we had on my 21st anniversary with my hubby- that call was a shock – I wasn’t expecting it .  Luke had no idea it was our anniversary but I told him he gave us the best gift. We spoke for over 30 minutes and it was emotional. Luke had just gotten out of quarantine and was working through P days – aka processing days. There you do just that- get processed- medicals, banking, payroll, etc. He was facing some fitness tests that were making him a little nervous. When we hung up I cried happy and sad tears. I had no idea when I would hear from him again. But I had the relief of knowing he was doing ok for the most part.

The relief is short-lived.  Some worry and stress begin to build up as time marches on. I wrote him a number of letters and hoped we would get one from him.  There were messages on the FB pages that reported some new cases of the virus. If your SR is ill they will call -and you so want a call- but not that call. But with each scheduled (non-emergency) call comes a celebration on the pages. When our SR calls we usually see many reports of the calls from the division. It is a nice place to be because we all know the feelings we are having.

This past Saturday Kevin and I were sitting on the back deck and my phone rang and I saw the Illinois exchange and I grabbed the phone. There had been a rumor on the pages that calls were going to come over this weekend.  I was not counting on it because we had heard from him only two weeks ago. But the call came!

I put the phone on speaker and set it on the table.  Since we had just gotten a letter the day before I knew he had passed the fitness and swim tests.  I knew he was so proud when he received his uniforms with his name on them. But we talked about it all and more. He is still coming to the realization that he is really doing this. In this call he sounded like a different person. I hear the confidence in his voice. The happiness that he is making friends and the pride of his accomplishments.  This is assurance that he is where he needs to be.

I look forward to meeting this new person sometime soon I hope. I had been told that the Navy will transform my kid. He will come into his own. I believed that but didn’t think I would see it this fast. He has always had a good heart. But he was lost as lost could be. Now I think he is found and is developing a sense of self and is now on the life journey of learning more about himself through experiences. I am amazed.

The lifelines for families of loved ones serving in the military are letters and calls – more letters and more calls.  When will we get the next call? I am thinking maybe the weekend of May 17- Kevin’s birthday weekend. That would be great – but we cannot count on it. There is rumor they may graduate early if there are no setbacks, so perhaps the next call will be the “I am a Sailor” call?

All we can do is get ready and wait.

 

Navy Son – Letters —

LettersOn Monday I had the nicest surprise – quite unexpected actually. I had two letters from my son, SR Sweeney (Seaman Recruit), from bootcamp. He should be about completed his two week quarantine- we think – we don’t know for sure. The letters I got from him were written April 1 and one before that.  I think his bootcamp training will begin soon but there is also the virus to contend with and there was a case or two at the center so I have no idea how things are progressing there.

I must say I didn’t expect him to write us much at all.  I was so doubtful that I sent him  with cards and  pre-addressed envelopes. I was making it so easy for him to send us a word or two. I had no idea he would be writing us in quarantine – I wasn’t sure what was allowed.

My son’s letters to us were not on the pre-addressed cards I gave him but instead on Navy RTC stationary. I think I marveled at them like he was five and in kindergarten and brought home his first handwriting assignment.  He actually wrote a whole letter- no two letters!  And yes I am saving every one we get! Just like his those kindergarten assignments.  Once a mom always a mom.

His letters were basic really. But he expressed his desire to get going to work. I also could tell the virus situation had finally become real to him. He wanted us to know the Red Cross could get him a message fast if anything serious went down with us here.  He had been out once or twice to get some medical checks. He got glasses. He’s making some friends. For that I was glad as he is shy. The food was not great. I found out from my Facebook group that they are getting bagged food until they mainstream.

He updated me on some business items they had gone over with him once he was there.  He asked that we write him back. He said he didn’t know what was going on in the outside world.  I struggle with how much to share with him. I know it won’t be anything that I feel would stress him while he is in bootcamp.

But the kicker for me were these words:I miss you both so much…I love you both so much… Definitely not words I would expect from my son. He is shy. He holds back feelings. And those words are what broke me open…tears flowed.  It felt so nice to read the words but also they made me worry about him a little more too.

I know it will be ok. Well I pray it will be.  I know he’s in a bit of a shock now. If he is homesick it should pass- especially after he gets going in bootcamp.  He won’t have as much time to think. He will be exhausted by the end of each day. He will wish he was in quarantine again-  I am told.

Letters are like gold. They connect us when we don’t have the luxury of text or email. Oh how I miss those at your fingers tools! But the separation is needed. It takes that civilian and makes them into a soldier -part of unit. United together for one cause. I get it but I hate the silence.

