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Leaving on a jet plane

Posted by markdohle , 24 January 2007 · 32 views

Leaving on a jet plane

I can still remember the morning that I woke up, on the day that I was going to leave home for the first time.  It was in August, the year was 1967 and I just graduated from High School.  I can remember waking up, looking up at the ceiling with this very strange feeling in the pit of my stomach, you know the feeling you get when you are about to enter the first long decent on a roller coaster ride, making promises to God that if you survive you will not get back on again, but of course you do…. well that was the feeling without the promises to God.  Part of me was very excited that I was about to embark on my first journey away from home, the other just wanted to lay in bed, hoping that I was dreaming and that I was really 16, having a bad dream.  Heck, even a first period at school of English, on a rainy Monday morning looked attractive, well only for a second, it wasn’t that bad.

I got up, could not eat, everything looked liked cardboard to me, so why bother to even try.  I entered the Navy with two High School friends and we were going to San Diego for boot camp.  We had to leave early, since the airport was in over on the “other side”.   A name used for the Pacific side of the Canal Zone; I lived on the Atlantic side.   It was a 50 mile journey, which was a long one, because it was often slow going when driving on the highway.  It was really one small town after another and the speed limits where often low, if I remember correctly much of the journey was at the 25 mile an hour range.  The trip was quiet, I was a bundle of conflicting emotions, one part wanting them to turn around and go back, the other really couldn’t wait to get on the plane.  I encouraged the second one, though that strange feeling in my stomach did not abate in anyway.  

I was the third to make this leap from the family nest.  Skip left in 1959, like me he was in the navy. He was seven years older and I think he stayed in the Navy for two terms. Robert the year before, in 1966, he joined the Air Force, and stayed in for one four year term, he was a fireman.  Back then it was either college or the military.  Since I lived on an army base for eight years, I decided the Navy was the best course of action.  A choice I did not regret.

We stopped off for some food when we got near the airport, and I was able to drink some coffee and ate a sweet role, which of course was tasteless.  I went to the bathroom, mostly to simply get some space and when I was coming back I saw that my mother was crying, which had a powerful affect  on me, since it was something that she seldom did.  I guess I only saw her cry once before, and then it really tore me up.  As I was approaching the table, one of the other mothers told her I was coming back and she quickly wiped her eyes, and pretended that everything was all right.  I sat down, still feeling like I was dreaming, or perhaps I was just waking up to something bigger and was still not used to it.  I felt bereft,  like something important was dying and there was nothing I could do about it, in fact did not want to, a strange place to be, wanting to climb back into the world I had before, but could not, it would no longer fit, and itching to get going even though I felt like I was in a car about to go over a cliff.

Pacheco (not sure about the spelling) and Michael, the two friends I was going with, were quiet like me. We would sometimes just look at each other and smile, but our eyes were not yet lit up with the excitement that we felt when we first joined the Navy.  It was the sort of look that said, “What have we stepped into this time”.  I wanted to look down at my shoes to see if they needed to be cleaned.   Pacheco I knew for a few years, he lived across the street from me, his dad was a sergeant in the army.  Michael came to Panama in his senior year of high school.   So I guess we were all happy we were not alone on this trip.

At the airport, we went to the waiting area, and I looked out at the TWA jet that was going to take us away.  I was proud of my mother and father, they were there for me, but did not make it more difficult by letting me on to what they were feeling.  I new they were sad, but they kept everything in check.  One of my friend’s mothers completely lost it, wailing, and hugging her son, but that was ok also, just glad it was not happening to me.  I don’t know how I would have reacted to something like that.  We were dying in a manner of speaking, moving on to something unknown, larger, leaving childhood behind, and becoming an adult, with all the fear and anxiety that goes with it.  The time came to board the plane.  It was awful to have such a clear line between being just a teenager, to suddenly stepping over the line and being an ‘adult’, whatever that meant, at the time I had no idea.  I am not always sure I understand what that means now.  In any case I hugged my mom, a long time, she kept her tears in check, and harder yet, to hug my dad, who gave me a big kiss and was tearing a little.  Of the two my dad could be the more emotional.  So I then turned, and died to my old life, walked down the tunnel to the outside, marched woodenly to the plane, got in, and looked out the window.  I could see my parents on the observation deck watching the plane.  My mother looking calm; chain smoking as usual, with my dad’s arms around her shoulder giving her his quiet support, something he was very good at.  Soon we were taxing down the runway. I looked out the window, and saw the air port, Panama, my childhood being left behind at great speed. I could feel my umbilical cord stretch, and then it was cut, painful but fast, and at least for a time the excitement of the journey over rode the fear and anxiety of what I was journeying toward.  It was then I knew that what I was doing was the best possible thing for me to do.

We all have rites of passage, and we each express it externally in different ways.  I remember the night before my brother, Robert, joined the Air force.  I don’t know what he was feeling but I felt ‘strange’ again, sad, anxious, also happy that I would have more room, always a premium in a big family…… but mostly not knowing what life would be like, with me then becoming the oldest of the eight remaining siblings, left at home.  

My brother did something that night for the first time, he smoked in front of my parents, or at least it was the first time I noticed it.  He seemed a little nervous when doing it, taking out his cig and lighting it.  My parents did not bat an eyelid, for they knew I think, like I did what it most likely represented for him.  It was his line that needed to be crossed, his first smoke in front of my parents, as an equal, and an adult for the first time.  Robert changed then for me, he was one of them. Just like me turning away from my parents, and walking toward the plane, I was one of them now.  It happens so quickly, these little deaths, one after anther, with the fear and anxiety that goes with it.  Perhaps without them we would not be able to face up and make choices that were conscious, and deliberate, who knows?

So forty years have passed quickly, and I am sure the years will continue to speed by, until that final line has to be stepped over.  Perhaps all the other little deaths are just practice for the big one.  I am sure for me there will be fear and anxiety, but then perhaps that will again allow me to make a conscious choice on how to face that final stepping over.





Very well written blog, thoughtful, profound, insightful. This is the first time I have read your blog but I willbe back to read more.

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QUOTE(Saint @ Jan 25 2007, 03:13 AM)
Very well written blog, thoughtful, profound, insightful. This is the first time I have read your blog but I willbe back to read more.

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Thank you very much.

Peace
Mark
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