Yesterday was a traumatic day for my youngest son. As a parent, it is so hard to stand by and watch a childhood dream be shattered. And when it happens, it is often difficult to find the words to comfort someone. Adults, well, we are a little more used to having our aspirations shattered; we have hit some brick walls in our life’s pursuits. But children, children seem to have this purity of heart that just fills those around them with a sense of renewal of spirit and an inherent joy – life has not gotten to them, yet. My son’s dream, almost as long as we can all remember, has been to fly. He dresses in military garb almost daily. He knows so much about planes, he is like a walking encyclopedia. He loves the science of flying. He loves the smell of plane engines. He loves the sounds the engines make and can often identify the plane simply by listening to the engines. He plays on his flight simulator so much of the time, we are used to having airplane sounds in our family room! He joined the Civil Air Patrol so he could have that “high and tight” military haircut and it would be justified! He could wear Air Force uniforms and stand at attention, be grilled on military facts, chase down and find all those little strings messing up the perfect uniform that his CAP officers are always looking for, and polishing boots – spit-shines! Being in CAP also propelled my son into learning how to use a steam iron and starch – so his uniform would be perfect for inspections. And being in CAP insures his learning to fly. He tells us almost daily which branch of the military he wants to fly for, and what type of plane he wants to fly. A couple of years ago we were talking about different types of flying and I mentioned helicopters. His response? “Mom, I am just not a rotary blade guy. I am a fixed wing man.” I think he was all of 12 at the time! When we lived in SoCal, in the town in which we lived, was a wonderful air museum. After going through some particularly rough homeschooling curriculum, we were advised to ease off and learn to enjoy our son and to help him learn through experience. It was suggested to find something he liked and let him explore it to its fullest extent. We knew right away it was anything to do with flying, so we joined the museum. I found myself taking books to read and just sitting in this one particular area where they were restoring this big plane. He would kill me if he knew that I cannot remember what type it is (it is like the Memphis Belle plane)! While I sat in a military camp chair in a hanger, he would go and visit the men working on this plane at least twice a week; more if we indulged him. Gradually he got to know the men, all of whom were WWII or Vietnam vets, and they encouraged his love of flying. They presented him with posters for his room when he could answer questions about their restoration project correctly. He was infected!!! He was going to be a pilot. Period. And I think he will always find himself around planes, in some capacity.
Yesterday, the eye doctor told him he would never fly for the military, or commercial airlines, because his eyes have degenerated too far. Now, my son is one of those stoics who rarely lets anyone see the real person. He was born that way. People used to ask us if he spoke at all, because he was so quiet in public, even as a toddler. As an infant, anyone could hold him and he never cried or complained. At home…completely different ballgame! Ha-Ha. Yesterday was no exception. I could see the pain in his eyes and in the way he shrunk about 2 inches in height. He just imploded upon himself. We had to choose glasses, because he now has to wear them all the time (prior to that, it was for seeing the chalkboard in a classroom) and so we had some chatter with the staff; he was pleasant but I knew he was roiling on the inside. The fun part was we ordered camo-styled glasses for every day and aviators for sunglasses! So he is still all in, insofar as military goes. The drive home was horrible. He was watching a DVD in the back seat, with the volume turned way up on his headset, and he kept letting out these huge sighs, while gently tapping his thigh. I wept, silently, at how quickly our dreams can be totally dashed on the rocks of this world. My baby was really hurting and it hurt me almost as much to see it happening.
When we got home, I immediately went to my computer and researched Lasik surgery and military pilots. There is an off-chance that with one of two procedures the military allows, he can still fly. I am calling that eye doctor today to let him know his presumptions about military regs is completely outdated!!! I don’t want him squashing another child’s dreams. And so we are starting a special savings account that all of us, even our son, will deposit into, specifically for his Lasik surgery. We have to wait until he is 16, at the youngest, so we have some time to invest in his future. He has four years to prepare himself for the military, and we can still support him with that goal. We do not know what the future will hold and with our move coming soon, our new home may provide experiences he has never had, allowing him to perhaps fly, but in a completely different way. God is good and I know this happened for a reason.
As I stood at the foot of the stairs, cradling my son as he wept into my shoulders, I cried right along with him. He whispered into my ear, “Mom, all I want to do is fly.” At that moment, it struck me – this is what being a family is all about. And I told him so. We are here to support one another, to pray for one another, and to assist one another when the road gets tough. No one is expected to go through life alone. We are community, and within our community, we are family. We are called to love one another; to love even our enemies. And I shared with him that we are still on that road to flight; there are just a few side trips we need to make. Sometimes we need to rest on the journey, as Mary and Joseph did on the Flight to Egypt. Sometimes we have to take side trips we had no intention of making, but which will make us better people for having made that journey. I also shared that God is faithful to us. He answers all our prayers, all the time. God will often answer in ways that may not be clear to us at the time, but which are for our benefit, and for helping us be closer to Him. As Elder Thaddeus said in his book, “God doesn’t need our prayers. We need our prayers.” Prayers help us center ourselves, quiet our minds, and get us back in tune with our Father, our Creator.
Our sons all have three names, in addition to their surname. They have a first, second, and middle, along with their last. We felt it was better to give them as many intercessors as they could get, and we all chose their confirmation names, together. This particular son has Michael and Thomas in his name, along with an apostle for his first name. I told him yesterday that if he does not ask these great Saints to intercede in prayer for him already, he needs to invoke their prayers now. St. Michael is the patron of all branches of the military. Ask St. Michael to lead your heart where it needs to go; your path where God would have you walk. We Catholics, Byzantines, and Orthodox all believe that everyone who is alive, or who has passed on to life with Christ, can pray for us. If I ask you to pray for me, you will oblige because you are my friend. The Saints walked before us and surround the Throne of God; we believe they belong to the Church – the Church Triumphant. They can pray for us, too. We do not pray TO them, but we ask them to pray for us. Just as we can feel the comfort when we know a prayer chain is invoking God for us, so, too, we can feel comfort when we know the Saints, who see the Face of God at all times, pray for us. The Church Militant is all of us, here, fighting the good fight and setting our sights on becoming part of the Church Triumphant, in Heaven, within sight of the Face of God.
My son is better today. We went to dinner and had decadent IHOP pancakes last night! Totally Lent approved, as in no meat, but totally spoiling us, as in sugar content. Sometimes breakfast for dinner can be a real treat! It was great to see my son smile and hug his dad across the booth from me. We all chatted and laughed about things other than his eyes. Then we talked about them, too. He said he feels like there is hope, where he did not feel any hope at the doctor’s office. He also said that he realizes there are other things out there for him, and that he wants to always be around planes, but he realized he can do other things, too. So that is a good thing. His world grew a little bit yesterday, and this morning, he is wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt – not a military uniform! (A bonus day for me! I get so tired of the military camo all the time!!). And when I hugged him today, he smiled and said, “I love you, mom.” Made my day!
Today my son is going to work on some science and some CAP exams he wants to pass so he can promote in rank. His outlook is good and his face is smiling. I know his heart is still hurting a little bit, but we are all determined to assist him in reaching his goals, as most families do for one another. I told him last night that his brothers and parents would do anything for him, even to move mountains, because we love him so much. Knowing you are loved helps facing any giants or dragons in life that much easier. God is good; He is always near.