I am not a true Navy parent yet. We are just at the beginning. But I already know this worry about your child is not the same as leaving them at two-week camp in the summer or dropping them off at college. This is something that is bigger…and I don’t mean to downplay those other worries. I have been through those too, so I speak only from how I am feeling now compared to those other times that we let the thread that ties us together out longer than it had been before.  It was scary and exciting and hopeful.  That worry ebbed a bit as time wore on. But now this thread will be a long unending spool let out further and further. It is so much bigger – this worry- than what I have felt before. Parenthood is the never-ending roller coaster ride of emotion.

I am sensing that this worry is like a knot that lodges itself somewhere inside.  Because this is only the beginning. There will be deployments to far away lands. Missions we won’t know about in detail but know they exist in theory. We won’t ever feel  he is truly safe unless  he is real standing in front of us – and when  he is near us it is only for a short time and there will be a parting again…and the worry cycle continues. I am not there yet but I have a sense that this worry is a different beast. I am very unsettled.

And the letters come and there is an exhale…not a release of all the worry but some. They are a gift. Something I didn’t know I would cherish until they sat in front of me waiting to be opened.

I have written my letters to him as has his dad but they have to wait until we are given his correct division information. He won’t get letters addressed to the quarantine area which I am told by thanks to the Training Center Facebook group admins is the address he gave me. So as the Navy motto reminds us – I will hurry up and wait for his division info to get to us. And I hope the letters that he eventually gets from us give him some peace- and he feels the love behind them.

I had forgotten the special feel of a real letter. We have so much connectivity available all the time but when you don’t have it – the letter for me is a lifeline.  I hope I get more from him- but knowing the rigors of their schedule when doing actual P days ( processing days – first week of real  bootcamp where they process the recruit) I won’t get my hopes up.  But if I do I will appreciate the lift of some of the worry – that exhale -even if it lasts only for a little while.

 

 

 

Navy Son- Part 2- How we got here…

My son has been at the Navy training center for about a week now.  He is in quarantine as is the protocol at the moment for new recruits.  We did get word yesterday that a recruit in training tested positive for Covid-19 and had been placed in isolation.  I can’t imagine getting that call as a parent – but it is a reality we have to consider.  The Navy is making changes daily to it’s normal procedures and it can be frustrating but it is understandable that they are dealing with something never conceived of (a world crisis of this magnitude) and they are trying to adjust as best as they can.

As a parent of a Seaman Recruit  (SR) it is not easy when there is so much in flux and all I can do is remind myself that my kid is in good and capable hands. They will care for him if gets ill, they are caring for him now.  Over time I have come to an acceptance of my son’s decision to join the Navy- it didn’t happen overnight. But I have gotten there.

When my son first said he wanted to join the Navy he was a senior in high school that was in 2018.  I was not a fan. Kevin and I both encouraged him to apply to college and maybe do ROTC or apply to the Navy after he graduated.  I think at the time I thought it was an idea that came with not much thought or it was a fantasy of an immature kid. Like when he was little and wanted to be superman. Though he did wear out two pair of superman sneakers over the years! But still I felt that he wasn’t mature enough to make a decision as big as joining  the military.  He also mentioned  that he wanted to be a police officer- which again we suggested he wait on. I think in our parent point of view we thought getting a college degree would be best. 

He did a year in a university  – and never pursued ROTC- but then at the end of his freshman year decided to change to a major (criminal justice) they didn’t have at the university he was attending so he withdrew from there and decided to live at home with us and he began local community college last fall. 

I could tell he was not thrilled going to those classes. And I could tell by the amount of gaming he did that he wasn’t studying. His heart was not into it. I was beginning to realize it was a waste of money if he didn’t have a desire to be in college. That’s when during yet another discussion about drive and motivation and his future he brought up the Navy again. And again I admit I wasn’t a fan. He wondered out loud why I was so against  him joining the military since my stepfather was a career Navy pilot and made it to captain. My son had heard some stories about my stepfathers career – teaching young Navy pilots to fly on and off the carriers at night, fought in two wars.  To me that didn’t extrapolate into my kid enlisting. I wasn’t a Navy kid or considered myself part of a Navy family.  My mom married into one when I was a young adult. So I didn’t feel a pull to have my kids join. Do not get me wrong. I was thankful for my stepfathers service andI am so thankful for all military service men and women. I just wasn’t sure I wanted MY kid to be part of the military. I was scared. And I still am. 

