Soldier Boy

It’s been a roller coaster of emotions this holiday season — from the general business of preparing for Christmas to the gamut of emotions we all experience this time of year. December marked the 5-year anniversary of our flight to freedom from my abusive ex-husband and Christmas Eve would have been the wedding anniversary with that ex-spouse. My kids have mixed feelings about all of this — appreciating their freedom and safety but wishing their father would have made better choices for the family. Bittersweet feelings about a wedding anniversary of the parents who don’t speak to each other any more. The heartbreak of having a father they can’t know or talk to because he’s residing in a prison 1,200 miles away. Not having their birth family intact for the holidays.

All the while they are experiencing the joy of the holidays and the appreciation they feel for their step-dad, whom they all love so much more than I think they ever believed they could — or wanted to. I see them during their extreme highs and their extreme lows. I can tell when they’re hurting, even though most times they don’t say anything. Sometimes we get through these times successfully and sometimes we fail miserably, but no matter what we keep walking together.

Amidst all of the holiday preparations and celebrations Vader asked if we would meet with an Army recruiter he’d been talking to at his high school. He’d taken some practice ASVABs and scored remarkably high and my son was excited to get all of the formalities out of the way in order to enlist. The meeting went well and we were able to set up formal ASVAB testing during Vader’s winter break from school. It turns out that he scored even higher on the real tests. My boy is so excited about enlisting. He’s to be sworn in next week. It’s moving so fast I haven’t had time to take a breath and process most of it, so I cry a lot — I’m so proud of him, yet the severing of the apron strings hurts.

Vader was groomed for service in the military by his father. Since my son was born, I was told that he was going to be a soldier. When we were free from his father I encouraged my son to do whatever he wanted and assured him that nobody expected him to become a soldier just because it was what his father expected of him. Now he’s come full circle and has chosen the military for himself.

Part of my tears are for what was lost for Vader. He can’t call his father and tell him what a huge success he has experienced with the ASVABs. It breaks my heart for my son, and it makes me angry at Rail yet again for the choices he made. He’s missing out on knowing these beautiful children and watching them grow into wonderful people. I don’t feel bad for him, but my heart breaks for my children who will always live with not just the repercussions of a broken home, but the void of the absentee father in prison. They couldn’t pick up the phone to share their good news even if they wanted to, and that makes a broken family all the more difficult to ‘fix’ — it’s another time where we just keep walking and try to figure it out as we go.

I am insanely proud of all of my kids. They’ve been through hell and back and they have all chosen to take those experiences and use them to overcome and thrive. My heart feels as if it might burst right now as I watch Vader transitioning from boy to man. I worry that he doesn’t realize how much I love him or that I’ll always be there to support him. Atticus reminds me that I don’t need to worry about that because if Vader doesn’t realize it now, it will come to him eventually.

Vader, I love you, I’m proud of you, and I’m your biggest cheerleader. I can’t wait to see what’s next for you — I believe great things are coming!