“One day,” I said to him as my head buried into his shoulder. “One day, this won’t be our life anymore. One day we won’t have to say goodbye. One day my last thought while kissing you won’t be praying that it’s not the last time.”
“I know, baby,” he responded, his cheek against mine. I could feel his chest shaking, or was that mine? Saying goodbye as the sun came up over the Watertown airport just felt surreal. All I could think through this misery was “one day.”
But today is not that day.
Jason kissed me goodbye through the salt of our tears, and I slid into the car. He watched from the door, since the man never lets me stay to watch him leave. This is the sixth time I’ve sent Jason to a war zone, and it’s never gotten easier. Slam. I closed the door. Slide. I moved the seat up since I’m about a foot shorter than my husband. Click. I sat the seat upright. Snap. I moved the rear-view mirror.
With just those few moves, I stepped back into the driver’s seat, both figuratively and literally. Just like that, it was as if he hadn’t even been here these last two weeks. I’m on my own again. I wiped my eyes so I could see the road, shouted my love to him one last time, and drove.
I stopped and picked up the necessities. You know, 5 dozen eggs for coloring, a few gallons of milk. I really need to check into the cost effectiveness of owning our own cow. I walked around the store in kind of a haze, picking up what we needed, not really caring about anything in the cart. Jason’s never left in the morning before. I’ve never had to come home to the boys and act like everything is just chipper. Shopping gave me the opportunity to slam myself back into deployment mode so when I walked through the door, it wouldn’t hurt my heart so much to see four little boys with wondering eyes. Self-preservation is a bitch.
“Where’s daddy?” Chase asked.
“You tell me, buddy,” I gently prompted.
“Afstanistan,” he said in that wonderful 3 year-old way. His little eyes dropped to the floor and his mood fell. Right then, I hated the army and the life we chose. There’s no amount of money, or glory, or patriotism that makes it worth breaking the heart of a toddler. Big hugs, all around, and it’s back to the business of living.
Bittersweet is most often the word associated with midtour because let’s face it, it is. You have them home for 15 days. In those 15 days, you become so used to having them here that it almost feels like they never left. Like the deployment was the dream instead of the R&R. But just when you have gotten used to the snoring, the clothes on the floor, the sound of the kids laughing with their daddy, and the sound of his heartbeat, he’s yanked away again. He’s gone, and I’m standing here at square zero again. Yeah, yeah, I know. We’re 1/2 way done. On the downhill, counting down to his real homecoming. Forgive me if I lose the happy, forced smile for just a second and roll my eyes. 1/2 way done. What that says to me right now is, “Hey, yeah, you know those last 6 months of insomnia, sick kids, sick you, worry, anxiety, and missing him so much you think your heart might actually fall out of you? Yeah, you get to do that All Over Again. Enjoy.
Okay, Okay. Clean the house, color the Easter Eggs, get laundry done. Except Jason’s. I’m not quite ready to erase every bit of proof that he was really here. Help Aaron with Boy Scouts, make fondant, and try out a new cake recipe. Push through today, cry it out tonight, and wake up tomorrow to remind myself that I’m strong enough to do this. It feels like day #zero again in every way, but really, it’s not. This is day 181.
Big breath. Bite it back. Suck it up. Here we are again.
One day, baby. One day.