I told him that if he wanted to join the Navy he needed to do all the work himself – because normally he needed my help to figure most things out for him, jobs, banking , school admin issues etc.   I decided that if he was really serious about the Navy he had to do it on his own. I was not going to facilitate it. If he went and hated it later  he only had himself to blame. And I figured since I left it up to him he would not do anything about it.

I was wrong. Within a day he had a meeting with the local recruiter in nearby Frederick, MD. And that morphed into more meetings and once he was told he was eligible he went to officially sign-up. I have to admit I was not a fan still. My anxiety about it ramped up. But since he seemed so excited- and he rarely gets excited by much – I wanted to be excited for him. We looked over the jobs he could choose from based on his testing scores. 

He chose cryptology- but then when he went to our local MEPS (the place where you they do recruit processing) the job wasn’t available. Kind of a bait and switch? But I realized later he could have waited for that job to come open but he wanted to leave sooner than later…so he chose a job in a Sub. Missile tech to be exact. Holy cow this freaked me out because  just the week before he said he didn’t want subs and I was happy with that. Then he picked subs!  He told my husband he did exactly the opposite of what he had said he wasn’t going to do. But he had had options and he could have waited. So I guess this is something he wanted to do. Or he thought he did. Or he was being a teen.  I really lost my cool when I found out he chose subs- first I was mad …then I sobbed- I am sure this was me letting out all the anxiety I had been having over his decision to go to the Navy- I will say I was going through some seasonal effective depression when this all occurred so I think my reaction was more dramatic because of this. But a Sub- 800 ft underwater….why?

I could not speak to him for like two days. I hated myself for this. I read up on subs and saw he could be under the ocean for ten weeks…with no contact. I felt claustrophobic for him. A projection onto him of my issues of enclosed spaces. But I also began reading about subs. I do tend to research things – probably more than my child did.  I am sure I do this as a way to come to terms with things. The more knowledge the better I am able to process things.

In my research I read about some of the scary tests they have to perform in sub school (where he will go after he passes bootcamp).  My kid doesn’t swim well ( I am told they will teach him to be a better swimmer in bootcamp) and they have a test where four of them have to go through a sub hatch in a simulation of a sub escape. They wear air filled plastic bags (I am sure it is more technical than this) over their heads and float to the surface. They have a room flood while they fix equipment, they have fire simulation. Oh Lord!  But the more I read the more I saw that the testing is obviously important  and they want them to pass so they help them to get there. And if there are issue like severe claustrophobia then they will help them move to another job not in a sub.  But most important I read about the camaraderie that builds among the soldiers in subs and on ships, and the sense of pride these seamen have for their Navy, and their country, and themselves. He needed this. 

My son needed a direction, he needed to find something that could build his confidence, and he needs friends.  If he feels that this is the vehicle to him finding himself who cares if it comes before , after or instead of college -and there are many benefits to being in the military as far as schooling goes.  It has taken time for me to wrap my mind around all this. The positives and the negatives, the risks and rewards.  It was never a case of me letting him join the military. If this is what he truly wanted then I wasn’t going to stand in his way. But I know he wanted and needed my approval. He wanted to know I was proud of him.  I have settled into the fact that my kid wants this and he needs it.  I am very proud of him and I have told him that many times.  But it doesn’t mean I am not scared too.  It is very hard not to be during this pandemic. 

My son once told me he rather live a shorter life helping others than a longer life not doing so. That is sobering coming from such a young person.  It may have been a thought of an immature young man not realizing his mortality but it was one of the most authentic and honest things he has ever said to me.  It makes me sad too- because of course I want him to have long beautiful life so his discussing his mortality at all is not easy. But I believe he feels a call to service of others. And if that calling was to join the Navy than I now call myself a proud mom of a Navy recruit. And will try to navigate my own fears as I root him on  -and – I let him go on his life’s journey.

I just miss him.

Navy Son – Part 1

No description needed right?

As my husband brought yet another bag of trash up from my son’s now empty bedroom I realized what made me so mad before he left…his messiness …no his piggyness ..his inability to pick up when asked…his incessant gaming and leaving soda cans in a circle around his chair like the fallen avatars in his games…these annoying things became things I was missing already. Of course I wasn’t the one cleaning them up. So I can wax sad here.

