Ancient Greek pottery at the San Antonio Museum of Art.

PictureAirman Brian E. Smith, 2017.

My husband and I returned yesterday evening from a trip to San Antonio, TX. Having never been to that part of the country before, we expected autumn temperatures warmer than Ohio’s, but the 90-degree weather and high humidity we experienced just felt wrong. With its landscape seared brown by the heat, south central Texas isn’t a pretty place. The cool, damp weather of Ohio in November feels like autumn should.

We saw several of the usual attractions, including the famed Riverwalk and old Spanish Market. I toured the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Buckhorn Museum. We ate at Mi Tiera (thanks, Lyndean, for the recommendation!) and visited Lulu’s for a 3 lb. cinnamon roll. We ate at some small mom-and-pop Mexican restaurants (excellent) and at the Hungry Farmer, a steakhouse (also excellent). It was also good to see an old friend from college, Jenny, plus her husband and their son who all live in Austin. But mostly, we concentrated on the limited time allotted to visit with our younger son, Brian, now a newly graduated airman. This serious young man surely can’t be the cute, cheerful, and chubby toddler I once cuddled in my lap.

This is what the “experts” never tell mention about parenthood: that saying good-bye over and over tears a parent’s heart. We said good-bye when he enlisted. We said good-bye again when visitation ended. He’ll come to visit us–we expect him for Christmas–and then we’ll say good-bye again. And again. And again.

Special thanks go to Tiki, Greg, Adam, and Natalie, who drove to San Antonio to visit with us and congratulate Brian in person. Our older son, Matt, begged indulgence from his professors to allow him the opportunity to attend his brother’s graduation from basic military training. We’re glad to say that Matt was able to make the journey, so we could spend time together as a family.

What will Brian remember from our visit? Probably the relaxed pace after the graduation ceremony, with people asking him what he wanted to do. He may remember the indulgence of a long, hard nap in the cool comfort of our hotel room. He may even remember how Mom and Dad wept, first with pride and joy and then with sorrow because we had to say good-bye again.

Brian ships out again soon. The Air Force is sending him to Pensacola, FL for training. He’ll spend most of the winter there and then be assigned to a duty station where he’ll likely spend the next three years. The boy who refused to plan ahead on homework assignments is now speaking about the next 30 years of service to his country.

Basic training has turned a volatile, moody boy into someone steady and mature–but without destroying his quirky sense of humor. I suspect that sense of humor has been necessary to get him through the rigors of military basic training. My boy has realized he’s stronger and tougher than he thought. From our few days together, I can say with confidence that the Air Force has built Brian into an improved, better version of himself.

Where he once slouched, he now stands tall, so much so that I swear he grew another inch or two. From his anecdotes, it’s apparent that his military training instructors (MTI) recognized his good qualities, namely his empathy for others. When one of his fellow recruits became sick or injured, they assigned Brian to see to their well-being. It also shows that he’d become dependable: the MTIs knew this young recruit would follow orders.

I’m proud of him. His father is proud of him. His entire family is proud of him.

Congratulations, Airman Brian! Your life’s adventure is just beginning.