There are times when I am positive my parents are watching me from heaven just laughing away, now especially. My oldest is out of the house on his own, my middle son is beginning a career in the hospitality industry and my youngest is in high school.
My parents have been gone for a while now. Mom died when I was pregnant with my oldest so she never had the chance to hold my children and see them grow. Dad died five years later after a battle with Alzheimer’s and cancer. He met the oldest two, but didn’t really know who they were.
I’m at that interesting time in life when we aren’t quite empty nesters, but I can see it on the horizon. When my oldest left to study at The Citadel I knew he was where he wanted to be. It was the best experience for him. As he spread his wings and began to spend less and less time at home I began channelling my mother.
“We’d love to see you.” “Are you sure you can’t make it home over spring break?” “Oh, you won’t be home for the holidays?”
You see, when I was in college I worked in the athletic department at the University of Richmond. First I was a manager of the men’s basketball team. We had abbreviated Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. In the summers I worked in the sports information office and with the marketing office. I made it home for short little vacations here and there. When I left home in New Jersey for college at 17, I never returned to live there again.
When I find myself lamenting at the lack of time with my oldest son, I look back remember how I felt as a young adult. I loved my parents, but I was making my way in the world as an adult. I did call pretty often and wrote once in a while, but we really didn’t have time together. To me I was doing what they raised me to do, be on my own.
So today, as I find myself wondering where the time has gone and how much I miss talking with my oldest, I know my parents are smiling and saying to me, “See? Now you know how it feels!”
The 2013-2014 school year is drawing to a close. The knobs are no more and exams are right around the corner. The Class of 2014 can tell you the days and probably the minutes until graduation. The Class of 2018 are just beginning their early preparations for CSI and Matriculation Day. I’ve decided to list the advice by class.
To the parents of the Class of 2018.
I know right now you are preparing for high school graduation. It is an overwhelmingly wonderful time. Your soon-to-be knob is probably not thinking too far ahead. Trust me when I tell you the best gift you can give your soon to be knob, is their plain toe black oxford shoes. The best thing the soon-to-be knob can do for them self is to wear the shoes over the next few month to really get them broken in. Foot troubles that first month cause many knobs to miss out on activities.
Join the parent group on Facebook for the Class of 2018 parents. You will meet other new parents and a few parents of graduates are in the group to help answer your questions. Be careful what you post to other Facebook groups and pages. Gushing about your soon-to-be-knob on a public Facebook page is not a good idea. Let your family and friends know that advice too. Set the privacy settings on your Facebook page to Friends. When school starts and you see your knob in a photo don’t tag the photo. You can download it and post it to your personal page. Learn to use the search window on this blog and also on the school web site. The Citadel has a great website and includes just about all the information you’ll need to know over the four years.
Your cadets just finished the toughest year they have probably gone through in their young lives. Many cadets are so excited to no longer be part of the 4th Class system that they begin to get lax with their studies. Remind them it is a college they are attending.
Sophomore year is also referred to as knobmore year. They are no longer knobs but they are on the low wrung of the upperclass ladder. Even if they have rank, they are the lowest officers. Know that at some point sophomore your cadet they may again question if it is all worth it. They don’t question in the same way they did knob year, but it can happen.
Help them stayed focus on their school work. This year they have a little more freedom and will slowly become more like other college kids. Don’t be surprised if they do not spend their open weekends coming home.
To the Parents of the Class of 2016.
Junior year is a year of pretty major changes. The cadet officers have much more responsibility. They are used to the system and really are very similar to other college kids by now. Junior year at The Citadel has a few unique opportunities.
Some cadets decide to be Bond Volunteer Aspirants, or BVA’s, the group that tries out to become Summerall Guards. This means they are volunteering to go through some of the toughest months of their life. They may have rank, but are treated like knobs when they are with the current Summerall Guards. If your cadet decides to be a BVA know that they will have little to no time to them self. Let them be the ones to contact you. Remind them to keep their studies up.
The second half of their junior year they will receive blazer privileges. They will also have a ring sizing and an opportunity to try on their ring. See the Citadel Alumni Association page for more information on the requirements to received the ring.
Senior year is right around the corner. If you haven’t started a fund for the ring purchase start one now. The ring price depends on the price of gold. The past few years that means just over $1,000. Moms, if you want a ring, you better let your cadet know now. They run around $600.
The the Class of 2014 parents.
Congratulations. I am sure you are experiencing a mixture of emotions. Enjoy graduation week. The school has posted all the information for the week on the Commencement 2014 webpage.