My son is now a Navy Recruit and he left for bootcamp Monday, March 23,

We got the call the at 3:16AM to be precise on Tuesday morning.  I was fumbling for the phone – but was awake anyway just groggy. When I answered I heard my 19 year old son’s voice – telling me in a very scripted tone that he was at Navy boot camp and he was ok, and he would talk to me in two weeks. I am told not to count on that call- it may be more weeks than that. It was a quick call. I got my I love you’s in and  I wasn’t sure I was allowed to say more -and he didn’t offer more-so we hung up. Now moving forward -no contact- (unless I get a that call  he mentioned)-for about ten weeks. This is going to be a tough one on this mom. Well at least I know he is safe.

We dropped him off at a hotel near Fort Meade Sunday night – he would be with other recruits most likley but it still felt so odd leaving him there. I didn’t want to go into the hotel because of the social distancing rules. I didn’t want to make a scene when I said goodbye which means any tear falling from my eyes because it would upset my son. I was sad that we couldn’t go to the base the next day to see him off. It was closed to civilians because of the virus restrictions.

I stood by our truck and hugged him tight. That last hug – watching as he fades into the hotel lobby- my heart falls a bit.

It is hard enough to send your child off to the military – but to do so during  this pandemic is so hard. I haven’t slept well in the days preceding his departure and the insomnia is still hanging on. I have had loads of tears. Tears because I miss him, tears because we can’t talk for a while and tears because I am afraid.

I have so many fears-  some rational and some irrational. I worry he might become ill? They are on a two week quarantine -and my son was very happy because he could bring a handheld gaming device and game for the time he was in isolation. It won’t get old for him – he’s a gamer and its one of the habits he has that I hope the military breaks. But if he gets ill do they even call us? He belongs to the military now so I don’t know what information we can get.

I fear that he won’t make it through bootcamp- he needs this in his life. He has lacked direction and goals – he needs this for his confidence and to mature.  I am so proud of him- yet so sad because he is gone.

I fear he will get hurt during some of the exercises- he has to breath in tear gas! That freaks me out.  He laughs about it!  I fear for him in general because he is not worldly and he is immature. I am told the Navy will change that.

I fear he will have the WTF did I do moment where he may regret signing up.  Who am I kidding he will have that…I just hate to know that he will be at a breaking point like that…but I want him to get past it. I know he can do this…but he has to know that too. I want the successes of boot camp to build up this shy, quiet, introverted, sweet, kind young man.  Also I fear he will change too much- will he become hardened – more closed up? None of this is in my control and I know it..it’s just the feelings I feel now. However dumb- I just have to allow myself the time to adjust.

But I am a mom and I know I won’t stop worrying.

I also fear this pandemic as a whole – what will it mean for my son once out of bootcamp? How do they keep them safe – one military man down can mean many down because of the ease of spread in such close quarters.  What if  -God forbid -someone in our family becomes ill enough we would want to contact him- can we?  I have a mild sore throat and stuffy nose and today and I am filled with worry about what it could be.  These aren’t easy times.

These are my own feelings and I never projected these on to my son as he prepared to leave. he deserves a mom who can keep it together while he got ready for the biggest thing in his life thus far. And before he left I kept it together mostly by being in denial that he was going.  I helped him get his new bank account set up and I pestered him about getting his room clean and clothing put away before he left…he made a feeble attempt…I am told the Navy can change the slovenly into much neater humans! Let’s hope for that!

I just never let myself get too close to the feelings of him going until we had that last hug and the string that ties together got longer and longer.

The best thing is that Kevin and I are not alone in all these feelings – we have the experience of others near and far. Last week before my son left, I was told by my son’s Chief at the recruiters that there were facebook pages to join that could be a source of support during this time.  We joined a couple and these pages are already a source of comfort. It is comforting to be among those that are feeling some of what I have felt – and also it is nice to talk to those that have been there done that.

I honestly struggled with my feelings about him joining the military and I will write more on that later. But I am so very proud of my child.  The timing of it all is hard. With so much uncertainty now I feel like I want to have instant contact with my adult children  – just to make sure they are ok. But that isn’t what I have with this son. That will take adjustment —and letting go some.  Not easy for parents. Especially now.

….To be Continued….

 

 

 

 

 

Guilt

Author Note—Each day I have meant to break this unplanned writing hiatus but it just hasn’t happened. I have plenty of topics to write about – I just don’t make time for it- or when I do the words seem to fall flat. Usually when that happens I know maybe it because I am not being as honest in my writing as I should be. Sometimes there is a balance being able to be honest and keeping a boundary in my writing so as not to bring hurt to others I care about. Sometimes I just can’t find that balance and I don’t post what I write – but it still exists perhaps as a journal entry – or something I can go back to later. Either way the words inside me have been purged and sometimes- if I am writing in distress -that helps and there is no need to send it out to the “webisphere”.  But I want to make writing my habit again. I really do. So I just need to DO It!

