Prodigal Sons

My baby is coming home next week!  Finally, after ten weeks at college, my son is returning for fall break.  Some days, it seems like yesterday we left him in his dorm room.  Other days, it seems like ten years since he was last at home.

I’ve seen him twice since he started school. Once for a quick lunch on Labor Day when we were passing through on our way home from the beach.  He couldn’t get rid of us fast enough–after a shopping trip to Target, of course.  The second time, we met him at a UGA football game.  It was his first college road trip!  I won’t discuss the logistics of his return trip to USC that weekend.   Suffice it to say, I didn’t sleep until he arrived back in his dorm sometime  in the wee hours Sunday morning.

What I’ve learned during these ten weeks is this:  It is best not to know everything about your child’s life once they’ve left the nest.  I sleep better.

There are exceptions, however.  Like when he’s been rushed by ambulance to the ER in the middle of the night with pneumonia.  Apparently, even though I pay the bills, the University feels I don’t really need to know this information.  He’s 18 and there’s that whole HIPA thing and all.  Yada, yada, I get it.  He’s considered an adult, but seriously, not even a phone call?    My son is on the mend—I hope—and things could have been a lot worse.  At least he’s only three hours away.  At least there’s decent medical care.  At least his roommate is an Eagle Scout. (Bless you, James!)

But, all this got me thinking about my brother and sister-in-law.  My worries are minor compared to theirs.  You see, while my teenage son went off to college this summer, their teenage son went off to war.  While I shopped for down comforters, shower caddies and a mini fridge, my brother and his wife were shopping for body armor and walkie-talkies.  I know, the government is supposed to provide these, but we’ll table that rant for another day.

My nephew, Sean, is a Marine. A very proud Marine.   A member of the 1/6 Bravo Company, 3rd Platoon, currently serving in Afghanistan.  Sean has wanted to be in the military since he was a very young boy.  He is bright, compassionate, and hard working, with a wonderfully supportive family; parents and siblings who love and support him.  There were other options available to him after high school. Did we all try to encourage him to take a different path to his dream of serving in the military? Sure.  But in the end, it was his dream to live and, once he was 18-years-old, he had the ability to make it a reality.

He wanted to “sleep in the dirt”.  Yeah, he’s discovered it’s pretty dusty and dirty in the wilds of the Afghan hill country.  He wanted to defend the United States from those who would do us harm.  So far, according to his Facebook posts, he’s fighting kids and old men.  Definitely a disappointment to an idealistic teenager.   Some of us learn earlier than others that living one’s dream isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

But I’m proud of my nephew.  He knew what he wanted and went after it.  Not many teenagers can say the same this early in their young lives.

No matter what you think of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, remember those who serve in our military do so by choice.  It’s their job.  Whether they chose it out of a sense of duty, like Sean, or a need to provide for their families in these tough economic times, these men and women—and the families they leave behind—sacrifice a lot.   For that, I say thank you.

We’re planning special meals and fun activities for my son’s fall break next week.  But, we’ll save the big celebration for when Sean comes home. 🙂  Semper fi.


About Tracy Solheim

Best-selling author of the Out of Bounds series--sexy, contemporary sports romance novels. See what she's up to at

Posted on October 14, 2011, in Blog Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Oh, that story is one that almost made me cry. I can’t imagine no one calling me if my child was rushed to the ER with pneumonia. I don’t care about any HIPA law OR how old s/he is, you have a right unless your son said “don’t call my mom” to have some kind soul (one of those “pink ladies” who work at the hospital?) call and say something! AACK! That would make me crazy.
    But, as you say, having your son or daughter in Afghanistan and not knowing if they’re going to be killed – that would be so hard. I can’t imagine. And, yes, semper fi.

  2. Parenting is the most frustratingly rewarding job on earth. Thanks for reminding us of how fast the years go by and for your nephew’s service. God Bless our men and women in uniform!

  3. An amazing post and a heartfelt tribute to your nephew and all he is doing for us. And you’re right, sometimes it’s best not to know too much in our adult children’s lives! My son is 21 and there are MANY things I stay blissfully unaware of, but it’s funny how when the chips are down, he suddenly wants us to know about them. Since he’s moved out, it’s actually easier. When he was home and coming in at 3am, I was a nutjob. Now I can talk to him and not know what time he came in and convince myself he was home all night reading a book. Even though the only book he’s ever read is Harry Potter three years ago.

    What we DON’T want, is that 4am phone call that ISN’T our children. We had one of those two years ago when he was 19 and supposed to be somewhere he wasn’t. Nothing like hearing a state trooper at 4am say they pulled your son out of a canal where he just sunk his Jeep after falling asleep (drunk) at the wheel. God was with him that night. He was underwater and asleep and never knew it. The trooper was off duty and going home and saw the taillights floating down the canal.

    God was with him, but his dad wasn’t as kind. LOL. Thank God two years later he has a better head on his shoulders. Or at least that is what I see, being unaware of all he does. 🙂

    Now my daughter is about to be 17, and if she does that stuff to me, I’ll string her up in the closet and feed her rice. 🙂

    • I feel like I’ve been a nutjob all week. Definitely a lot more gray hairs. I told my daughter she’s not going to college! Of course, as moody as she’s been, I might pack her off tomorrow 🙂

  4. When my children were young, I used to worry they’d have to go off to war someday. More than anything else, this is the situation which terrified me. So my heart goes out to all the mamas in the world who have to watch their sons or daughters set off on this difficult journey. May our world someday find peace and harmony so no more children have to go to war.

  5. Ditto all that has been said. I try to believe there is a special angel who watches over them and if they survive these years we can look forward to the day they have kids of their own.

    Tracy, bless your kids and your nephew and have a great time with you visit 🙂

  6. Hope he is better and you enjoy his visit to the max!

  7. Parenting is NOT for the faint of heart. 🙂

    Neither is the marines. Thanks to your nephew and all who went before him, with him and in the days ahead. Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for peace and harmony. Shoot, I can’t even get my KIDS to get along and play nice! 🙂

%d bloggers like this: