Oh My Aaron,
You are eight. For Eight wonderful years, I’ve been your mother. I’m not sure who told you that turning eight is okay, but yikes. As your daddy said, this is highly unacceptable.
And this is the first birthday your dad has missed.
We’ve been so lucky that all of his deployments had somehow missed your big day. It was a matter of pride for us, but this year your “happy birthday” from daddy came via skype. It’s just not the same, and I’m sorry.
Mostly, I’m sorry that this is all you’ve ever known. Your dad’s orders for his first deployment came while I was pregnant with you. When you were born early, your dad and I just smiled, despite the circumstances, because we knew it gave him more time with you. 6 precious weeks to get to know you. One of the most poignant memories I have of this time was the night before your dad left for OIF 1. He rocked you to sleep in your nursery, which was covered in the lyrics to “imagine,” and then he wouldn’t stop. He held you for hours, just rocking back and forth, not ready to put you down, and not ready to say goodbye. He left the next morning, and he wouldn’t come back the same.
After that, I would rock you, and sing “imagine,” but when I’d get to “Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for,” and I usually had tears running down my face. I wasn’t quite as toughened as I was now.
It was you that I held on to so tightly in those hours that we didn’t know how badly your daddy was hurt. You were only six months old, but somehow you sensed something was wrong, even though my words didn’t really make any sense in that wonderful baby brain of yours. Then you kissed your dad goodbye when he went back to finish that tour.
You went through another deployment, this time with your mom’s broken ankle and slightly paranoid nature. You underwent surgery, but hey, Grammy and I were there. 😉 You welcomed daddy home without that passive-aggressive anger that some kids give off. You’ve been through 3 PCS moves and never complained once, because this is all you know.
You don’t know a life where children grow up in one home. Where daddies go to work around 8 a.m. and make it home around 5:30 p.m. You don’t know what it’s like to keep the same friends since kindergarten, or have your grandparents just up the street. You have days like yesterday, where your mom is disabled on the couch with the flu, and you’re bringing me snacks for Brody to open, because you were told that you were the man of the house. I watch you hug Chase and tell him that Daddy will be home before he turns 4. Other kids worry about school bullies and the latest toy, you worry that your dad won’t come home alive, and your prayers break my heart every night.
You’re the reason we don’t watch the news anymore.
This is the 3rd deployment in your short little stay on Earth, and part of the reason I think you take it so well, despite some age-typical jerky moments, is that this is simply life to you. This is all you’ve ever known.
So, for your birthday, I stand in awe of you. Each day you you stand a little taller, smile a little brighter, and learn something insane about bugs or parasites that, quite frankly, I never had a desire to know. But you do, because your desire to learn is unequalled by anyone I know. When I mention a new house, you simply smile and ask how to decorate your room. You know that nothing is permanent, and you make friends as quickly as you adjust. You simply amaze me.
I have such wishes for you. For your birthday, I wish for a little “normalcy” for you. I’m not naive to think this will be our last deployment, but I’m hoping it’s on the end of things. I pray that you will see a day when we don’t worry about when your dad will leave again. A day when you will have someone better than your mom to help you with this elusive pine wood derby car. But you’re loved. So very loved by both of us. Your dad does this to keep you safe, and I hope you know that there is no place he would have rather have been than here with you on your birthday.
Happy birthday, my love. One day, I promise this is not all that you will have ever known.
I love you with my whole heart and soul,
This is your daddy saying goodbye to you as we dropped him off to deploy
Saying Goodbye to daddy again.
Walking Across the campus at Harvard… one day we’ll take a pic of you as a freshman here. 😉