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Soon after my son – I am going to call him SonA- went out of state to rehab I found myself sitting in front of his PA at the primary care office we all go to. I was there with another family member about their medical issue – and there I sat quietly in the small exam room- but there was that elephant in the room. PA knew about SonA and that he was in rehab. We had briefed him on the phone about it. So I wasn’t sure if I should bring it up to brief him on the latest info or stay quiet. 

 I didn’t want to bring SonA up because it was my other family members time but between the hellos , how are you’s and getting to the medical issue at hand – it came up. It began with just an update. SonA was going to be moved to a transitional program because there was an issue with insurance. A big issue that had required involving PA -but that is another story entirely – but it had been rectified by the time I saw PA. SonA was to look for employment, go to group meetings daily and see a therapist weekly. 

We chatted a bit about addiction and mental health issues. And all at once PA looks at me and tells me not to feel guilty. I looked at him trying to form a sentence – was I going to cry? He continued to say that so many parents blame themselves for the choices their kids make and that I shouldn’t because this was not my fault. I thanked him and told him I didn’t feel guilty because I know the choices SonA made were his own. Just as any bad choice I have made over my lifetime is not anyone else’s fault. Even though I blamed some of them on others in the past.

But I wasn’t really being truthful – there is guilt – it is multifaceted. So often I think to myself – did anything I did as parent push SonA into addiction? Did we have a bad phone call while he was at college and he went off angry and with a Fxck You attitude and guzzled a bunch of booze and that was the domino that turned into alcoholism? Did I not try hard enough over the years to get him to talk to therapists we took him too- where he would chat about his brilliant ideas (and he is amazingly smart) but he would never open up about his troubles? I begged him to give them a chance – he really never could. Or as he was growing up did I add onto the trauma he already had from being and adopted child? 

I wasn’t a great mom. I was in over my head. I got angry, I yelled, and I spanked my kids. I believed in spankings. I don’t anymore. My dad believed in spankings, we got the belt, or we were threatened with the belt. As a mom, when the kids were young, I had many convos over spankings vs no spankings, time outs vs time ins etc etc. All I can say is in hindsight I have changed my tune on many things. But I know I thought when I was raising my kids I was doing my best – and I was. But now I spend time hating myself for being so rigid, so stressed- just not the mom I thought I would be.

 I have guilt that I am trying to work on. I have apologized to my kids. Told them I hope I was fun sometimes. Was I fun? I think I was. I remember shopping in Walmart so many times for art projects that we could do on a hot summer day, or after school. We painted, and glued. Once or twice we all made gingerbread houses. I played with my kids, I love toys and I loved to play. I remember all of us dancing in the family room to classic rock. So I was fun too. But I still have guilt. 

I guess when you have kids that go through hard times because of their choices any parent may feel some of the way I do. I truly know I did not make my son into an alcoholic, I know that my son has had some mental health issues for a long time. But what I do know is that we spend our lives trying to undo the damage that our childhoods inflict on us. I hate to think I contributed to my son’s issues.

I think even the kid who grew up with the best parents like my husband did will not come out of childhood unscathed. He himself is an alcoholic with 34 plus years of sobriety under his belt.

We never come out of childhood without battle wounds. As we are developing our brains as young kids – becoming a more fully formed individual -we are effected by so much around us.  Then we spend much of our lives making choices based on our early experiences and we inflict that damage onto others and but hopefully we give them our good stuff too- it is why there are cycles of the same behaviors in families. If we are lucky and we begin to see the issues then we can begin to do the work to better understand ourselves –  and we can learn how the experiences in our lives have driven how we behave…and then we can work to have better reactions and to make better choices. Some people never get to this self discovery part. So I guess I should be happy I have. 

But that still doesn’t take away my guilt. I just have it. I want to forgive myself for not being an awesome mom. I am working on it because I do know I did do some good things. But there are so many things I would like to redo. Maybe thats why some people dive into grandparenting with a vengeance so they get a redo. Some things are so much more clear in hindsight. We can do so much better when we have gained some wisdom. 

SonA called me early on in his rehab and I again apologized to him. He said it wasn’t my fault. He said that I had been a good mom and he had been a shitty son.  That hurt too. You never want your kids to feel so badly about themselves. 

