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“It” – The Ninety-Second Goodbye

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Have you ever waited a long time for something bad to happen? The bad thing is not desired, yet relief occurs when the event has passed. Such was the infamous “90 Second Good-Bye.”


When I first learned of “It” in all its horrific-ness, I cried every time my brain would bring it to remembrance. Throughout the “graduation season,” there was a guaranteed cry-fest whenever I mentioned “It” to fellow moms (and dads) of seniors.


Life-altering events always arrive amidst a countdown. Reception Day (R-Day) at West Point was both life-altering and now upon us. The Eve had been spent triple-checking Clayton’s duffel bag and eating steak.


Everyone in our hotel was delivering a son or daughter to West Point. There was an uncanny seriousness in the air. However, I was amused that night to view several future New Cadets, mine included, circling the hotel parking lot, cell phones pressed to their ears. Last calls to friends before dropping off civilization’s radar for the seven weeks of Cadet Basis Training (Beast Barracks) soon to come.


The morning of “It” came quickly and early. Soon we were in front of Ike Hall joining the “Long Anxious Line,” enduring two hours of chatty stories about anybody’s West Point experience—complete with embellishments and urban legends. Clayton somberly inched his duffel bag forward, arms folded across his chest “Clayton-style,” offering few words.


Groups of forty soon-to-be New Cadets and their entourages of family were invited chunk-by-chunk into the auditorium for “It”, accompanied by a short briefing.


“It” had been peeking its ugly head around the corner for months. I couldn’t believe “It” was upon me.


Who can remember what the upfront person said or who-the-heck they were? “It” was coming: I bit the side of my cheek and tried to focus on not being a mom soon to give away her firstborn son.


The “It” lady appeared too soon at the microphone, “You now have 90 seconds to say ‘good-bye.’”


Hugs, pats, kisses, tears, admonishments whispered in secret filled the room. In thirty seconds my Clayton, holding his carefully-checked bag, was in line for the transition from civilian to military, separated only by an auditorium door. Twelve hundred ninety two stepped forward that R-Day from comfort, affirmation, hometown hero-status into a new world. On the door’s other side, superiors were immediately in their faces barking orders and initiating the longest day of their young lives.


“It” was over.


The door was shut on the past nineteen years. The unexpectedness of life … who could have predicted that “It” would end the chapter.

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