The bags are already packed, and they’ve been taken to be loaded onto the plane. Jason and I dropped the kids at Tami’s so that they didn’t have to see the farewells. To them, they were saying goodbye, but that was okay since they had friends waiting to be played with. Did I mention that they lost their dog today? I guess the stress in our house was too much, because Layla went wandering and didn’t come back. So, we spent the last few hours that we had together calling shelters, reporting her lost on her microchip, and calling vet offices and even our local post office to see if our mail carrier had seen her. What a way to spend those precious minutes.
Still, Layla is missing, so now the house is even emptier. I want my dog. Really, I want Jason. But I would do just about anything to have Layla snoring next to me.
I think I did pretty well. I held it together until Jason walked me out to the car. But those last moments together; those are killer. The feel of his uniform against my cheek, knowing that I’m getting mascara all over his ACU’s, that’s burned in my memory. Those last words, promises that he would stay safe, they’re echoing through this empty house. Those are all I’m holding on to. You see, a year, while it’s a seemingly insurmountable amount of time; it’s passable. The days will come, and go, and eventually, this year will be up. But it’s the fear that it’s more than a year that paralyzes me. Those last moments when he held me, all I could think was “Please, God. Don’t let this be the last time.” I can face a year alone. I can get the boys to Scouts, and I can take out the trash, and I can snow-blow the 10 feet of snow we will inevitably get. But I can’t face the rest of my life without him. I can’t teach the boys to tie their ties and I know diddly-squat about baseball. I can’t live without my best friend. So dropping him off is a terrifying event for me. Because me spending this year without him is the best-case scenario.
Day Zero is torture. On one hand, today he kissed me. Today, I woke up next to my husband, I made him breakfast, and I watched him dress in his uniform. Sounds like a pretty good day to me. But I also watched him say goodbye to our sons. I watched him strap his holster on that still had Iraqi sand in it, and I kissed him for what I continually pray will not be the last time. Zero day just plain sucks because the enormity of this year is spread out before me, and it looks like an unconquerable mountain. For those of you who say that a year isn’t so bad, think about it. Think about what a year meant when you were fifteen and longed to drive. Think about what a year means when your baby is blowing out the candle on his first birthday cake. And I’m sorry, no, this doesn’t compare to when your boyfriend had to go away for business. Unless your boyfriend’s business is being shot at. Then we’ll talk.
So tonight, I will crawl into our empty bed, and I will try to get warm, which is usually Jason’s job. I will steal his pillow because it smells like him. I will ziploc bag his t-shirts so I can smell him 5 months from now. I will cry, because the boys aren’t awake, so for just those few moments, I don’t have to hold it together. And I will sleep with a bed partner I had long ago sworn off : the telephone.
Today is day zero, and every emotion I have is blistered and raw. But tomorrow is day one, and you’d better believe that I hit the ground running. After all, someone has to find Layla.