I told SonA he wasn’t a shitty son. Had he been challenging? Yes. But I told him he was a kid and I was the adult and I have to own my part- there were times I could have done better – responded better.  He has a beautiful mind – a beautiful soul. He just has some things to work on if he will trust the program he is in and the therapist he is seeing. I don’t want him to live with guilt. 

Are we just destined to it? To live with guilt? Maybe when we feel guilty it is an opening to begin to dig deep into that feeling – own the mistakes, learn from them and heal. That is what I am trying to do. Own my mistakes – look at them and then work with them – if I need to apologize for something I do.  I try not to soak in the guilt because I get stuck there and that isn’t healthy.  I am a bit stuck now. I probably need therapy and will look in the fall for someone – I have so much going on this summer. Maybe I will pull myself out before then. Writing this helps…even if the mom police want to shame me. 

But the good thing is I am still a parent and I  get to be an improved parent to my kids. I get to make the adjustments and changes I needed to make. My parenting goes on though it has a changed role now that they are young adults.

But guilt can run deep. I have learned that others might forgive you, God forgives you, but sometimes the hardest thing to do is to forgive ourselves. 

Difficult things

This is a topic that is rather private  for me and very hard to talk about. I have not been one to share too much on family issues over the years. I do feel that by sharing some of my experience on this issue that perhaps it will help other families in this crisis. Or maybe at the least they won’t feel so alone. So here goes…

My neighbor – whom I’ve never met (we live in the country so houses are further apart)-  startled me the other day as I was about to grab some dog food out of the garage. I was harried and late for feeding time and bone tired from lost sleep. She said something as she stood in my driveway. “Pardon?” I asked. But I thought I knew exactly who it was and I was right.

“Are you Mrs. Sweeney?”. She asked again. “Yes” I answered.. “It was your son who….the other night”

I am going to save you the exact details of that event but my 18 year old son fueled by alcohol became a volatile and crazed the other night –  and he ran out of the house as I was calling the police and subsequently terrorized our neighbor. I feel so awful for what they went through. I am sure in his state he thought he was trying to get into our house but he can’t remember any of it. I know it was terrifying for this neighbor and what I heard I can never un-hear. You never want to know that your child is in such a terrible state of mind.

It turns out he was suicidal that night and I have found out since this episode that he has been this way for months and even tried to kill himself over spring break in our home and we never knew about it. A friend came to his aid and my son promised to tell us he was in a bad way the next day – he never did.

The severity of his issues at this time is a shock to my husband and me – his having depression/anxiety is not.  He has been treated for years for ADHD and Depression/anxiety.  The problems we ran into over the last few years were twofold- our son didn’t want to confide in anyone – he was a locked up safe – so therapy was futile though we did send him.  And secondly getting a Psychiatrist for a teen is not easy. We have a definite crisis in this country with the mental health system and it is even worse if your child is and adolescent.

This is really a country crisis not a family crisis. If families can’t get help for their mentally ill children we can have more mass shootings and suicides. I know the problem. There aren’t enough beds so if you have to have your kid seen in the ER and want him/her admitted it is almost impossible – even when the person is suicidal. If the patient stabilizes they release them. And if you are afraid for your own safety or other family members and you want your minor child not to come home then you can be criminally charged in some states or charged with abandonment in others if you leave him/her in the ER.  And if CPS get involved then life can become hell.

In my son’s case he should have been admitted but because he was drunk – a new issue since he began college- they waited for him to sober up. By the time we called in the AM and asked to speak to the mental health specialist in the ER he had already been put into an Uber and sent home- in fact he already had snuck back into the house.  And the fact he was 18 and an adult gave us really no say in anything anyway.

I was so angry with the system. I was angry with myself to? I had been trying to get him to tell me what was going on all semester as I saw his grades plummet and work not being handed in. He rarely would answer my texts or calls and when he did he was short with me. I thought it was motivation- he is brilliant – so I knew he was smart enough to understand the concepts. He just wasn’t doing the work. I am sure my lectures on motivation, asking for academic help,  and my frustration over the lack of drive was not helpful as he was overcome by the feelings he was having. I feel like I missed the mark and now we are here.

This kid has not been an easy one to raise. Our relationship has been ok at best and non-existent at the worst.  But regardless you never want to know your child is hurting in this way. And you never want to see their trajectory in a downward spiral. I knew my kid could lash out in anger at us.  He could be a handful at home but he never directed anger toward friends or in school. But I can see he was crying for help and he was getting his comfort from alcohol and binging to relieve his pain. And then he blew.

