5 October 2019
I know I signed up for this, I know it’s my job. I am used to leaving because of the military and because I had to deploy. 2014, I thought that was going to be my last deployment. 7 lucky number 7. That was how many times I deployed when I was in the Air Force, 2 times to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Manas AB and 3 times to Afghanistan. When I came home, I vowed to my family that I wouldn’t deploy again, that I was over deploying and leaving them and missing out on holidays, first days of school, birthdays, getting their drivers license. Its hard. At that time Noah was 16 and Katelyn was 12, now they are 21 and 17. This is a vital time in their young lives, and they are so impressionable, and they need their mom for love, life lessons and nurturing, for rules and disciplining, to continue to treat them right from wrong. We all know how hard puberty is one everyone, I didn’t want to miss out on any of that.
Now lets fast forward to 2018. I’m retired, I’m going to college and life is going great. And my friend Keith gets ahold of me and asks me what I’m doing in October, I told him I was going to college and he asked if I wanted to go down to Antarctica. How do you say no to a once in a lifetime job? I had no idea that it would turn into my career. The job that helps to sustain my family and I and to give us opportunity to move out of the PNW and move to the beaches of South Carolina. When I left Antarctica in February 2018, there was talk of getting hired on as a full-time employee, but I wasn’t sure if Katelyn would want to move or my dad. Boy was I shocked, when I talked to Keith in May, that Raytheon and NIWC decided they wanted to bring me down to Charleston to work full time on the Polar Program, as the Logistics Manager.
Now lets fast forward to this week. Lots of things to do at work, TONS of things to do at home. But out of everything that I know that I needed to do, that was to spend every single moment with Katelyn and my dad, until Noah shows up and then its all family time. Noah flew in on Thursday and it felt like life was exactly where it needed to be. This is Noah’s first trip to Charleston. We all hung out together and watched a movie on Thursday night. Friday, Katelyn went to school and Noah and I had to take care of some errands, then we headed to Folly Beach for lunch. Now I do have to say, I love going to Isle of Palms beach, its 15 minutes from the house and sand and water are amazing. But Folly Beach, what a totally different vibe, so hippie and the pier is rad and full of humans fishing for that night’s dinner. Then him and I headed to ol’ Isle of Palms and had some rose and hung out in the water and chit chatted about life and what superpower you would like to have. I mean, what a great question, right? Oh, and where does wind come from, we pondered that thought for a little while as well.
We go home and all 3 of us get ready to go to dinner at Halls Chophouse. I asked my dad to go, but he didn’t want too. He’s not one to go out for meals, he loves staying at home. But it is one of my last meals and most importantly, its Katelyn’s birthday dinner. See she loves steak, especially Prime Rib. So, I knew that I wouldn’t go wrong with going here for dinner. We park the car, walk up to the door, a gentleman opens it, even before I can put my hand on the door and says “Jones family I presume” we were shocked, like how did they know. And I said “why yes” he looked at Katelyn and told her happy birthday and to follow him. Side note: I called Halls in the beginning of August for this reservation and told them we were going to be celebrating her birthday. I cannot say enough good things about this restaurant. It was THE BEST steak of my life, THE BEST service of my life, this restaurant will do and get you anything that you want. The waiter knew our names, the wait all knew that it was her birthday and one by one, they came to the table and quietly told her happy birthday. She wanted a slice of chocolate cake; it was on the house. They explained every steak on the menu to use, how the family sides worked and even about the bottle of wine that Noah and I shared and how it would go with our steaks. Katelyn ordered the bone in filet; Noah ordered the NY strip and I ordered the dry aged rib eye. All our steaks were impeccable. The flavor, the color and most importantly, they all melted in your mouth as you ate it. We each tried a piece and they were all perfect. For the sides, we had brussel sprouts, the best macaroni and cheese in the entire planet and the best tasting creamed corn. Now this experience just keeps getting better. We were there for 2 and a half hours, the staff waited on your every move. I went to pour myself some champagne and our waiter came over and did it for me and told me to let them take care of us. I mean WOW!!! Now dessert, as I said Katelyn orders the chocolate cake and Noah follows suit and I order the Key Lime pie. (side note: dessert at McMurdo is some of the best, they do a good job keeping our sweet tooth satisfied, but Key Lime pie, its my weakness) The dessert shows up , and it says happy birthday to Katelyn and there is a candle in her cake and Daryl, probably the best waiter in the world, takes a photo for us and we dig in. Just like with the steaks, the table is silent, enjoying every single bit and smiling and looking at each other and complete ecstasy.
We head home and put on our jammies and it seems like its going to be a normal night at home, but now I must pack. Everything is out, I just need to get it all in my bags. The 3 of us hang out in my room, they are chatting, and I am there listening and just being in this moment. I love these little things. Katelyn and Noah are beyond thrilled that they are together, they are not only brother and sister, but best friends. Katelyn looks up to him so much, you can see her love for him in her eyes as they talk and laugh. About an hour later its done, we are all happy and decided that now its funny movie time. We all get on the couch and decide to watch “most extreme primate” a super cheesy B rated movie from back in the day when Noah was playing hockey. It was a pretty nostalgic night and by the end of it, we knew that the next day was going to be “the day” that I leave. You could sense it in the house and the dogs knew something was going on.
We wake up in the morning, run some errands and we are just together, the 4 of us, just like old times. Its beautiful that we don’t skip a beat. Our family is our heartbeat, we cherish, and we love, no matter what happens, we have each other.
For about 2 hours, the 3 of us cuddle on the couch and watch tv together. Not much is being said and that’s fine by me. At 245, its time to get ready to go to the airport. The bags are packed and now everyone is following me around, I love this, but I want to cry. We get in the car and head to the airport. Now in Spokane, we are used to my family going back with me to the gate. We park, everyone helps to carry my stuff and we are trying to make jokes and not deal with what’s about to happen, they make dinner plans as I check in.
I ask about my family going back, since I am leaving, and they tell me that they can not do that. I start getting watery eyed, I’m not ready for this yet. We decide to hang out for 15 minutes, so I can go through security and get this journey started. Emotions are starting to rise; hands are being held. We are all leaning on each other. Its picture time. Katelyn and I are pretty snuggled up, then Noah and I, my dad and I take pictures. The lady next to us says she will take our photo and that’s when I start to cry. We walk towards TSA; Katelyn and I walk hugging each other and then Noah joins us.
I give Katelyn a hug and tell her that I’m sorry I am going to miss another birthday and her eyes fill with tears. (this sucks so bad) she is trying to keep it together, but she can’t, she’s trying so hard to be tough and she can’t stop it. I know at this point, she’s sad that I am leaving again, and my heart is breaking. WHY THE HELL am I leaving again, after I said that I wouldn’t. I hug my dad and Noah and give them my I love and will miss you and I go back to Katelyn. My heart is breaking for her, she is looking at me to hug her, but telling me to leave. I keep going back to her, I know she needs me and my hugs, even though she isn’t saying it, I can feel it. At this moment, I hate my job and I don’t want to go back to the ice. One more round of hugs and kisses and I really need to go.
I walk away, I turn around ½ way and they aren’t looking at me, I wait a moment, I keep walking and turn around again and they just turned the corner. What I wouldn’t of given to just see their faces one more time, in this moment, like that one movie moment.