If you can arrive in town early to see the various activities on campus. An award ceremony takes place on Thursday. This year the luncheon/reception for the new Lifetime members will be held on Thursday at lunch time. The baccalaureate service is Thursday afternoon.
Be sure your camera batteries are charged up for all the events. It goes by in a flash. The photos will help you relive this exciting weekend.
For parents of cadets who will commission into a branch of the military, arrive to the chapel early for the ceremony. After the ceremony the newly commissioned officers will leave the chapel and go outside to render their first salute. You will become a Blue Star family that day. Blue Star Mothers have chapters across the country.
NOTE: Use the search window of this blog to find previous entries on a variety of cadet related topics.
Last week I traveled to Charleston for the Monuments Men event on campus. Several months ago Professor Tiffany Silverman asked me to serve on the advisory committee for the event. It was a great way to learn more about the Fine Arts program at The Citadel and to meet some fascinating people.
It was a big event weekend in Charleston and the hotel rates were super high. I am grateful to my good friends for letting me stay at their home in Johns Island. Having the free accommodations meant I could stay through the weekend for the celebratory gathering after the event on Saturday.
Like most visits to The Citadel my time was packed with activities. Top on my priority list after attending the Monuments Men lecture by the author, Robert Edsel, was to finally meet Duane Wittman, father of SGT Aaron X. Wittman who was killed last year in Afghanistan. Aaron was a Citadel graduate and soldier in the same battalion as my son. If you’ve followed my blog you’ll know I attended the burial for Aaron at Arlington National Cemetery last winter. Since that time I’ve been in touch with Aaron’s friends and Duane to help get word out about the scholarship set up in Aaron’s name. The Wittman’s gave Aaron’s ring to the Band of Gold program at The Citadel. His ring was melted down and is part of the rings the Class of 2014 wear. Finally getting to meet Duane and a couple of Aaron’s friends was a big highlight of my weekend. They were in town for the Cooper River Bridge Run. About 150 people ran or walked in Aaron’s memory this year.
I managed to get some fun visits with cadets in as well. Some were planned an others were spontaneous meetings on campus. I was sure to get photos of cadets I know so I could share them with their moms. I also took a ton of photos of the parade Friday afternoon in the hope their family would catch a glimpse of their cadet. Friday evening I spent dinner with two knobs. It was fun to get to know these young men. After dinner and dropping them off on campus I gave rides to a few cadets who were heading to town. While they appreciate the ride, it is fun for me to meet these cadets and learn about them.
Saturday was a nice quiet day. The weather was great so I spent a few hours at Folly Beach writing before I had to get ready for the party. It was a terrific evening. We were hosted by the advisory committee chair at their home near the battery. I had a great time meeting the other guests including cadets from the Fine Arts program. I even had the chance to chat with Bill Murray. The basketball game was one so we talked basketball. I was thrilled to learn he knows of my alma mater, the University of Richmond Spiders. Unfortunately I think I was a bit too chatty and BIll soon made his excuses and headed for the food.
My traditional last stop before leaving Charleston is brunch at the Marina Variety Store. This trip was no different. I then go to campus for a rest stop and usually head home. This year a variation of my tradition included giving some knobs a ride into town and then three back to campus. It was a fitting end to a great weekend.
I am not sure when I will be able to visit Charleston again. Right before my trip last week I received a call that will change my life, and that of our family, for the next year. Back in January I interviewed for a residency position in the chaplains office of the VA hospital in Decatur, GA. When I interviewed they told me the funding should come through in February. Since it was April I had assumed they filled the four spots. It turned out they had not. The supervisor called last Wednesday morning and offered me one of the four residency positions. I will begin June 2. (that is, if I pass the physical and background check)
Clinical Pastoral Education or CPE is a program people go through for a variety of reasons. I’ve wanted to do this for years. It does take a lot of time and can be very demanding. Until now family obligations have kept me for applying. I’ve framed the support for Citadel parents as a type of chaplaincy. For years I’ve offered encouragement and support to journalists in much the same way as a chaplain would. This will be an opportunity to be in a group environment to learn and to grow. The VA is the only program I applied to. I felt the experience there, to work in an environment with veterans, will enhance the experiences I’ve had to date with members of the military.
I am feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I am excited for the opportunity and nervous because it will be a whole new experience. Ultimately I hope this experience will help me be a more informed and effective caring presence to the people I am in contact with in various roles.