My children are adopted and that fact in itself make them have a much higher percentage for mental health issues and substance abuse issues. We talked openly about this in our family. I myself have anxiety and have fought a battle with that for years. We went to family counseling for years. For me there isn’t shame in mental illness but it is hard to talk about for many.  But when it came to my kids issues I only confided in a few people close to me. But we should be able to talk about this. Parents should not feel alone.

I was lucky because I found a support group for parents with adopted kids and it really saved my sanity. We weren’t alone anymore. I had a group that understood the specific issues of the adopted child. But I kept silent in my writing most of the time. There is so much parent shaming/mommy shaming out there. And if you haven’t raised adopted kids you really don’t know the issues. But mental health issues and addiction can effect all of us and that is why I share this. It is not easy for me. My heart breaks for my child that I have wanted to reach all these years but haven’t been able to. Who I have often not liked  but have loved and tried so hard to help in every way to succeed and to be happy. It is what we want for our children. But sometimes they have to want that for themselves more than we want it for them…hopefully now we are on the right path,

The good news is that for the most part my son has allowed us to help navigate him when it comes to his mental health care. But the bad news is that he has not been open about how severe his issues have gotten so he wasn’t getting the help he truly needed.

The depression and hopelessness he was feeling was the gasoline and alcohol has been the flame. Thankfully his friends were very forthcoming when they realized my son was in crisis last week.  When I reached out they told me of their worry for him and told me of things he had done or said that helped the mobile crisis team -that came to our home after the ER failed us – understand that my son needed intervention. I must thank these friends for caring so much for my son who they recognize as a troubled but loving and caring friend. I felt happy that he has made these friends -that wasn’t always easy for him. I hope they remain a support for him in the future.

I know that such swift help is not usually the case as I briefly discussed above.  But if not for the mobile crisis team I would not have known where to turn for the help that my son had agreed to. I would have probably taken him back to another hospital and sought to get him admitted. But the crisis team had other options.

How did I find this team – that came to our home less than two hours after we called them? The police officer that came to our home the night before – after they found our son and got him transported to the hospital- handed us a card and explained that this team might be of some help.  At the moment I didn’t picture our son coming home. I wanted him admitted and then after that I didn’t know. So I didn’t think we would use that card but I set in on the bookcase and sure enough the next day we used it.

I had given my son two options- we will take you to a homeless shelter or you can get help.  I said to him whatever he’d been doing up until now was not working and things were just getting much worse for him. He was lucky he didn’t get arrested or shot when he not only trespassed but terrorized our neighbor. What would be next for him if he didn’t get help? I waited for his answer- and he chose help. I thanked God.

Once that crisis team got there they asked many questions and my son was very honest and became very emotional during this time. I felt so bad for him but also maybe this was a small breakthrough to releasing the pain he has been living with. The team got him a place at a rehab- which at first I didn’t feel he needed but once we realized that he had alcohol issues we realized that a rehab would be the best place for him. They will work on the substance abuse and also the underlying issues he has been dealing with. He will see a therapist and a psychiatrist. He will attend group sessions on many subjects.

They got him in a good one…one that is based on music as a therapy- he loves music. He flew that night to another state and is now on this journey to recovery. We were very lucky that we got him help so fast.  I thank him for being so open to getting it. I know he was faced with an option but I can tell he knew the best option was to help himself by getting help.

This can be a new beginning for him. I don’t want to have expectations – this is his journey with many battles and there are many things he has to deal with before he knows what his next steps in his life will be.  I hope he can shed his demons or at least begin the process. It can be so freeing and maybe he will see many possibilities for his life.

This is not an easy share for me but I felt I needed to be open. I do want to stress – If you are suffering or have a child who is don’t be afraid to speak up. If you have had a hard time getting mental health help perhaps a mobile crisis unit might be of help. And if you are a friend of a person having trouble please report it to someone. You could save a life. 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Acceptance

I think I have been taking a sabbatical from writing. It hadn’t been my intent but it seems it just occurred.

I think I felt blocked in a way. I have had a lot of writing ideas so that wasn’t it. I had personal things that I needed to process and until I processed them -maybe not fully but processed them enough – I felt like maybe my writing would not feel authentic.

I was upset over something very personal that I could only touch on vaguely in my writing. So much wanted to come out and that stuff was better for a private journal than a blog.

I have had to decide where my line is in what I share on my blog. Just because I’m upset with someone doesn’t mean I need to air that in my writing. Sometimes it is ok. This time it wasn’t.

