Just last year--about exactly this time last year, as a matter of fact--Brent sat in the family room and said, "Mom and Dad, I need to talk to you." He then went on to tell us he'd decided to quit school at the end of the term and join the Marines. I don't remember the rest of the conversation because the tears were falling too hard and too fast. My baby! How could he do this to us? Why the military? Doesn't he understand that we might lose him? I'm not ready for this! For months, those thoughts and many more went through my head, and I cried at the drop of a hat. After every conversation with him. Often, at every thought of him.
For a long time, the Marines and his enlistment was the proverbial elephant in the room. I knew his departure was coming, but we didn't talk about it much. I just couldn't, and he couldn't bear to see me cry. So we talked of other things, and I continued to worry, mostly on my own time since all it seemed to do was strain our relationship. His ship date was delayed, then delayed again. All of it made me crazy. I was starting to accept the fact that he was going to go, but having it put off and put off made it seem like the bad dream that would never end. I wanted off the roller coaster--"Just GO already!"
Then came October, and he moved home. November flew by, and with it lots of laughs and fun times. Plenty of tears too, but this time they were not so much tears of fear but tears of loss. I remember clearly watching him eat breakfast at the kitchen table the Saturday before Thanksgiving and thinking, "This is the last time my baby will ever eat breakfast with us. Next time he sits at this table, he will be a MAN." And all of a sudden, it started getting intriguing--what kinds of changes would happen? What would the young man we see be like? I cried when we left him at the airport to report to his recruiter. We didn't go to Boise to see him sworn in. It's a really long drive with 2 preschoolers to watch a 30 second event. Maybe it was mistake. I will never know--I'm not looking back. These days I only look forward.
Now, I cry when I think about him. But it's not the same. Not at all. I see the boy I love becoming a man. I hear from others who have been with him that he is a "fine young man with great leadership skills and much to offer." I read his letters and weep with joy. He LIKES boot camp. Sure, there are things he doesn't love--the "moron recruits" he has to deal with, the drill instructor who reminds him of someone else in his past. You know what though? He sees--we ALL see--how much the 'hard stuff' of his past has prepared him to be successful as a Marine. Even spending 2 weeks in sick bay has been okay. He's growing and maturing in ways that college would never do for him. He's had to make hard changes, like leaving the platoon you are familiar with part way through training, then being dropped into a new platoon, where relationships have already been built and he's the new guy. Sounds like he's doing well with it all. God has shown us SO CLEARLY that He is ordering Brent's steps and has reassured us along the way.
Sunday, for instance, the phone rang during dinner. An older male voice on the other end said "Mrs. Kassebaum? This is Pastor xxx from Oceanside California." My heart sank to the floor. Why? Well, because on Saturday Brent and his new company moved from San Diego to Camp Pendleton, right there at Oceanside. I wasn't sure what to think. Turns out that the pastor spends time on Sunday at chapel with the recruits, talking with them and praying with and for them. He spent time with Brent. This pastor volunteered his time and money to call us for Brent! He let us know that Brent was healthy and ready to resume training. He gave us Brent's new address (which I still don't have via postal mail!) so we can write to him--he hasn't had mail since before Christmas!! He let us know that the Chaplain at Camp Pendleton was a fantastic man of God, and that there were 9 baptisms(!) at chapel that morning. He then went on to say that they typically do 4 or 5 a week at Camp Pendleton! Whoever said that God wasn't in the military never went to Marine Corps boot camp, apparently! How many churches would love to do 4 or 5 baptisms a week???
I am SO PROUD of my guy! Can't wait to get there and see him graduate in a few weeks. Can't wait to share what we've seen God do for him while he's been gone. Can't wait to hear him tell us about how things have been. This week, for instance, has been incredibly nasty. They had 2 tornados touch down at Camp Pendleton yesterday. No injuries or damage, but it must be hard to do marksmanship training in the weather they've had. I've been reading the recruit parents message board and seeing God work there. Total strangers, tied together by their sons, have become extended family. Another company just did their final push this week--54 hours of non-stop exercises. All 450 of them made it. Tears of joy rolled down my face for these young men, and I don't even know any of them! Their hard work and determination has paid off. I can't wait for Brent to get to that point! He's almost to the halfway point of training, and we are starting to get excited about it all.
Quite a change from last year at this point. Now, my kitchen has never been cleaner in all the years we've lived in this house. :) I find it to be a great way to keep from worrying, and to keep my body busy with mindless work so I can focus on praying for Brent and his fellow recruits. And the guys he was with in the beginning of training--I never expected to feel such kinship with those families.
One of the things that will happen soon? I'm going to get myself a new sweatshirt. I've always worn sweatshirts showing our affiliation with basketball teams and schools that our children are involved in. I can think of nothing I'd rather wear, though, than a sweatshirt that says "Marine Mom" I don't think I've ever been more proud of my son. My Marine.
Love you buddy!!