When Andy was seventeen, he announced that he had decided to join the Marine Corps. I cried for three days. I pictured him just as he pictured himself in the video games he played, jumping across rooftops and through abandoned buildings, shooting anything that moved. “College, sweetheart?” I asked in vain.
I know, though, he is doing exactly what he wanted to do. While his classmates dropped out of college one by one and came home with piles of student loan debt, Andy poured his heart and soul into his training and became a marksman and a rifle range instructor – not bad for a kid who never shot a gun in his life. But in between all the activity, he lives on a California Marine base, in a small room by himself.
He called home the other night, which means he must have been REALLY bored and lonely, to want to talk for a couple hours to his mother. When his buddies come by in the evening, he says all they want to do is go out and drink. I know he has gone with them in the past, enough to know that it’s something he really doesn’t like. Most of the time he declines to go with them and just stays in his room. He’s watched every movie ever made, played every xbox game known to man, and even read some of the books I sent him.
He’s chosen not to take the easy way out, just going out drinking every night after work. He’s borrowed a guitar from a friend and is learning how to play it by watching videos on YouTube. He went into town and got a weekend job at a Starbucks in a grocery store, so he’ll be learning how to be a barista and socializing with regular people. He’s looking into more college classes – the government took away their tuition credit for a while, but he says it’s reinstated now. He’s going to ask the chaplain if he needs any help, and he’s also thinking about a plot for a book he wants to write! Science fiction-ish, think Star Trek meets Charles Darwin.
I am so proud of him. He’s learning the difficult balancing act of being a friend to his mates yet choosing not to participate in activities in which he finds no meaning. He is sending money home for us to invest for him, instead of incurring mountains of student loan debt.
I don’t cry anymore; on the contrary, I am totally in awe of the decision he made and the dedication he shows. The Marines taught him to be a mature, responsible team player. On his own, he is curious and ambitious. I am not worried about him anymore. I know he will make a way for himself and succeed. I don’t worry overly much about him being in harm’s way, even in the Special Forces, because of all the intensive training they will receive and all the excellent men who will be with him.
And a son who calls home every few days to talk to his mother is a treasure to be cherished.