My Navy buddy Jenn hijacked my day by sending me an invite to join a coolie cool website (database? forum? online thingie?) called Together We Served. The point is to connect people who were in the Navy together. I spent the better part of the day avoiding the work I was supposed to be doing (=writing) by filling in the online questionnaires in my profile (=writing). Sadly I don't think my word count for the one translates to the other. On the flip side, I found a couple of long lost buddies on there. I also spent a considerable amount of time staring at the wall remembering those times - those very weird times.
I was 17 when I went to boot camp. I think of Bug who turned 16 a couple of months ago and of Chaos who is fixing to turn 15 in June. Seventeen felt old enough for me to leave home but I can't imagine my sons leaving home so soon. Chaos keeps talking about joining the service (the Army) after he graduates from high school instead of going to college. Can I tell you how much I hate that idea? (Not just the idea of the Army instead of the Navy - but the idea of him serving the Powers That Be at all. I joined for all the right reasons - I was patriotic and couldn't imagine not serving - but the equation is different now it seems. I don't want their precious lives being squandered.) I don't say anything against it - I just let it slide, hoping he changes his mind. I'll support him all the way if it's what he does decide to do (even if I am cringing inside that he wants to be a ground pounder) but you better believe I will be in that recruiter's office with him to make sure he gets the best deal he can.
While my friends were at sorority mixers and keg parties, I was in the Navy learning to say things like "multiple re-entry vehicle" in Russian. (Well that and things like "very pencil" which is the first thing I learned to say in Russian (the week before classes started), but I learned it from a guy who turned out to be an Arab linguist so it doesn't count. It also doesn't make any more sense in Russian in case you were wondering.) But back to the multiple re-entry vehicles...You know how when you learn a language, you usually have lists of vocabulary words? And you know how teachers always make you write sentences using your vocabulary words from the list each week? Do you have any idea how hard it is to write sentences that make even a modicum of sense when your vocabulary lists are generated by the armed services?? There was one module (Mod VII - we called it the "luurve mod") where the nouns were all hardware - submachine gun (automatic weapon), bomb, mine, mortar, gun (heavy weapon), cannon, MRV, etc. Then they gave us one verb - to love. Riiiiight. Our sentences that week were all "I love automatic weapons. You love bombs. He loves mines and mortars. We love heavy weapons. They love multiple re-entry vehicles." I have to say that the whole experience was a bit surreal.
I still have all my old letters and notes and things from that time. (I'm a writer! I never throw away things people have written me.) It's a bit pathetic to have love letters in languages you can't read anymore. I spent most of an hour trying to decipher what turned out to be a note we passed back in forth in class deciding what time we were going to work out at the gym. I used to be able to recognize the words "Wash Me" in about ten languages because I had a '65 Mustang and people thought it was funny to draw in the dust on her door panels. God, I loved that car! I have so many great memories from that time. I also have a dark hole smack in the middle of my memory of that time and PTSD that can be traced straight to that dark hole.
I am still really close with several of the friends I made then - and today (on the site) I saw the profiles of some buddies I'd lost touch with. (I also saw the profile of a guy I dated briefly who once got jealous (and drunk) and shook me so hard up against a brico brick wall in his rage that he gave me a concussion. Jerk. You'd think I'd be over that by now, but you know what? I'm not. Still, he had a nice smile in his profile picture. I hope he grew up to be less of an ass hat.)
This past spring I made a pilgrimage of sorts back to where I was stationed twenty years ago and put to rest some ghosts. I reconnected with my teacher. We had one main teacher - for 8 hours a day, five days a week, for 47 weeks. I had one of the best and it was GREAT to see her after all this time. I'm so glad I made that trip in April because it made today easier. Today I got to think about the great times I had back then without the bad times overshadowing it. I remembered all kinds of fun, little details I'd forgotten about parties and outings. (Egad - there are pictures of me drinking beer out of a funnel/surgical tube contraption. I DO NOT want my sons to see those! Honestly, I don't have any idea what we were even doing. I mean, what was the point? Can, funnel, hose - why not just drink out of the can?) After all the time spent staring at the wall lost in reminisces and shivering in today's 25 degree pre-storm grayness - the strangest realization for me is that how much I want this to be my next triathlon. I think I'm going to try to talk my Navy buddies into doing it with me - even if only as an excuse to try to get us all together back in our old stomping grounds.
PS - School has already been canceled for the rest of the week here so if I don't post tomorrow it's because my children have driven me up a wall and I'm hovering there. Also everyone think good (and contraction-y) thoughts for St. Ann who is due to deliver any day now. What better day to deliver than on the day of the full moon in the middle of a winter storm? Go baby!