When Catie left for the second half of her Prep year in January, I knew it was going to be a long haul. After all, the stretch from dropping her off to collecting her in November seemed like an eternity. I knew the next five months would drag on.
And they did.
Except when we arrived at Clune Arena for the Prep School graduation, all that time seemed to disappear, like she had just been gone for a long weekend. Then again, there had been a lot of activity in the week or so leading up to the event, making travel plans, waiting to hear if she actually received an appointment to the Academy, word on validating physics, and other details.
We nailed down the travel details, got word before we left that she had gotten and appointment, and the night before graduation, she informed us that she had, indeed, validated physics. Next thing we knew, her picture was on the jumbotron and she was strolling across the stage.
There would be many steps before June 24 but only one stop – The Hill, the actual Air Force Academy.
My daughter is pragmatic, a trait she has developed over the last several years. During her senior year in high school, she was pleased to receive her congressional nominations and honored to earn an appointment to the Prep School. But as a pragmatist, she also viewed those as necessary steps toward her actual goal – attending a U.S. military academy.
As a father who had watched his son go straight from high school to the United States Naval Academy, I had always hoped that, if she were deemed worth of a military academy appointment, she would start at a prep school, regardless of what branch chose her. I believed that year of learning the military basics and being away from home would be a tremendous benefit. She might disagree, but in hindsight, I’m convinced I was right.
She learned to live with a roommate, something who has always had their own room never had to do. She learned that being a state medalist gymnast means that you are poorly trained to march in military style. She learned that she had a solid grasp on her academics. She discovered an interest in a few extracurriculars she had never considered and, maybe more importantly, she found her people.
She was certain she wanted to go into the military. But meeting the prior enlisted and the “permanent party” at the Prep cemented it in her mind – this is where she belongs.
That means in five weeks, she’ll take the Oath of Office and begin her four-year sprinting marathon at the United States Air Force Academy. And, much as I did with my son, I will be on a separate, but parallel, roller-coaster ride. And, much as I did with my son, I will have to learn – reluctantly – to let go.