Tonight I am raw, gaping. Tonight the pain is so harsh that I am numb.
My eyes are swollen from crying and my lips are swollen from hundreds of Jason’s kisses today. Kisses that I won’t be getting again until this deployment is over.
Tonight, Deployment #4 began.
For anyone who hasn’t lived through this, it’s nearly impossible to explain. It’s not the 9 months we’re expecting him to be gone; this is the shortest deployment we’ve done. It’s not even the lack of mid-tour that has me destroyed, or that he’s barely been here the last year. It’s the fear that gnawed at me today as I lay next to him, the fear that this time we won’t be so lucky. I’m terrified that I won’t get to kiss him again.
We lay there together while Iron Man napped in the room next door, and I found myself trying to memorize every detail of his face, his skin. Trying to burn everything about him into my memory for the just-in-case that’s been weighing on my mind. After 13 years together, logically, I know everything about him, but on Zero Day, everything is so much more precious.
It doesn’t feel real. Looking around, his clothes are in a messy pile, his sweatshirt hangs from the banister. His Mets hat is lying on the floor where he haphazardly tossed it. I see him in every piece of this house, and I can still smell him on my skin. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was coming home tonight. But he’s not. That’s what’s different this time; the tears are there, the fear, the ugly cries of misery that escape me when I’m not expecting them, but I still can’t fathom that we’re really here again. He’s really gone. How did these months of dwell time pass so quickly?
I can’t bring myself to pick up his stuff yet and put it away. I will tomorrow. Or the next day. I just like seeing it there.
This “See-ya-later” was more difficult on all of us. Captain America nearly broke Jason down, and he took me tumbling over the edge. After all, ten years ago, when he was born, Jason left for OIF 1 in April. Ten years later, it’s April again; he’s still leaving. There are so many times when I look at our little men and think, “they don’t deserve this.” Jason said the same, his face stricken as he placed little notes on their pillows, but my response is always the same. “They deserve you.” They do. I know he feels awful, like he’s leaving us on our own again, but he is the best father I could ever imagine for these boys. Ironically, this is the Month of the Military Child, and while this life might not be fair to them, I know they are loved beyond measure. There is no better father for them than the one they have. I do secretly wish Jason could love them from a little closer to home, but we know his duty, and we’re here to support him just like he supports us. We’re a team.
Tonight, I don’t know what to do with myself, or the eerie quiet that falls over the house once I’ve soothed the tears and put the boys back to bed for the fifth time. I know our routine, this isn’t our first ride at the rodeo, but there’s something so inherently off about it. I’m still dazed at the thought that he’s really gone, and the worries begin.
Please, God. Let him be lucky this time. He’s always been the luckiest person I know. If there’s a raffle, Jason wins it. He barely survived OIF 1 and has those scars to show it. He kept his eyesight by millimeters. He took a bullet in his fuel tank last deployment and still landed safely. Please, please, please don’t let his luck run out. He is my world, my soul, my everything, and if there was one parent our boys need, it would be him. Please, God. I can take this deployment like we’ve weathered the others, just as long as he comes home at the end of it.
If I cling to that prayer, and stop the incessant buzzing in my head, this will pass.
My list of projects is ready, there are books to be reviewed, and books to write. There are boys to hug and kiss, and get to swim lessons, and hockey camp. There are care packages to make and mail, and love letters to write. Zero day is rough, capable of cutting me to the quick, bleeding me dry of everything. Day one (which is now today), that’s rough too. But day two… that’s when I’ll stand up, face this deployment head on and charge.
So Jason, (because I know you’ll read this once you settle in), don’t you worry. I’ve got this. Go kick ass, because I plan on doing the same here at home. And no, I won’t nix the tile backsplash we agreed on. 😉 Your boys are healthy, and I’ll keep them happy and loved. The only worry you have is keeping yourself safe, because everything here will stay as you left it. Well, except the bathroom. I’m painting that thing. But you get the point. You are the heart of this house, and while we function without you here, we’re just an echo of who we really are until you’re home. So fly safe and get your butt home to us.
This is our fourth go-round and Zero Day still sucks.
Instead of being sad, I’m going to concentrate on the day he gets home. It may be far away, but at least we’re on the countdown now. Well, maybe a little sad. A whole lot sad because I miss him already. Well, maybe miss isn’t strong enough. It’s more like a gaping hole in my chest that makes it hard to breathe if I think about it. But that’s okay, because I know Zero Day doesn’t last forever; in fact, it’s already passed.
So here’s to silly pictures and happy thoughts. Baby, we’ve got this.
Ding. Ding. Ding. Round 4 begins.