Couple of days back, after long day in classroom, we marched back to our front pad near dormitory and i was one of four hundred airmen standing there before heading out for PT (Physical Training).
‘A1C Bhusal’ my name was called during mail call and a letter was handed over to me by MTL (Military Training Leader). I thanked him silently, and pushed envelope inside my uniform pocket. Didn’t look at any details until i returned back to my dorm room from PT.
Letter was from Marilyn Grant, sent from Maine on 5th April. She was my friend Joe’s grandmother who had come to San Antonio for his Airforce Graduation last month, where i had opportunity to meet and spend a day with her along with Joe and other family members.
After shower, I opened envelope, it was neatly typed full page letter. As i read her writing, i couldn’t stop myself from smiling. When i arrived in Virginia last month, i had sent her a ‘thank you’ note on first week but i was definitely not expecting her to write back, it was a pleasant surprise to get a letter from her.
Flash Back to March 09, Lackland Airforce Base, TX
It was a pre-graduation day for Joe, I and other 700+ airmen like us. Morning was foggy but all of us were shining. Everyone’s family, friends were there for ceremony. It was a day when all of us graduating ‘Trainees’ were transitioning to ‘Airman’ status. Quite an emotional day.
Since it was graduating weekend, we had town pass for Fri-Sun where we were allowed to go off base during the day and had to return back before 20:00. My sister Sangita, her husband Ramesh, nephew Himanshu and Riwaj were there for me. After coin ceremony i met them. I was so glad that they took time off from their busy schedule to drive that far to be with me. I couldn’t thank them enough with my words, my eyes and heart did.
It was Thursday, i was allowed to visit restaurants and recreational facilities inside the base and was not allowed to go to city so we hung around some fastfood chains and coffee shops inside the base. At early evening, they left to their hotel room and supposed to come back next morning to attend a ceremony. For some family reasons, my sister’s family had to drive back to Dallas that same evening so next morning Riwaj came to the base with bunch of other friends. Emad, Danny and Muntasir came from my office, i had not expected them at all. Shaan, Sapana, Ashwin, Stuti and David came from Dallas. These people were expected. After my graduation ceremony in the morning, we all went to a Mediterranean restaurant off base for lunch. We had a great time. I spent my Friday and Saturday with them. Saturday evening everyone drove back home but i also had Sunday townpass. I was not allowed to stay in my dorm so had to go somewhere. Joe was a friend i met during BMT, he was kind of person i liked to hang around with. He saw my gloomy face that evening before lights out and asked ‘whats up Bhusal ?’
I told him my family and friends are no longer in San Antonio so i was wondering what i could do tomorrow since we were not allowed to stay in dorm and also were not allowed to go anywhere without a wingman, if i wanted to go somewhere, i had to have someone with me, kind of tricky situation.
‘Come with my family, we will have fun’ he said. I wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. I didn’t want to ruin his family time, i asked him ‘are you sure Joe ?’
He gave me that usual look and i knew he was sure.
So next morning, i went to town with Joe Bowering family. His mother and her boyfriend picked us up and we went to their hotel where i met grandma Marilyn, his sister and dad. Sister and dad left for airport after breakfast, they were returning back to Maine.
I and Joe, we had black coffee, this was first caffeinated coffee in past two months. Joe mother’s boyfriend was a great guy, he called Uber and we went out to River walk area and watched a movie ‘Logan’. Although i am Hugh Jackman fan, movie was okey, not a great one. After movie we had decent lunch at typical Texan restaurant. I had a chicken burger with some hot sauce and mayo on it. During lunch and while walking around, i talked to grandma, i didn’t ask how old she was but she looked to be in her 70s or 80s. She had pleasant smiling face which reminded me of my late grandma in Nepal. We talked about Texas, Maine, weather, movies, books and all.
I felt little uncomfortable when Marilyn had to pay for her movie ticket and lunch. I get that, it is normal here but back in Nepal, we pay for our elders. Social and financial structure are completely different between Nepal and United States but i still wanted pay for her lunch and movie ticket, not because i earn more or i am younger than her or out of pity, its just the way we were taught while growing up. I expressed my feeling to Joe, he appreciated it but explained this is how it works here.
After movie and lunch, we walked on River side for an hour before we returned back to Hotel. It was a time for us to return back to base. Previous night, i was worried about how i was going to spend my Sunday townpass and here i was now. I had great time with bowering family.
AT Hotel, I hugged Granny for one last time and said ‘i will write to you’ before getting into another car. She smiled.
Joe’s mother and her boyfriend dropped us back to Lackland near bowling center and we walked to our dormitory.
After 10 days, i flew to Virginia for another training. During my first weekend there, i wrote a letter to Marilyn and dropped in one of the mailbox.
Life went on, classes started. Got busy as usual. Since i moved to Virginia, i had my phone back with me and was using during off-duty hours. Once in a while, i called my sister and friends, we were all back to our digital world, once again letter became thing of past.
It was a long day in class room, after lunch, i was caught sleeping during lecture and was called in Instructor’s office for warning, one 341 was pulled. It was not kind of day i wanted to experience again but her letter at end of the day cheered me up 🙂
Thank you Marilyn.