Thursday’s Challenge for March 15, 2012. “Departure”
I was thirty and my wife was twenty-nine when our oldest son was born. We waited five years for him to arrive. When he did he was a perfect baby except that he was born blue, had smaller left leg and arm than his right leg and arm and had webbed fingers on his left hand. He was a sickly baby even spending time in the hospital with pneumonia.
As he grew older more difficult experiences presented themselves for him. By age two the experts assessed him to determine he had developmental delays and in addition needed occupational and physical therapy. When he entered kindergarten he began receiving special education help in all areas. By third grade he began speech therapy. While he was in third grade he had surgery done on his hand and arm to separate his webbed fingers.
He was a patient and quiet child who was eager to please but nothing came easy for him. Even among his peers he was awkward. His quietness and awkwardness made him victims of many bullies. It would not have been as hard for him if he hadn’t had to move so often. His dad finished two degrees before he finished elementary school. It wasn’t that he couldn’t learn, he could but it just came so hard for him. When others ran though lessons he plodded like one trying to walk through thick waist deep mud. At least it was that way until he entered junior high school.
In the first month of Seventh grade there seemed to be magic in the air because almost over night he could read at grade level and by December he could read at a level three grades higher than the one he was in. His struggle in learning wasn’t over but it got much easier with this piece in place. By tenth grade he had moved again and had caught up in all areas of academics except writing. His writing was nearly impossible to read but it was becoming more legible as he progressed through his freshman year. His teachers ignoring special education law did not try to help him find ways around over or under this challenge. They only fought hard to keep him in their special education program on his way to receiving a special education high school diploma. He fought hard against this but was losing until his family moved again.
This time his family moved 2,700 miles away. He was able to begin again working towards his regular high school diploma. Life was destined to still be hard for him. He wanted to drive. He passed his permit test and the first time out with his father he totaled the car driving it in to a ditch.This was not to be his only disappointment. He was not allowed to graduate with his peers because he was one math credit shy of what the state said was needed to graduate. His counselors knew that he would need that credit a year earlier but he did not. In spite of yet another set back he kept on and earned his diploma at the end of summer school.
He wanted to be a nurse but so many things got in the way. Instead he became a patient care technician. For awhile this was good but he wanted to be a nurse. One fall he left to volunteer at an orphanage in Vietnam for three months. It was easy to say so long until we meet again since three months was not that long a time to wait to meet again . It was only 92 days or 2,208 hours. After 2,208 hours he was back home where he and his family met again. His parents deeply missed him while he was gone but to save him embarrassment they kept their thoughts to themselves.
After 14 months he needed to go again but not just for three months this time. This time he was to be to in Vietnam for a year in Vietnam. Like before he was volunteering but not at an orphanage at a hospital. A year his father thought, I can handle a year. It will be a long so long but I can do that. Somehow as he had made plans his father missed hearing him say, “And after the year is up i am going to Finland to attend nursing school for four years.” I am finally going to be a nurse.” The impact of at least five years of so long until we meet again was overwhelming to his father.
His father wanted to say, “Don’t go, you need to stay with your mother and father. Look at all we have been through together since you were so small.” His father wanted to say who will protect you from all that is bad like your mother and I have tried to do all these years. His father wanted to say don’t go and whole lot more but he just couldn’t. The eyes of a young man who had struggled for so long to have his dreams come true shined too brightly for his father to say that.
His father got a bit of the feeling that he knew he would feel in the pit of his stomach when he takes his son to Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta. He knows life will never be the same for both of them but he knows that it’s time for his son to spread his wings even if he has to soar so many thousands of miles away from those back in Georgia. His father knows that he will call out to his son,”So Long…..until we meet again my little boy who became a man.” He knows that as his son walks through the airport doors that he will be remembering his brother who passed away so many years ago and to be glad for when his brother told him, “It’s not goodbye, it’s so long until we meet again.”