Home is the sailor, home from the sea:
Her far-borne canvas furled
The ship pours shining on the quay
The plunder of the world.
J.S. is home.
He graduated from his A School on Friday, May 12, 2017. He passed the training with a high enough grade point average to earn the statement “graduated with distinction.” The statement was mentioned in the program for the graduation ceremony and as he walked across the dais. I am so proud of him. He worked and studied like he had never done before. Eight hours of class and at least four hours of studying at night. Five days a week and sometimes he had watch for two hours on some of those school nights.
I flew down to his base on Wednesday, May 10. I nearly didn’t make it. A storm was rolling in and the tower was already issuing warnings. I flew Southwest and the stewards made it clear that they wanted to get in the air as much as I did. They told the passengers, in no uncertain terms, that they were to board quickly, in an orderly fashion. The passengers were to stow their things and find a seat, any seat. Quickly. We took off. I can’t remember feeling so relieved.
J.S. met me at the airport in his uniform. He looked great. I had rented a car and then returned him to base. The Navy has strict rules on where you are supposed to be and when. The freedoms that most people take for granted – staying out late, partying whenever or just doing what you want to do – J.S. does not have being in the military.
I explored on Thursday until J.S. was free. We had dinner with some of his friends. On Friday, the graduation was in the morning and then J.S. and I could explore the city. He wanted to see a decommissioned warship. I wanted to see an old Civil War fort. As it was his day, we went to the warship. But…before going to the warship, I noticed a helicopter. We bought the tickets for the helicopter ride. We took off and it was amazing. (I did see the Civil War fort from the sky. Good enough!) I hope it is something that J.S. will remember. In a helicopter, you get a feeling of freedom. And you wish you were a bird that can fly. And I had a slight pang of insight, J.S. had really taken off too. We did see the warship later.
We left early on Saturday morning to go home. During his week home, J.S. was to work at the recruiting station during his leave (so he wouldn’t actually lose leave time). However, he came to the understanding that everyone wanted to see him. No rest for the weary. He didn’t work at the recruiter’s station.
Home is the hunter from the hill:
Fast in the boundless snare
All flesh lies taken at his will.
And every fowl of the air.
It is wonderful to have him home. Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. He hasn’t changed, yet he has. Our schedules this week are chaotic. Who needs the car? Do we need more food? What is J.S. doing today? Does he need to wear his uniform? How much can we squeeze into the time we have with him? My feelings ricochet. Delighted to have him home. Sad knowing he has to leave again. Aggravated that he still leaves a trail of his stuff around the house. His younger brother is so happy to see him, that he doesn’t quite do with his emotions so he is stressed out.
He seems to be enjoying his time at home. He is relatively free. No one is commanding him do to something. He can mostly wear civilian clothes. (Except when his father or I ask that he wear a uniform so we can show him off.) He can eat when he wants. Sleep when he wants, in his own bed. He has more privacy than he has had in about six months. J.S. is thrilled to see our cats. Only in civilian clothes does he cuddle and play with them. Despite his best efforts, he will go home with cat fur.
When he goes to his home on base on Sunday, we all will have to say good-bye again. His friends will have to say goodbye again. The price of love is loss. I know I haven’t really lost him, but as he continues to mature, I have lost my little boy. The little boy I used to call “bear cub.”
I will learn to adjust again. We all will learn how to adjust again. And Jonathan will go back to guard duty for two months and then he will start his next school, Power School. It will last six months. During the next eight months, we will try to visit him.
I will miss him. I guess for a parent, the missing doesn’t stop. It only lessens. Perhaps this is how it should be. My only hope is that occasionally, he flies or comes home from the sea, to be with me and his family.
‘Tis evening on the moorland free,
The starlit wave is still:
Home is the sailor from the sea,
The hunter from the hill. (1)
(1) A.E. Houseman, poet, 26 March 1859 – 30 April 1936