So I had to come to some acceptance with that family issue and I have had to try to come to acceptance with some other things that seemed to be causing me stress.

One such issue is my ongoing pain. I am sooooo much better. I am so very blessed. But there is still pain. I can’t seem to use my right arm ( which is my dominate arm) fully or for very long without some pain. I also get flares. It happens when I “overdo” in some way. The problem is I never know exactly what will trigger it. I am learning though but I still get surprised. A lot.

Ice packs have become dear friends. I have been known to walk through the grocery or hardware store sporting an ice bag of some sort under my arm. Ice really is my savior.

I have had to reach an acceptance with this pain. If I had to live like this I certainly could. Would it be ideal? No. Sometimes it’s really sucky. But I’m improved. I’m out living life.  I’ve lowered my nerve pain meds a lot. Hoping to lose some of the weight I’ve gained. Which is another area of acceptance I’ve had to reach. I can’t hate myself bc I don’t look the way I want. I am trying to embrace that I may never look like I really want again.

My body has been through hell. Three surgeries in one year and the last -fat grafting-was supposed to be liposuction on my abdomen that would make me look better and sadly I hate the outcome but the fat had to come from somewhere

So I’m trying to accept this. I’m into being in shape and being skinny. It’s how I grew up. Skinny was good. And sadly I was a chubby kid and That fact was reinforced often by schoolmates and Neighbor Kids. I have spent years battling my minds critical view of my body.

So for me it’s a mental exercise in trying to accept myself as I am now. I’m 54 and I’ve had many surgeries and cancer and I’m menopausal. I can work hard as I’m able (I limited in my activities bc of my nerve damaged right side) but I’m likely not going to look the way I want to ever again. I might but it may not happen and I want to be able to accept that. I don’t want to feel embarrassed for my husband to see my nude body. But I am. He thinks I’m beautiful. I have a hard time seeing what he sees. But I’m lucky that’s what he sees

I really am a work in progress on this acceptance thing. But I’ve come to realize that acceptance doesn’t mean giving up. It means that in this moment in time I accept that this is where I am.

I accept I still have pain but I won’t quit trying to find improvements. I just began laser therapy. It might help.

I do have gratitude for how far I’ve come and I’m thankful I found this brilliant nerve surgeon who wanted to help me as best he could.

I am accepting that my body isn’t what I want to to be. But really if that’s a worry in my life I’m pretty blessed seeing where I was two years ago.

As far as my family issue. I’ve had to forgive and I have had to give much of this to God. I can’t control someone else’s journey and I accept that. And I accept that where i am now – on the edge of this persons life – that I can’t do anything but let them know they are loved. That’s what I can do.

I think maybe I’m in a growing phase. Learning that I can’t be in control all the time.

My two sons just graduated high school. I have been waiting for this day! I feel like we’ve finished the first of a set of hurdles. It’s been a ride. But they begin college in the fall and now it’s up to them. They have all the tools to succeed.

Then going away is bittersweet for me. My role as Mom will change. It already has. Though I’m still buying the things on the “what to bring” list the College provides. It has to get done by someone and they seem oblivious to the fact that College is six weeks away. I, however, am ever aware. But soon I have to let go. I have to say “you need to try to figure this out  “ and let them muddl through.

Part of me can’t wait to boot them out the door. The other part is terrified. This is another thing I have to find acceptance with. I have to let go. I don’t know if I’ll grapple with the empty nest thing, I have my mom living here so I still have a bird in the nest to care for. But I think I’ll miss them more than I am imaging now. . And I know it’s time for them to fly.

But the acceptance comes with letting them do the flying. Letting them steer their course. I know they’ll need me once in a while. (At least for $). But I have to give this one to God and let go of my need to be in charge. I will always be their biggest fan even if they don’t realize it.

I also wonder what do I want to do? If I could catch up on all the things I’m behind on what do I want to do? There’s so many things. Some not attainable now. And some doable.

Since I had cancer I’ve been on this “you gotta live now” motto. And since I’ve been feeling better and have had less pain I want to avoid putting off things for later -when I can. But I can’t do all the things on my list now bc I have responsibilities to others that are a priority. I’ve had to accept this knowing it’s ok to take things a step at a time.

But my biggest question is who do I want to be now that all my kids will be gone from home? I think this is something that I’ll have to feel out.

If anything – I have begun to accept that I don’t always have immediate answers for so much in my life. I am learning to accept that sometimes we just have to wait and see.

And there is some excitement in that for me.