There are a handful of days from my son’s life that stand out as extra special; days that I will never forget. He’s only 21, so, God willing, there will be many more, but as of now it is a small, cherished collection. I’ll never forget the day he was born. The day he started kindergarten. The day his high school basketball team unexpectedly won the CIF championship. The day he received his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Yesterday was a day to add to the collection. It was Service Selection Day at USNA, the day that my son, along with the rest of the senior class, learned what their jobs in the military would be after graduation. They submitted their requests at the beginning of this year, and the Navy tries to honor them as much as possible, but nothing is guaranteed. Senior naval officers consider Midshipmen performance and aptitude as well as the needs of the Navy in determining assignments. There is a great deal of anxiety and tension leading up to this day. For some, this is the culmination of years of hard work leading to a hoped-for realization of a specific goal.
My son has wanted to be a pilot since he was about four years old, and a Navy pilot since about ten. It was to achieve this goal that he applied for and won an Appointment to Annapolis. At the beginning of this year, he formally requested Navy Pilot as his first choice service selection.
Since he’s a son (and not a daughter) there was, quite typically, not a lot of conversation around Service Selection Day. He mentioned the date in passing several weeks ago, and I promptly put it on my calendar (in case he forgot to tell us and we had to ask what he would be doing the next five years.) But as the date approached, I sensed it was looming large in his mind. Last Sunday night, he brought the topic up and admitted he was nervous. He had no reason to doubt he would get pilot, but said he would be relieved to have the paper in hand. He said he would find out about 10 AM our time on Thursday.
So, here’s how Service Selection Day actually went down in our house. On Thursday morning, our cleaning lady was coming and we were rushing around getting the house ready. At around 8:30 AM, I noticed on Facebook that there was going to be a video feed of Service Selection Day for my son’s Company. So, I excitedly fumbled around on the computer and got a video feed of the empty Company ward room. While waiting for things to get going, we went back to getting the house ready. Finally, I saw a few guys file into the room on the screen and someone began talking about (as far as I could tell since it was garbled) their pay package (which I figured was the intro to Service Selection). I saw one of my son’s friends on the screen so I texted him to say I couldn’t really understand what anyone was saying in the video feed. Then I went back to the house.
Then my son called my husband’s cell phone, and my husband was trying to get my son on speaker and he ran to the computer to see if we could see him, and he was yelling into the phone that we had the ward room on the screen and that he should go in and we would be able to see him once Service Selection started. Meanwhile, my son is saying “Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad………DAD!, DAD!, DAD!……and finally, DAAAAAAAD!!!!!” And our son shouted, “I just got my Service Selection!” And we both said “What?!” And I said something about it not being 10:00 AM so how could he get his service selection already, and how come he wasn’t on the video feed? And then we both stopped and listened and then we heard that utter joy, that utter excitement in his voice as he continued. “I have good news!” We held our breath. “I got NAVY PILOT!!!!!!” I just remember screaming and jumping and hugging and crying a little bit. But mostly, I was incredibly relieved and happy.
After we hung up, I realized we were viewing the wrong video feed. We were watching an old session about their retirement program. And when we tried to watch a replay of the Service Selection video, we saw some of our son’s Company-mates, but not him. There had been a problem with the video feed and half of the session was not captured. But, you know, it wasn’t important. We saw how the process worked and some of his friends getting their service assignments. And hearing our son’s excited voice on the phone was pure gold.
I fired off several texts and messages with the big news and then headed over to my Gentle Yoga class. Which was absolutely the wrong place for me to go right then. I was as amped up as if I’d downed 4 or 5 Red Bulls, and trying to “center” myself and “breathe” was almost impossible.. I really should have done Zumba or some other activity that would’ve allowed me to jump and dance and sing, because that’s what I really needed to do.
Twenty-four hours later, I’m still amped up. I can sometimes let the “What If’s” cause me great anxiety, and the “What if he doesn’t get pilot” was especially distressing to consider. So I am feeling relief. I am extremely grateful that one of any mom’s worse nightmares – her child suffering a crushing disappointment – did not come to pass. But, more than that, I take great joy in seeing my son achieve an important step toward his dream. Unlike grade school, where my husband and I were right there to provide assistance, prodding and guidance, this achievement was due entirely to his own efforts. I could not be more proud.
Of course, there are more trials, tests and challenges ahead before the ultimate goal of Navy Jet Pilot is achieved. But now is not the time to worry about tomorrow, because I am content to savor this moment and cherish this day.