Random thoughts, ideas and pictures of a multi-tasking, yarn-addicted Lady Lawyer

Yes... I really DO have 5 kids

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The roller coaster ride

There is no place to start except at the happy ending... no way to explain these last few weeks without starting from right now so I am quoting myself from an Air Force parent's group that I belong to:

And then there are the AWESOME recruiters!!!!!! Despite advice to do so, I had not called my son's recruiter and have spent ALL week waiting for the daily call in which my son tells me his weight is unimportant because of his BMI. NOT SO MUCH!!!!!! I am proud to report that, as of about an hour ago, my son is heading back to training!!!!! Another friend of his is in the enlistment process and called today to see how I was (SUCH nice kids). He was about to call their shared recruiter and I mentioned I had not done so all week because of what my son was telling me (which is that the TI said the recruiter had "screwed" up). I told my son's friend to make sure that he told the recruiter what had happened. A very few minutes later, my cell phone rang -- it was the recruiter who INSISTED that if my son was within weight, BMI wasn't an issue. I knew that, but my son kept telling us that he was being given different information and that he was going to be separated and that he was going to need to rebut the separation and that he was doing his best to work out on his own in medical. He was fully planning on fighting the separation because he wants to serve. This has been a HORRIBLE 5 days, folks. Anyway, my husband and I decided enough was enough and we BOTH got on the phone with Lackland's medical unit (because my son is a twit and put one of us each down on each authorization form so the WONDERFUL Sargent, and I mean that sincerely... he's going on my Christmas card list -- needed to determine which of us he could talk to -- welcome to my life). The Sargent pulled my son's file and was explaining weight requirements and BMI to me (which I knew by heart since Friday) when he paused and said "Oh... his weight is___ and I need to talk to my supervisor and then put eyes on [my son]." Apparently, the recruiter was also talking not only to Lackland, but to my son personally. The recruiter called us an hour ago, said my son was returning to training. That was all I heard before letting out a yell my son probably HEARD in Texas from PA. My husband took the phone because then I couldn't talk. The ONLY problem is that my son has missed 4 days of training and MAY be recycled instead of being returned to his flight (3 days is the limit). I am really hoping that the Air Force recognizes the mistake was on their end and let's him graduate on schedule, but am SO ok either way. I have not yet spoken to my son for an address call and his recruiter said we may NOT get one tonight (NO comment!). I'm thinking they are trying to decide where to put him at this point. Thank you all for your support... this Trainee's mom appreciates it a LOT!!!

So that's the end of the ride... the beginning was March 24th when my son's recruiter called and said that a specific job had opened up for which Jr. is qualified (as opposed to the general job for which he was currently scheduled to go to Basic Military Training on June 8th) but the catch was that Jr. would need to leave in 20 days (April 13th, Easter Monday). It is MUCH better to have a specific, contracted job when entering the Air Force so Jr. said ok. So much for MY plans of doing a joint Going Away/Chip's college Graduation/Jenny's 3rd birthday party! In 4 days, we pulled together a full-blown, GOD knows how many people were in my house PARTY for Jr. My oldest daughter and I had made lovely invitations for the party (that was not yet dated, but was going to be May 16th) -- there's a picture of the invitations Melissa and I made above. They were handed to guests on March 28th and I think the party went well given the SHORT notice (finishing school DOES pay off once in awhile!).

The time went FAST... Jr's stuff needed to be put into storage and then, 3 days before he left and on Good Friday, he went for his 72 hour call to his recruiter and his weight was borderline (I'm fat and I like everyone around me to be that way). He spent the ENTIRE weekend working out and drinking water until he STOPPED drinking water to avoid gaining weight. We dropped him off at his recruiter's office at about 3:30 on April 13th. Weight was still borderline -- they like them THIN in the Air Force -- but he weighed in fine at the enlistment center the next day and was on his way to Texas.

As a trainee's parent, you WAIT for that address call. I slept with my cell phone pillowed under my head -- NO idea if my kid was ok really (I knew he had gotten to San Antonio VERY early in the morning of April 15th after a bunch of weather-related flight delays). By that weekend though, I needed a massage desperately (despite my fatness, I am working out like a fiend myself and on weight watchers... SORE muscles). Don't you know, the SECOND I pulled out of my driveway that 1st Sunday morning, the kid calls and gives what I KNEW was a wrong address to his father! I finally figured out the address the NEXT Friday evening (April 24th). And then THE CALL came...

