January 2018, La Guardia Airport. The moment I had been dreading arrived--the moment I had to say goodbye to my son, who was returning to the Army boot camp after holiday leave. I admit that while I refused to allow this moment to color my time with my son, I thought about it every day no matter how hard I resisted. The thought of goodbye was always there in the back of mind reminding me that these blissful, blessed days would not last forever.
I promised myself I wouldn’t completely lose it. I thought that surrounded by the volume of people swirling around us at the airport, I’d be distracted enough to keep it together. I didn’t want my son’s last glimpse of his mother to be one where she was sobbing her heart out. (Although in full disclosure, he’s known for years that his mom is a big-time crier.)
I knew goodbye would be a formidable challenge. As my son readied himself to head to the security checkpoint, I could feel my throat beginning to close and the heaviness in my heart increasing by the second. My husband sensed the storm brewing inside me and squeezed my hand, which only made the emotions I was feeling more searing.
I stood and faced my handsome son and took a breath. I met his deep, chocolate brown eyes framed by the long, thick lashes that have had me under their spell since the first moment they looked into mine. I pushed down the apple-sized lump in my throat and prayed for strength. I thought I had control; I thought I was okay, but then it all came rushing and swirling around me in living color--the moment the doctor said “It’s a boy!” . . . his first words . . . his first steps . . . growing up way too fast and becoming a man in front of our eyes . . . and the words that would forever define us . . . “Mom, Dad . . . I want to enlist in the Army after I graduate.”
The memories came at me relentlessly and the impact of them was so forceful I thought I’d sink to my knees. But then something strange occurred. In this moment of pure heartbreak came a moment of overwhelming joy and gratitude for every day of my life that this fine young man has called me mom.
I choked back the flood of tears and held my son as closely as I could until I knew I had to let go. And so I did. My son gave us a smile and a wave as he headed off to continue chasing his long-held dreams. I let him go because it was time. I let him go because he is destined to do great things in this world. I let him go because I love him too much to keep him from doing what he’s always dreamed of doing. I held onto my husband until I lost sight of our son in the crowd of people.
The tears came on cue, but they weren’t tears of sadness, they were tears of great love, pride and gratitude. We raised an incredible young man and it was his time to fly now, and my time to watch him soar. And so, I gathered up all my strength - after all, I am an Army mom now - and slipped my hand into my husband’s as we headed to the car. I said to my husband, “We did good, didn’t we?” I only had to look into his eyes to see the answer to that question.