Our children are in our thoughts and on our hearts every moment of every day. I know mine sure are. But this week my boy has been the main character in the play rolling through my mind. I keep remembering him as a little kid, playing with GI Joe and Winnie the Pooh together. Struggling in school to learn to read & write, with a learning disability so complex that the doctors and experts never did figure it out. Having counselors talk to him about vocational diplomas while he was still in elementary school, then meeting an Army recruiter, asking him about enlisting someday, and the recruiter telling the boy that he had to have a regular HS diploma, no GED or other kind, to be in the Army. Watching that boy then throw himself into studying, him asking us to read his school books to him. He’d memorize as we read. That little boy was so determined. Not too many people ever saw that side of him, but we did. When he passed his FCAT on the first try, we knew he was going to get that HS diploma and join the Army. And, he did just that.
I try to fast-forward through the Army years whenever I reminisce on my son’s life. They were so filled with the darkness of life; the fears, the waiting, the worries, the missing him, knowing he suffered with each buddy’s death. He left us as a youngster, and returned a man; a husband, and father, and with a stronger faith in God than when he left home. He was very bruised and terribly battered, but strong, victorious, and still determined as ever. Our hero, complete with Bronze Star with Valor.
When he put himself through automotive school and became a mechanic, we were so proud of him. He had to study ten times harder than anyone else to overcome not just his old learning difficulties, but his Army related injuries as well, including constant pain, breathing problems, sleep apnea, PTS, and major short-term memory loss problems. We were relieved that he never did kill that miscreant in his class who thought it fun to sneak up behind him and drop a wrench. After graduation he landed a job with Ford and began working on diesels.
Then, to our amazement, he announced he was going to college for a Business Management degree. His determination kicked in to high gear once again. He quit his job at Ford and enrolled at Valencia. He’d go to his classes, then he would drive over to Chick-fil A to study. He studied every day, Monday through Friday and often on Saturday. For hours and hours and hours and hours. Some days, the children would join him there to bounce around in the play area while he studied. There are a lot of reasons why we love Chick-fil A, and that they happily allowed him to study there every day is right at the top of our list.
He also carved out time to get involved with his church, to join a Bible study small group, to help his friends and sister whenever they needed it, and do all the things that needed to be done in the every day course of life. Oh, yes, and become a certified NRA Firearms Safety Instructor in his “spare” time. But, mostly, he studied and did school work. He would come home at night, play with the kids, walk the dog, hug on his wife, read his Bible, collapse in bed for another sleepless night, and go back to studying again the next day.
Semester One: President’s List! Semester after semester, we celebrated as he made the President’s List again and again. Our determined little boy. He will always be that to us, even though we know he is a man, a great man, a wonderful man. We still see our little boy who loved to cuddle.
This weekend, we will watch him as he walks the stage in cap & gown and is handed his diploma. He will graduate from Valencia Community College, with honors, with an AS degree in Business Management.
Are we proud parents? With good reason! Our hearts are nearly bursting with joy! Will I be crying?