Gus Deployment Part Two

Before soaring on United Airlines one day in August, two TSA people panicked when I placed a pet carrier on the security conveyor belt.

I said to their reaching hands, “It’s empty. Don’t worry.”

Whew! Their blue shirts relaxed a bit.

“I am heading to get my son’s cat,” I said to more people than probably wanted to know that day.

My mission: Get the cat. Keep my emotions in check. Spend as little money as possible. Stretch granola in backpack.

One thing I’ve learned about being a military mom is that tears are the enemy to be embraced. I can be happy for our son = tears. I can be proud = tears. Saying hello = tears. Saying goodbye = tears.

Fight them and the tears are worse. I attempt to embrace and let them pass. If you’re a military parent, you know this roller coaster.

Son-1 and I strive for what we call “the good good-bye”. He tries to laugh when my face swells. There is something about military life that makes the words “gut wrenching” meaningful as an experience rather than a phrase.

Once in New Mexico, I see in our son right away that he is feeling about his cat a little like what I feel when he and I separate for months at a time. He hugs Gus, plays with Gus, and takes long looks at Gus. I imagine he is burning the memory of Gus into his soul with enough love to last for many months until they reunite.

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Meanwhile on minimal sleep for a 24 hour trip, my mind focuses on how to get a cat across the country without losing him.

“Ok, Mom. You guys have to go now,” Son-1 said about 40 minutes before I planned to leave that morning. He did not want to cry. I understood.

We place a “calming collar” on Gus and put him in the pet carrier.

“Here. I got you these,” Son-1 hands me breakfast. It was thoughtful of him to stop at a gas station for Pepsi and Swedish Fish with me in mind.

I stress-nosh on the red fish when Gus begins to wail in the car. Have I mentioned that Gus and I had to drive 90 miles to the airport?

Son-1 and GF warned me that Gus does not like car rides, but I know his wail is more than a dislike of the car. Gus knew I was taking him from his people.

Gus cried.

I cried.

Hubby called once while I was stopped in the desert by a police blockade. Missiles were being tested nearby. Stopping only made Gus cry louder.

“It will be ok, Gus.” I turn him so he can see me through his net. That didn’t help. I wonder if his claws will rip the carrier netting. Then I remember that I packed a small roll of duct tape. Hopefully I will not need to figure out how to repair or get him back in the carrier if he escapes.

I hyperventilate on the phone to Hubby, “Don’t. Tell Son-1. That. Gus. Is.” Inhale, “Crying.”

“Honey, catch your own breath. It will be ok.”

Sure it will. I am in new territory: alone with a cat, saying good-bye to our son for his first deployment overseas, and driving toward El Paso, Texas which dripped with sadness in the air from recent events.

There are security options with a pet in an airport. I could take the cat out of the carrier and walk through the screening device. No way. Or I could request the private room to take the cat out of the container. Sigh.

In the private room, the TSA agents share horror stories, “One time a cat died right here at this check point.”

What?!

“Yep, the owner overmedicated the cat.”

I feel so glad we did not medicate Gus. I zip him back inside with our new bonding and determination. We can do this, Gussie-boy. G-ma will protect you.

At our layover, I bravely allow Gus to walk around an indoor pet spot.

I pose him for a picture near the airport’s USO. “We are on task, buddy.”

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He and I people watch at airport gates.

Inside the carrier is one of Son-1’s worn t-shirts. I explain to the cat that the shirt is for comfort.

“Don’t worry, Gus, your owners will be back for you.”

The t-shirt also connects the dots of smells for the pets waiting at home. Once back in Greater Cincinnati, there was minimal quarantine time and/or hissing by our welcome wagon pets. They recognized Son-1’s scent. They gave us looks like, “WTH? Meow. Ok, fine.”

Gus settled in with cat toys, scratch pads, and favorite play-sleep spots. He marvels at the new sights through our window: chipmunks, leaves, grass, snow flurries. It’s different here.

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And sometimes Gus hangs out near the door patiently waiting for Son-1 and GF to return.

Job 12:7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you…

Posts about Gus are dedicated to his cat parents who are currently deployed separately in the military. Please pray for the men and women who endure loneliness in the name of freedom during this holiday season.

Let there be peace on earth.

GF, Son-1, Gus, & their promise rings.

Gus the Deployed Cat

Our oldest son, let’s call him Son-1, has been in the military 3 years.

After moving out of an Air Force base dormitory and into an apartment in New Mexico, he began considering pet ownership.

