Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Secret Garden of uneasy vacations

It's November 13th 2009, my heart feels heavy and my mind a blur. Today was my sister's graduation from basic training, the whole reason why my mother and I flew 16 and a half hours. When I first saw her yesterday at family day, I couldn't even recognize her; she looked amazing, dignified unlike the old image of her. So here is the story..

November 12th 2009.
We woke up at 6:30am, we felt rushed because we wanted to leave the hotel at 7am, get breakfast downstairs and head on towards Fort Jackson by 7:30am. We left the hotel at 7:25am and realized my ID was missing, so we rushed back to the hotel with my mother running red lights and zooming through stop signs. I got my ID and reached Fort Jackson by 8am, we realized that we can't see her until 1030am so we sat at BurgerKing and killed 30 minutes, then we parked in front of Solomon Center; which is where the family day ceremony was held and where she would be meeting us, and sat there until 9:30am. it was 45 degrees out side with rain and wind so it felt much colder.
When it was time, we headed in and saw the Charlie company (my sister's company) and the Delta company do a little ceremony-- their song that they sang when they marched. It was so crowded and of course people laughed at me when I screamed "CHHHHEEEHOOOO". For those of you who don't know, that's Hawaii's version of "OOOWWWWW".
I saw her and I couldn't believe my eyes, she was a totally different person. My eyes filled with uncontrollable tears and my nose started to run, my heart beating fast and all I can think was "Oh my gosh, I'm so proud of her."
We met her friend; Faith Klein (I don't remember the spelling) and I saw an old friend, took pictures and met all of her new family. It was a day filled with joy, laughter, tears and hugs. Until I remembered that we have to tell her about grandma. Then my day became up and down with emotional roller coaster rides. We spent that day shopping for necessities, Fort Jackson is so huge that many people including us got lost, they even have a water park in there! We were going to tell her about grandma's passing but she was with all of her friends; we just didn't have the heart to tell her. That night we said our good-byes and sent her back to her barracks.
She texted me directions and knowing my sister, she was worried we'll get lost or not make it on time. I took her advice to heart and made sure we were prepared.

November 13th 2009. Graduation
This day is the day that I'll never forget in my life. It was a privilage for me to attend this event and I'm so greatful that I got to witness this honorable day. The graduation was moved out doors due to the surprisingly amount of families that showed up, at 48degrees we sat on metal bleachers, waiting anxiously until our soldiers made their way. They stood on the field for 1 hour and 30 minutes until the ceremony began, they looked so cold that I wanted to run over there and give her my jacket. The marching band's music started off the soldiers march towards us, the ceremony was short but really sweet. The graduates made their way towards us and I was so proud of every single one of them, even though I have never met them ever in my life, I was proud of them. I saw her marching in front of me and I screamed my butt off.
We ended up going to a book store to get some books for her and her friends, and we got lost on our way to Olive Garden, we wasted 3 hours trying to find it and almost 2 hours at the restraunt.
I was so upset that we had to go there because we wanted to spend it with her alone. My sister still didn't know about grandma so we wanted to rush back to the hotel and spend the last hours we had with her talking about our experiences. We had to take her back at 8:30pm and we left the hotel at 5:30pm. We starting driving on the freeway and realized that we don't recognize any land marks or road signs. We were trying to go to Two Notch Rd but ended up in a dark, scary split road in the middle of no where. 8 o'clock was nearing and we had no idea where to go or where to ask for help. My sister needed to get back in order to go to her AIT in Texas. Usually my sister would blame everyone for getting the directions wrong, curse at the driver, yell that we don't know what we are doing and just freak out before anything happened. But she stayed calm, when she panicked she picked herself up and made sure we got some help, she called 911 and asked for directions, if we can make it back on time, called her sargeant and explained our situation.
Totally different person; a soldier.
We eventually ended up finding our way back to the hotel and we packed her luggage with food and clothes that we brought from home. Then she picked up an envelope of pictures and said "What's this?"
Her next words were "Oh my god"
And the tears came racing down her cheeks. She said she had a feeling that something was wrong but she didn't want to believe it. We explained to her briefly about what happened, what we saw, smelt and experienced.
She apologized, "Maybe I shouldn't have gone to the military then maybe things would have been easier for you mom."
We spent a short amount of time mourning, it stopped when my sister dried her tears and held us tight. Her warmth still lingers in my arms, my neck and my forehead. I never realized how tiny she was, her hands smaller than mine, her height shorter than mine and her face much slimmer than mine. That tiny little thing went to the army, something that we never thought would happen, and she made it.

That's when I realized how much the Army has changed her, she's someone that I can't even recognize. This trip was worth the ride, even with the annoying kid who kept kicking my seat and my mom's bad driving, everything was worth it. The bad meals, the 7 hour rest I had since tuesday, the stress about leaving behind work and school, everything was worth it. Before she left to the Army, I was so mad at her, she was always picking fights, saying mean things, blowing up on people and just being crazy. After she left and I was filling in for her job, I experienced first hand what it felt like and I too, became that person.
I realzed how much I missed her and how much my life would be incomplete without her, especially after my grandmother's death. And how proud of I am to be her sister and to have a sister like her, who would go to the Army to support her family, she's had such a hard life and I understand how difficult life has been for her. I miss her terribly and I await that day til I get to see her again.