Friday, May 8, 2009

The End of an Era

Provided, of course, that they pass, the plebes at West Point had their last class as plebes today. Tomorrow begin the TEE's, "Term End Exams" by the Army's fondness for acronyms, commonly known in the civilian world as "finals." And just like that, M and his classmates will be through 1/4 of their career as West Point cadets.

Impossible! Well, it sure seems that way. It is the tritest and tiredest of cliches to say that time flies, but, as cliches are wont to be, oh, how true. Actually, if there were something faster than flying, that is what time would do...At least from my point of view. M suggests that the year went a lot faster for me than it did for him. ;-)

I've been remembering and reminiscing with myself about this time last year. The countdown chain, which once draped around three sides of the room and ended in a puddle of colored paper links on the floor in the corner, was down to barely stretching along one wall, and we were frantically trying to keep up.

Admission papers, medical forms, shot records, parking passes, reporting instructions, bus schedules, packing lists, hotel reservations, plane tickets, rental car information, google maps, snacks for the airplane, a ride to the airport.... Did I forget anything? Maybe not, because everything went smoothly. Well, there were a few quirks and glitches along the way, but overall the trip was uneventful, and when it was over, we were all present and accounted for.

I remember, and thank God for, the hot and heavy e-traffic on the candidate-net where the newbie parents were huddled together in a fog, and friendly moderators had the answer to every question. Now we are seasoned veterans of a year of plebe-net, where a whole day can actually go by without an emergency or even an inquiry or comment.

So now it's someone else's turn. Right now, there are approximately 1,300 cadet candidates all over the country stressing out about things that we are now taking in stride. And if there are that many cadet candidates out there, there are twice that many parents ~ and more, in this age of step families when pairents no longer necessarily come in pairs ~ freaking out about turning their children over to Uncle Sam and their own personal Trail of Tears that will follow.

By this time, all of us, plebes and parents, have come to terms with some of the basic changes in our lives. We have become resigned to the fact that USMA now has first claim on them. Our plebes remain our kidlets, but we have been relieved of responsibility and authority. Oddly, I have a bittersweet feeling about the whole thing.

The bitter part is easy: no more M coming home every night; he will still come to visit, but the time of him actually living at home is getting shorter and shorter. Already his shouldabeen three-week leave of this summer has been abbreviated to four days, and we wouldn't even have that if not for the kindness and generosity of an airline employee who graciously offered M a buddy pass for the trip home.

The sweet part is harder. What is there that's sweet about the end of our family life? Well...mainly that it is as it should be. No matter that we might not like or want it, there is rightness in kidlets growing up and leaving home. This past year, we have all learned a lot about ourselves and about each other. And of course, memories.

After next week, M and the Class of 2012 will be rising yuks, going on to bigger things, and the misery of Beast Barracks will fall to the hapless candidates of 2013. So here's a toast to the end of plebedom, with a hope and a prayer for the new yuks. ;-) Only 36 months to go!

What a difference a year makes.


Just Say No to Cardinals said...

I love you!

jlbo1981 said...

And God Bless all those Plebes that have so graciously consented to serve our country and keep us all safe, and special thanks to the parents of all those Plebes for raising such fine and honorable sons and daughters.