Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday’s Travelogue

Dear Kids,

We had a grand time in Colorado with Abe and Grace! We have found a new tradition – attend the game between the Army and the Air Force every fall. I don’t know why we didn’t think of it six years ago when Ty started attending the Air Force Academy, because we knew old grads flew in from all over to attend the academy rival games. Oh well. It’s never too late to start a good tradition, so the offer is out to whomever wants to join in – same time next year, just it will be in New York instead.

In no particular order, here are eleven of my favorite memories of the weekend:

1. The visiting, and watching a movie and football together.

We took Abe and Grace a box of Legacy chocolates. Abe would choose one and eat 
half and then give the rest to Grace; then Grace would choose one and eat 
half and give the rest to Abe. I have never thought of doing that. Ever. 
I thought it was a good idea. It would keep me from claiming all the salted caramels

We visited about life, politics, the future, the past, football, hair, pinterest, recipes, goals – all kinds of good things.

2. The pregame build-up.

Abe is assigned to a cavalry unit and his brigade was in charge of putting up a 
display at the Army tailgate. This picture reminded me of John Dunbar 
from Dances with Wolves, especially when the soldier on the right took out 
his saber and stabbed some litter off the ground to pick it up.

I love the energy for pregame activities. The bands only add to it. The West Point pep band as well as the band from Fort Carson, Colorado took turns playing back and forth. Military bands love a lot of drum beats. No wonder. They make you want to move.

3. This is not a tank.

Lest you be confused and think this is a tank, it’s a Bradley. Sometimes I slip and call it a tank. Kind of like sometimes when I call it the Air Force – Army game instead of the Army – Air Force game. It was really fun seeing a partial reality of Abe’s world.

I climbed inside of the Bradley and it was very cool to see the conditions inside. It is a tight fit – like submarine tight. I don’t know how the soldiers move around each other, especially during the chaos of war when they are in full-gear. The Bradley wasn’t built for the soldiers’ comfort. The seats have very little padding and definitely don’t recline. When I climbed out the hole inside, I was greeted by a soldier. I asked him what his job was and he said, “I’m the gunner. I sit where you’re standing.”

I asked him if the driver sat in the seat next to him and he said, “No ma’am. That is where the commander sits.” He then pointed out the driver’s seat. I asked him a few questions about his gunner duties and when he got home from his last deployment.

He said, “In March, ma’am.”

I said, “Hey, I wonder if you came home the same time our son did.”

He asked, “Who would your son be ma’am?”

I answered, “Lt. Payne.”

He said, “Yes ma’am. We came home together.” Then he pointed in the chair next to me and said, “Lt. Payne sits right here in the commander’s chair.”

It was a bit sobering. I no longer imagine where Abe is in a tank and what his job is. I have a picture perfect idea.

4. The game.

Sasha’s husband Nick is deployed right now and Abe and Grace try to include her often so that she isn’t lonely. She and I were a match. We both love popcorn.

Army shot themselves in the foot and lost the game. As you can see we had Air Force and Army fans all around us. I was surprised how much everyone could ardently cheer for their team without anyone getting disgusted, upset with each other, or making a snide remark.

5. Our seats at the game.

We were four rows up. I haven’t been that close to the action since Abe’s eighth grade games. It was fun to see everything so clearly, except the fumbles. It’s never fun to see a fumble from any seat in the stadium.
The picture board is how Army calls their plays. I enjoyed seeing what pictures they used – they weren’t triangles, squares, circles, or colors – they were pictures of different generals, soldiers, and army symbols. It was like a mini museum on the sidelines, albeit upside down from our position.

6. The flyover and scoreboard.

I wish everybody could experience an Air Force flyover in the stadium. You don’t see them coming and then all of a sudden – boom. Really, boom. They’re right over you and they turn on their burners and zoom up and turn a sideways summersault as they do. It’s exhilarating.

The scoreboard shows all kinds of interesting things. My favorite is when they do an American song with pictures of troops and families. Cuba Gooding, Jr. attended the game and they showed scenes from his upcoming movie about the Tuskegee Airmen. I was too busy talking to the kid next to me to stare when he walked right in front of us, but as far as I can tell Hollywood doesn’t have to touch him up much.

7. Honoring the Wounded Warriors and others.  During the halftime of the game several soldiers received medals. One received the Distinguished Flying Cross and others received Bronze stars for acts of bravery. A quiet hush settled over the whole stadium as their acts were recounted. Their faces were shown on the big screen. I wondered what they were thinking as the details of their heroism was told. I wondered how they felt reliving the experience for our sakes. It was so quiet. It was so reverent. Not even birds sang. Everyone just quietly clapped and then stood and clapped at the end after each had received his award.

At another time during the game we clapped our thanks and admiration for a solider who walked out on his two artificial legs to accept an award for winning the backstroke at the Para-Olympics (?  I think that is where it was).

8. Singing and listening to people sing.

Abe and Grace love music. As Abe was driving us to the airport he had I Want to Be in the Calvary playing and Grace, your dad, and Abe all sang along.

 It’s a catchy tune and every time I hear it, it takes four or five days to get it off repeat in my head.

Abe, Cali, and I are the sentimentalists in our family. Joe, I think you may be one also, because you still have your star wars action figures.  Do ring-tones make you cry? As Abe played the ring-tones he has assigned to everyone in the family while we drove to the airport it made me cry. Mine is a George Straight song, Ty’s is from The Man from Snowy River, Ray’s is an AC/DC song, etc.

