By Dom Cioffi
My teenage son just finished his third week of military camp. Next weekend, after a month away, we will return to the campus to pick him up and bring him back home. We’re excited and curious at the same time, wondering if this grand experiment will unveil any results.
We sent our son to this military-style summer program not as a punishment, but as a way to boost his confidence and hopefully engrain a sense of responsibility into his behavior. We’ve never had an issue with him being unruly or acting out. On the contrary, he’s so laid back we’re afraid he’s going to fall into a coma.
But the main reason we sent him had to do with school. In this program, the cadets go to classes in the morning and then engage in a variety of outdoor and sport activities for the remainder of the day.
After I was diagnosed with cancer, all of our lives were derailed for a year. During that time, my son fell behind in school, ultimately losing confidence in his abilities. Our hope is that the combination of extra studies and character building exercises will initiate some much needed growth and maturity.
In the three weeks he’s been gone, we’ve only heard from him once – and this was only because his TAC officer forced him to at our begging. The correspondence was an email to me. It encompassed four thoughts in one sentence and included zero punctuation.
The email read, “i love you dad the food is good here moms is better I love it here.” I was thrilled with the acknowledgment of love; his mother was thrilled to think that he preferred her food.
The email arrived halfway through the second week. We’ve not heard from him since. But you know what? We’re okay with that. Knowing that he’s having a good time alleviates a ton of the anxiety that we were feeling.
On the opposite side of things, my son has received an email from me (usually with photos) every other day since he left. These are short notes with words of encouragement meant to cheer him on. I’ve also sent him three care packages, each containing a variety of treats. His mother, grandmother, aunts and uncles have also sent him numerous emails and cards.
While I’m certain he’s made good use of the snacks we’ve sent, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cards and emails have been left unread. That’s just how he rolls.
When I was a kid and off at camp, I always knew my mother would send me a card or two while I was away. They would always be colorful and fun and include a loving note from her. The envelopes would also be decorated with a variety of cartoons, her favorite being the “Kilroy Was Here” character made famous during WWII. (If this reference confuses you, Google the phrase and you’ll get the point).
I honestly believe that my lifelong love of drawing stems from her persistent need to decorate any blank space that warranted a doodle (envelopes being a great example).
She inspired me to do the same. As far back as I can remember, I haven’t been able to sign a birthday or get well card without also including a funny cartoon drawing.
After college I spent the next 20 years making birthday cards for friends and family, shunning the store-bought kind as impersonal. The pressures and time commitments of my job make this exercise a little more difficult these days but I still pop out the rare handmade card if an occasion warrants it.
Next Saturday our son takes his exams. On Sunday we will arrive for a special “graduation” before packing up his belongings to head home. I’m guessing he will sleep the entire ride back and then spend the next few days exaggerating how hard things were so he can chill for as long as possible.
I’ll certainly let him wind down. Getting through this is an accomplishment. And if he gets through this and gets good grades, well, that’s cause for a celebration – which I’ll be more than happen to plan.
This week’s film, “Skyscraper,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, features a different kind of daunting task – one that involves one man fighting against time to save his entire family.
In this picture, Johnson stars as a former FBI agent who now assesses risk for security systems in large buildings. He is hired by a Chinese company to oversee the construction of the world’s tallest building. Unfortunately, gangsters see the building as an opportunely to extort money by forcing mass strikes.
Check this one out if you’re in the mood for some high-wire thrills. It’s a summer blockbuster, for sure, so there’s lots of eye catching special effects. But with that, there’s very little in the way of a cohesive storyline.
An acrophobic “C” for “Skyscraper.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him firstname.lastname@example.org.