It is now one day shy of three weeks when Caleb was told that his dime-sized red spot on his belly button was a deal breaker to stay in the Navy. That decision sent him immediately to a holding division, so grief stricken that he could only sit in stunned silence on the cold, hard tile floor, his back against the unforgiving wall. He bore the pain alone until he was able to call Gary the next day. He was distraught, nearly destroyed. It was then that we plunged into the depths of disappointment and angst, waiting along with him, wanting to reach out and hold him, wanting to ease his hurt. And we wait still.
The occasional phone call tells us that despite the conditions, his wait for discharge has moved from a full-blown knock-out punch to incomprehensibility to a glimmer of hope to an ultimate acceptance of what he cannot change. It has been a hard process.
The holding division is a place where bureaucracy meets inefficiency. The result is a no-mans land of endless days and nights with nothing to do. There are up to 80 men in residence at any one time. Some are there for medical discharges. Some because they tried to run away. Many others are being discharged for new diagnoses of anxiety, stress, and even attempted suicide. They rise at 6 a.m. each morning to face a purposeless day. Except in a lounge where access is limited, there is no furniture to sit on. Beds are off limits, the concrete-tiled floor their only option. Some books are available and an occasional DVD movie is allowed. They cannot go outside. There is no exercise. There are no tasks. There are no knives at meals to limit suicide attempts and no shoe strings for fear of the same. They all simply wait.
Caleb decided to work as he waits. He volunteered to be the yeoman for the unit; scheduling appointments and completing volumes of paperwork. He gets to sit in one of the few chairs. Still, he waits to see his name come through on the departure list. He hates it that his original graduation date quickly approaches and he is no longer part of it. He is in limbo; a place where frustration and shattered dreams collide.
But out of the dust, the soul survives. Something in his brain has clicked. He has accepted the inevitable and entertains future options. He will get second opinions and assuming a diagnosis different than the Navy's, may pursue his option to obtain a congressional waiver and re-enter the fray all over again. Our congressman stands willing and at the ready. But he also considers full-time employment, working his way through to finish his degree. His planning tells us that though the stealth tsunami violently tumbled him into a deep and dark sea, he will hit the beach alive and well.
May we all learn a vital lesson as we further wait; wait for answers.