At about 8:45 p.m last Friday night, the home phone rang. The home phone DOES NOT ring often -- we all use our cells, but my cell was in my purse downstairs. The caller was Jr. who was telling us that he was being kicked out of the Air Force because his BMI was too high EVEN THOUGH he was within weight limits. He had been transfered out of his training squadron and into the medical unit. He told me all this in less than 2 minutes with someone SCREAMING at him to get off the phone. He said he would call me the next morning -- never called. Never called Sunday. We are completely insane with worry and confusion at this point. EVERYTHING, EVERY source, EVERY person we talked to said "if he's within his weight, it doesn't matter." That phrase was also contained in the Department of Defense memos I found online. NONE of this should be happening. All weekend long, we tried to contact Lackland -- phone rang and rang. Finally, on Monday, I got through to Lackland and then to the medical unit. A nice lady said "Does he have a girlfriend because he should have called" and then confirmed his BMI was going to get him separated from the Air Force. Junior then called a little bit later, told me he had NOT had a chance to call (because he had been on kitchen duty and then at church) and said he was being separated, but could fight it.

I have spoken to him BRIEFLY each day this week since Monday (i.e. 5-10 minute calls with BAD static on the line). In each call, we encouraged him to fight to stay in because he wouldn't be allowed to re-enlist for 6 months. He told us he wasn't allowed to work out (which the woman had told me too) and was trying to lose BMI on his own in what he called "the prison" because he couldn't train. The kid has, quite literally, been through Hell and back to serve his country. We should BE so lucky that there are more kids out there like my Mark Jr.

And my Chip. Today was a GOOD day all around when it became official that Chip will be graduating on Saturday from Kutztown University cum laude. He has also had a rough few weeks and the stuff with his brother has made those past two weeks even more difficult -- I'm afraid that Mark and I have been so worried about Jr. this week that we may not have told Chip how AMAZING we think he is and how proud we are that he has accomplished so much -- graduating with honors while working MANY hours during the Summer and even during the school year. Add his mascot duties and his volunteering to be a Big Brother to a local child.... Chip is also one of the good ones. Maybe we don't tell him that enough.

And then there is the "what have I learned" factor. I had sort of pre-written this part of this blog post weeks ago and have simply not posted it. I wanted to wait and see if I was proven wrong (and I WANTED to be proven wrong) about some of the people in my life. For several years, one of my best friends has been telling me (and she should take her OWN advice!) that I am surrounded by emotional vampires -- some friends, some family, some acquaintances -- and that these people are KILLING me because I cannot be the Go-To Girl to everyone. She has been telling me to take a scalpel to my life (my words, not hers) and to cut out the parts that aren't working. Not in a mean way (which is why the people aren't named here), but to walk away from those who take from me without EVER giving back, to step back from some of my volunteering (because it WILL get done by someone else) and to generally make an assessment of what is and is not important.

As with May of 1992, my son's enlistment was a watershed event in my life. If you are a family member and are reading this and you didn't text/email/call Mark Jr. OR me between the party and when he left -- or since to see if I'm ok since I have not been ok in weeks -- then you are NOT on my Christmas card list. If your response to us having to throw a party on 4 days notice was "next weekend is more convenient for me," -- you are NOT on my Christmas card list. If the fact that I have been forced to keep my cell phone on and charged and CANNOT take casual daily calls from outside Texas over the last few days for the most part -- you are NOT on my Christmas card list. If your good-bye to my son was to post on YOUR facebook page AFTER he left about how much you are going to miss him when you didn't bother to call HIM or text him or email him... well, enough said.

For the past four months, my life has been consumed with helping my son accomplish his goals. My true friends have been supportive even in the face of me slapping back at them because I am a mother watching her son have barrier after barrier thrown in his face -- including these past five days and including the death of his friend in February. Dates changing, not so great information, medical units and static filled telephone calls -- I like order in my life and these past few months have NOT been orderly.

For those of you who HAVE sent me text messages saying "just wanting to make sure you are ok" or who made me soup after I was a total WITCH to them yesterday or who have made sure that our family is hanging together.... we CANNOT thank you enough. For those of you who understood that this time has torn us apart and thrown us down to the ground and who have been there to catch us (and it is a LONG list of wonderful people)... Christmas (and Hanukkah) cards are on the way (in December). I thank God for you every night and I know that your prayers, energy and support have been important to Jr. in the past few weeks and knowing that you all "had his back" in the last week has HELPED. I hope you know who you are and don't hate me for the past month or so... I would deserve it from some of you.

And now... finally... I am going to try and sleep with the phone OFF. And MAN!!! Has my knitting been productive in the last month! Too bad little is FINISHED but I can take my knitting on the plane to Jr's BMT graduation in June (Michelle is on the "nice" list).

CRAP!! I really need to get ON a plane, don't I?!