Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vacation - Part 1

So, my vacation is coming to a close, and as I reflect on the past seven days, it seems like an eternity. I started off by flying to Denver, and then driving to Cheyenne, Wyoming. I made my way to the Wyoming Air National Guard Base and found my son Matthew. Seeing him walk over to me at the guard shack hit me like a ton of bricks. He is no longer the little boy I taught to ice skate, no longer the teenager I schlepped to ice rinks from Detroit Lakes to Philly. He somehow had grown up and become a young man. When did that happen?

After signing me into the guard base, he took me to his squadron and introduced me to his new found friends and co-workers. With obvious pride, he took me to the plane he is assigned to, and showed me around the C-130. He appeared happy, content, and confident with the choices he made to join the Air Force. He showed me his dorm, and the town that is now his temporary home. He pointed out antelope as they roamed F.E Warren Air Force Base.

Saturday morning came early, and soon we were on the way to Denver- with a stop at a local Harley dealer- I mean- i did have to buy shirts. Then it was on to Nederland, Colorado in the Rockies. I do believe this is where hippies and old VW buses came to finish their lives. Matt wanted to take me horse back riding at a place he had found- (this was gonna be good-my fat ass on a horse...). We saddled up- and I took off on ‘Abby’, a lovely quarter horse mix who I believe could sense that I was not an equestrian. After a lovely (and I really do mean that) 2 hour ride, we returned to the stables, and set off in search of food. Matt knew of a nice place in town, so off we went. After a snack, we were going to head to Denver - however I saw a gift shop I wanted to check out. Seems it was something other that a gift shop. Much to my surprise, in Colorado, it is permissible to buy marijuana if you have a prescription- yeah, ok, right- whatever. Matt’s information saved me from going in to a place I did not want to visit. We set off for Denver and further adventure.

Matt knew of a great Brazilian restaurant that serves rodizio- probably our favorite meal. We found our way and went to dinner- (shout out to Taylor who took great care of us) and we were joined by a lovely young lady who is a friend of Matt’s- very pretty, polite young girl who is studying to be a teacher. After dinner- it was a trip to FOCO to play hockey at NOCO -

Sunday brought shopping and sightseeing. Matt helped me choose some clothing for Monday as he wasn’t impressed by my selections. Afterwards we headed south to Colorado Springs for the main reason of the trip- a visit to the US Air Force Academy. You see, Matt wants to go there, and as an active duty airman, can go in thru the LEAD program.

I noticed the exit sign for the academy and felt a hard lump in my throat. Matt was all grown up, a young man, responsible, a member of the armed forces, and he wanted to go to the academy. As we pulled off the interstate, I could see the Air Force Chapel in the distance. It really hit home what my youngest son was trying to do.

We checked in to the base lodging facility and started looking around. Wild turkeys were all over the place on the ride to the visitor center. Matthew and I hiked over to the chapel- it is an incredible structure with an organ my grandfather would have loved to play. I felt a sense of peace as I went through the main sanctuary. You can see all of the buildings from the chapel plaza, and we spent some time checking out the buildings and talking about Matt’s dreams and desires.

Later that night i found an ice rink, and Matt went to play pick up hockey. On the way home, i was beat- and can say I was almost sound asleep when he woke me and said “You need to see this!”. As he whipped his truck around, I saw what i thought was a buck, about 10 points- his rack was incredible, broad and strong. As I never was a student of animal husbandry, Matt explained it was not a deer, but an ELK! As our eyes adjusted, it wasn’t just one, but more like 6 or 7. I guess they were used to humans gawking at them, because they never moved, never appeared frightened, just munched on the greenery around them .

Monday morning came early and I tried to make sure that I looked good for Matthew’s sake. He looked so handsome in his AF uniform. He took great pride in his appearance- and it showed. For me, he had chose an olive belted dress with some black high heels. He had cautioned me about the dress that was expected- business professional, and I did not want to let him down. Now- as an ER nurse- I can tell you how often I wear heels.......NEVER, so it was going to be a struggle.

As we arrived at Arnold Hall, I was shocked- I mean SHOCKED to see what prospective cadets considered appropriate dress- baggy shorts, dirty jeans, and wife beaters. The parents were just as bad, jeans, t shirts, and ill fitting clothing. Where was the respect? where was the decorum?

After a short briefing, Matthew was paired off with a cadet to spend the day academy style, and I was given a guided tour of the school. Words cannot describe what I saw- first class academics and resources, a sense of pride, honor and commitment. Young men and women putting themselves through the rigors of a service academy to achieve a goal, a dream, to make things just a bit better for the citizens of the US. I made it through the tour in my 4 inch heels, and was amazed at what my son wanted to take on. I know he has some hurdles, but he looks at them as tests and trials to help fulfill his dream.

I must give HUGE kudos to Miss Sharon Jones, USAF admissions, and Captain Eddie Cunningham of the LEAD program for taking such a personal, active interest in my son. They didn’t blow smoke, or make it all rosy- they laid out exactly how hard and strenuous it is not only to get in, but to stay in, and Matt is willing to take on that challenge.

Last but not least, we had to check out the hockey situation. The rink is situated in the field house, and has many banners to represent the success of the USAF hockey team. Matt was able to make contact with an assistant coach and was urged to try out for the team if he chooses to go to the academy.

Tuesday morning found us in Denver and taking off on part 2 of the adventure. This was the hard part- saying goodbye to the young man who once was my baby. I felt a flood of emotions, sadness, loss and emptiness. My young man, while he loves me- is grown up, and can survive on his own. We flew together to Spokane, and shortly his flight to Seattle was called. I hugged him tightly and could not stop the tears from falling. In true Matthew fashion, he told me I better not start that sh*t. Someday, when he he is telling his child good bye, he will understand the tears that I tried so hard to hold back.


Diva said...

*sniffle* *tear* *sob*

I'm so happy for your relationship with Matt and overjoyed that you had such a wonderful time with him!