He talked the idea over with us and his girlfriend (GF) for several months. Son-1 and GF landed on a cat being the best option for them. “But,” he asked me. “If I have to deploy, Mom, would you come get the cat?”

Would I come get the cat?! The words stuck with me for a while. I convinced myself that Oh, it will be a while before that could happen. And Oh, maybe if he deploys, then the timing will work out that his girlfriend or someone else can care for the animal. I won’t really be needed.

We are the type of family that stick with a pet for life. Ultimately I am glad Son-1 got that memo. Pet care is a serious commitment. He’s turning out to be a responsible guy. I think surely my son won’t need me in this way, but if he does, I said, “Yes. I’ll be there.”

I pause here to mention that when our first pet, an insane nearly untrainable and somewhat aggressive 10 lb. dog passed away, then it was a full 9 years before we were willing to have a pet again.

And–once upon a time, I was not a cat person at all. I harbored years of judgement against cats. What I saw and smelled at various homes growing up was not something I wanted in my life. But then one day in 2010 I fell for the tiniest little kitten in Jackson County. I remember our young boys whispered to Hubby, “Mom. Picked. Up. A. Cat.” And Hubby whispered, “Yeah, something’s going down here. She never does that.”

We brought that sweet baby home.

I bought good cat litter. We established twice per day scoop policies. The next year we gave her a friend. Two cats. Clearly I lost my mind.

Fast forward back to last year, Son-1 and GF chose a cat named Gus from a shelter. He had been left behind by other people once or twice. Gus would be left behind no more.

“He is cross-eyed, Mom,” Son-1 said over the phone. “The vet doesn’t think he’ll do well if he is out in the wild.” So Indoor Gus began a sweet life with his new mom and dad.

And Hubby and I felt somewhat like distant cat grandparents.

The first time I met Gus I observed that because of his eye situation he tilts his head back to see when you walk into a room. It looks like he says, “Whaz up?” every time.

Gus out of NM Window

For several months we enjoyed pics and texts about their life with Gus. They were a happy little pet inclusive family.

Then GF received notice of deployment. She had several months to prepare. The couple thought they’d cuddle with their cat until she left. Then we were all surprised when Son-1 received notice that he also would deploy but with only 3 weeks notice. Eek! Gus moved up on the extended family priority list. I had made the promise, so you know what happened next.

We rapidly picked the 24 hours that I would fly alone 3200 miles round trip on a tight budget to get Gus. Hubby and I couldn’t help but feel like I was going to get our grandchild-cat.

G-ma is coming!

[End of part one. Stay tuned for part two.]

Job 12:7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you…

Gus downward pose
*The story of Gus is posted with permission of his 21 year old active duty military parents.

Military Mom

20190717_120253Of my many jobs and titles in life, one I didn’t anticipate began about three years ago when our son joined the Air Force. Or I could say four years ago if I count the year of paperwork and appointments that led up to him swearing in officially.

Since 1% of young people choose to be in the military that means there’s only about 1% of us momas inside the tornado of being a military mom also. The tornado involves support, concern, pride, and wondering how your child could be this brave, among other things.

There are private social media groups where I see posts from moms all over the USA updating the “club” with needs and requests. I find myself praying daily for someone somewhere.Β  A parent or grandparent is sick or a funeral is happening. A baby or a relationship needs divine intervention. The strained hearts over a countless number of miles is endless.

I am struck by how isolating it can be to be in the military and even in my small role as a military mom.

Our family figures out how to visit our son on a tiny budget. Some families never figure out the cost of travel to see a loved one.Β  We are blessed that our son has adapted well.Β  But for some in the service, they may struggle to adjust or to make friends and then lose those friends to deployment or a new duty station.

People say “that’s what they signed up for.” And of course they did, but no one really knows what it fully means until they live the life.

On our last visit, I saw several ferral cats that reminded me of the isolation. My heart hurt thinking of the lonely metaphor parallels.

 

The suicide rate is high in the military. It is easy to forget that when any service member is lost for any reason there is a ripple effect which impacts other people and families.

Whether in the military or not, much needs to be done in our nation as a whole to help people get help before it’s too late.

Would you pray with me for the mental health needs of both citizens and service members? Please encourage people in your life to seek support.

* It is ok to not be ok.

* Talking to a professional when you feel blue is a healthy choice.

* Offering to go with someone to an appointment (without judgement) can be helpful.

* Don’t ignore anything serious. Get help when you need it in order to help someone else or to help yourself.

* Don’t ignore gut feelings. Ask the hard questions so you know if someone is safe.

Signature GSE