epiphany – n.
(1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
I was curled up in a ball, unable to get up off the floor, gasping for breath between the most horrifying howls coming from somewhere deep down inside. I will NEVER allow myself to feel that way again.
You have just joined my nervous breakdown, already in progress. The final straw that set all of this in motion.
The oldest of our five kids is freaking brilliant. I’m talking MENSA level stuff here. Neither my wife, nor I are quite sure where it came from, and very often we haven’t known what to do with it. You see, both of us are hardcore, right-brain creatives. For years we’ve been only half joking when we’ve said that we don’t have a left brain between us. Maybe that’s where he gets it.
One of the things that we found infinitely frustrating about our experience with the “education” system in this country is that it has in my estimation, devolved into an exercise of memorization in effort to pass standardized tests. Forget reasoning, argument and a host of other outdated concepts. More important to be “nice” and “play fair”. Our son was recognized over and over for his academic ability, yet year after year narrowly succeeded in passing to the next grade. The teachers continued to meet our concerns with assurances that “he’ll come around.” We were pretty sure he wouldn’t. This is not a “dumb” kid we’re talking about. My dad still shakes his head when he relays the story of how our 2 year old son “did the Rubix Cube.” He once turned in a math project… a game of bingo… in binary, because he could do it in his head. Call him a nerd and he thinks it’s a compliment. But in the winter of 2009, without even the prospect of a minimum wage job after graduation (those had all been filled by guys my age trying to make ends meet) and more school obviously not weighing heavily in the future options category, I happened to drive by a Coast Guard facility and had a much less painful epiphany.
At the time, we were living within earshot of United States Marine Corps Base, Quantico. A number of his friends had decided to look into joining the military, because at least they were still hiring. I am honest enough to admit that I was not willing to allow my 18 year old son to be sent off to Afghanistan, with the distinct possibility of returning in a bag. Does that make me un-patriotic? Guess that depends on your definition, but that’s how I felt. He had already taken the ASVAB and had an AFQT score in the 99th percentile. The Coast Guard also has some of the most respected IT training available (not that he was going to learn anything he hadn’t already been doing since his days typing DOS prompt commands to launch early computer kids games… also when he was 2!)
Having driven home in silence, after witnessing his induction ceremony and staring out the window as he boarded the bus for his plane ride to Cape May New Jersey, I took the dog out for a walk. I remember not hearing anything and being conscious of each footstep as I wandered up and down the street in front of our home. I walked back into the house and proceeded to collapse in a sobbing, howling heap. IT SUCKED! I still feel bad that my wife and my second son had to witness my complete unraveling.
The next few days began with mornings lying in bed, deciding whether or not to get up. Dragging myself upstairs and curling up for a few hours in the blanket he’s slept in during the days before shipping out.
I was paralyzed and it was terrifying.