One other singing time I loved was the closing song at church. Abe and Grace attend a military ward. There are a lot of women sitting in their congregation without a husband. As we got ready to sing the closing song the conducting member of the Bishopric announced, “Because it’s Veteran’s Day this Friday we’re going to change the closing song to My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” 
There is just something about singing a patriotic song with a congregation full of military families where even the little boys have crew cuts. After we sang, Grace said, “You loved that, didn’t you? I knew you would.”

9. Regular life.

I didn’t take a picture of enjoying regular life with Grace and Abe, but that was definitely one of the highlights. Grace is such a good cook and homemaker. She made the best slow-cooker macaroni and cheese with chilies in it, as well as french dips, and an almond cake. Abe helps her choose recipes and cooks the meat. They are a good team. It’s fun to see them as a family and how they run their home. It’s comforting to see how important it is to all of you kids to have a home that is full of warm love and that feels good.

It was also fun to go to church with them and meet their friends.

10. Grace did my hair. I love sitting in the chair with her taking care of it and the visiting we get to do while she does it. Abe was at the counter and just listened and added in a comment every now and then. Grace also showed me some new exercises to add to jogging and walking. They looked like something I can do.

Grace and I also went to Hobby Lobby to get a project to do. It was fun to look at all the holiday things and the clearance racks.

After having Grace with us last year, your dad and I have missed her company.

11. The traveling there and back.

Your dad and I had a great time traveling. Like I mentioned before, old grads and families of cadets from both academies travel in from all over for the game. We had our West Point coats on at the airport and a couple from the Air Force walked by. The woman smiled and said, “We’ve come to pester you about the game tomorrow” and sat down on the seats next to us. We asked them about their cadet and they asked us about our family. Two old grads that were on one of the flights graduated in ’54 and ’57. Another had graduated in ’86 and his wife in ’88 and their son was a sophomore. They all have a story. May be from different academies, but the stories are similar.

And . . . somehow we lucked out and got preferred seating on the longest flight home. The leg room was incredible, not once did my feet fall asleep. On the flight to Colorado Springs there was a yappy dog a couple of rows back. Your dad whispered not too quietly to me, “Someone give that dog a bone.” The girl on the other side of him said, “Someone give that dog some Benadryl.” We all felt sorry for the people in the same row as the dog.

On the flight home that same dog (or its close cousin) boarded. The dog and its lady sat smack dab behind us. I started to laugh when she shoved her little dog and its carrier underneath your dad’s seat. Oh ho. It was funny. He didn’t see it, he could just hear the dog and kept looking around for it. Finally I told him he was sitting on it.  Good thing they gave us free TV on the flight home with earplugs. The Wizard of Oz, Hitch, and the Discovery Channel were three of the options. Your dad leaned over during one part of the Wizard of Oz and said, “This is the scary part. It gives you nightmares when you’re a kid. Those flying monkeys fly in and take you away in your dreams. It's scary stuff.”

Once they gave the dog some ice it settled in and other than a dog smell wafting up every now and then, it wasn’t too bad.

So there you have it. We had a great time. Ty, I thought of you and your years there often.  Michelle, it was fun to see your mom even though it didn't last nearly long enough.

Abe and Grace, thank you for such a great time.

We love you all. Lots. Thanks for giving us so many good memories and traditions.

Dad and Mom

p.s. Don’t forget: same weekend next year in New York.


Donna Chapin said...

Sounds like you had a great time. I told Rayme that you put on your blog an invitation to next years game. Hmmm - it would sure be fun. Football, friends & travel. Does it get better than that.

Kim Sue said...

what a fabulous time! I love the paragragh about regular life the most. can't wait to hear about it next year from new york!

Derek-Jenny-Kaitlynd-Ethan-Dylan said...

And we were only a few hours away! Next time. I love seeing you guys!

I am so glad you had such a great weekend!!

Grace said...

We loved having you guys here SO much! Thank you for such a wonderful time. One of my favorite things about the weekend was watching you inside the tank. You were so excited and it was so fun watching you! We love and miss you guys!

Michelle said...

All I had to do is read the name of the Cavalry song, it is now stuck in my head for the next few days. I'm so glad it was a great trip! Wish we could have been there to share it with you. My mom loved seeing you too!

Becky said...

It looks and sounds like it was a great visit. Your posts about the military always make me cry...always.

Rachel said...

My favorite picture is the one of Grace singing in the car.

michelle said...

You and your family really know how to have a good time.

Here I thought that was a tank all this time. I love that picture with your head sticking out. I can imagine that would be sobering indeed to think about your son in there.

I love singing and listening to people sing, too.

I also love the picture of Calvin on the plane and imagining the dog under his seat!

Deidra said...

Grace makes cheering for Army look like the fashionable thing to do!

I loved getting to share our life with my parents, so I'm sure it was just as much fun for Abe and Grace to have you "get" their lives even more.

Little yappy dogs. Ugh. And dog smell? I'd have lost it!

Chandra said...

Oh good. I was hoping you were doing something fun when I subbed for you. Looks like you had a fabulous time! Thanks for sharing the pictures.

Ande Payne said...

The second I saw that picture of Abe on the horse in popped into my head, "I wanna be in the Calvary...". That sounds like a great weekend! I wish I could have been there. I miss Abe and Grace. I miss you and Dad. I miss academy stuff (though to be fair I do NOT miss hearing Dad pester Abe and Ty about their applications). This was such a fun blog to read. I felt like I was there, except for the part that was aching because I wasn't. I can't wait to see everyone.