It’s time to revisit Missouri, and this might be my final time. After this trip I don’t know if I’ll ever return. I don’t want to disparage the state, but the circumstances of my visits have been less than ideal.
I first time I was in the state was for Army basic training more than 20 years ago. Fort Leonard Wood. Basic training for me took place in July and August of 1985. While I have a few spotty memories, the one that I have retained closes was getting heat stroke on my 18th birthday. As I try, I can recall some other snippets, images, small instances, almost all of them unpleasant. That isn’t the state’s fault, really, but getting heat stroke, and on my 18th birthday, well, that one I feel a little justified in harboring a little ill will there.
I didn’t return to Missouri until three and a half years ago, as I was taking my son Kyle to boarding school – well, more of a reform school on a Baptist ranch. It was December, and life was absolutely difficult, which is why he wound up going. His defiance and various outbursts had gotten him kicked out of middle school (twice), and during his freshman year at high school he was on the same path. We were hoping to get him into a program in Washington state, something a bit closer to home, but that wasn’t to be. No place would accept him because of his history of violence (the causes of his expulsion).
And so, it was with a very heavy heart that I turned my son over to these people in order to provide an environment where he wouldn’t be a danger to anybody. The ranch where he is at is quite a ways out, 90 miles or so from the nearest airport. That’s a long drive to sit with those feelings of disappointment and failure. I think you’ll forgive me if I don’t have good associations with Missouri.
Over the next three and a half years I would visit my son at the reform school boarding ranch every once in a while as permitted. It took him a while, longer than most, but he finally earned the privilege of leaving the campus and eventually home for a short visit. Partly due to logistical reasons, we traveled to Missouri as little as possible, and stopped as soon as he could come home for visits. It was simply cheaper to have him fly versus two parents and three small children, plus hotel and other expenses.
Now, however, I go back to Missouri once more. His time there is coming to an end. He is now 18 himself, and is set to graduate the high school program. This weekend is the graduation ceremony. It took him a while but in the last 6 months or so, he turned his attitude (and as a result, his life) around and is not only set to graduate, but is Valedictorian in his class, and he’s going on to college.
So I return to a state which has no positive associations with it, but this final time is a more joyous occasion. He does not get to come home this weekend (still just a few things to finish up for those final credits) but the graduation ceremony is something to celebrate, and I am glad to travel once more to Missouri for that.