Then the thought came. Where were we to stay up there? (in confusion we had thought reservations had been made but they hadn't been.) We had to go..go on a mission.. a mission to find a place to stay. We started in Petawawa. It was booked up. Copying a page from the phone book, we started our mission. Leading towards Pembroke, we called a couple places (booked up), driving we saw no vacancy signs. Darn it. It was getting later.. and we wanted to spend time with our son! Further and further away we started finding some success.. however unfortunately.. for our um personal..um reasons.. those we chose not to stay at. Perhaps it was the odd odour in the rooms?
We met up with our son and his girlfriend over a nice juicy steak dinner. mmm at a restaurantwhich highly supports our troops. Yes, unbeknownst to him the three of us were counting the hours and moments, dreading the goodbye ... our last dinner together before deployment... 14 hours before check in..tick..tick.. His smile, his laughter... I love. We cherished each and every minute with him.. as we were aware the clock was ticking.. the deployment would soon be here. Together through tears, we all packed up his belongings in his room. As we parted we said goodnight... tick..tick.... tick... 8 hours till check in.
The sun rose brightly as we packed up to meet him at his breakfast meeting of choice: Tim Hortons -Our last breakfast before check in. My son was not there yet and looking around I noticed a couple - he looked like he was deploying on the same chalk. With effort, she smiled as I passed their table. I smiled back and nodded.
As we approached the building, it looked much bigger than before. Ominous in the morning skies. Nope, changed my mind.. didn't want to do this... as I had promised him no tears and I could feel the stinging in my eyes already.
The Padres, dressed in desert tans as well, came and spoke with us, reassuring us that they would be watching over the troops while overseas. They had a big job ahead of them as well.
People spoke with one another, some saying their tearful goodbyes until we heard the booming commands. Soon, they started calling the names. Roll Call. "Sgt. ___ " "Here!" Ironically, they were disappearing one by one into the light - the doorway where the buses were parked. We kept holding hands, praying and trying not to cry.
Soon my son's name was called and he walked away. Head held high. He walked towards the door. While walking away from the room, I noticed one mother crying uncontrollably. I stopped and held her in my arms. I hope I was able to comfort her in some way.
Then they edged towards Tweed. Here I had attached a big yellow ribbon (dwarfed by the letters on the sign) to their welcome sign (as I knew they would be making a stop at the Tim Hortons here) Unbeknownst to me.. the people of the town were awaiting the arrival of the soldiers in the Tim Hortons parking lot! Wearing red shirts - men, women and children cheered our troops- waving their Canadian flags feverishly! What an amazing sight. Well, tears flowed easily now. It was such a moving experience to see this!
Soon they left the parking lot. Under a police escort, they drove along the main road. Here I noticed all the houses sporting flags and signs saying "Bless Our Troops" "Support Our Troops." The legion in Tweed awaited their arrival where veterans and more towns people had gathered, cheering our soldiers! and again their flags. What a sight! The soldiers left the buses and met with the towns people who wished them well on their mission. The veterans came to me and gave me hugs - letting me know that they would be praying for them.. assuring me of their safety.
Soon the bus' horn sounded and the soldiers climbed on board. The people gathered and waved and cheered.
Saying not goodbye.. but see you soon
Sitting outside, I soon noticed the arrival of the box filled with coffees, teas, donuts, etc. Sitting on the curbside with his girlfriend on one side and myself on the other of my son (her orders:) we sat sipping our teas. Soon it was time. Time to say our goodbyes. Thinking of the other soldiers, I decided to say goodbye outside. My son turned to me and said "Well Mom.. it's time." He said, "you are so brave and are doing so well." I looked to him, holding onto him tightly, I wept -hard. With my tears soaking into the desert camoflauged uniform, I told him I failed - I wasn't the brave one now. But I let him know how much I love him and how proud of him I am. I told him from the time he walks through the door, his focus and worries should not be on us, but only on the mission ahead of him. Holding onto his hand I again told him I loved him once again and then let go.