Saturday, October 11, 2008

News From the home Front

(Forgive me the puns, put it down to stress. Lord knows, there's enough of that going around, pre-deployment.)

I was thinking about the space of a year yesterday, it's so hard to categorize time without a comparison of some kind. So I thought back to what I was doing a year ago. A year ago, I was a month into my job as Department Head; the frustrations of the job were just then hitting me full force. I was planning my wedding with Harry, it was full summer, I lived in a luscious, green area of the city, in a beautiful suburb with water falls and rows of trees. Lynn was still a puppy and lived in a kennel and went for long walks past well kept lawns and little play parks.

At that time, if you had asked me what I would be doing in a year, I would have said I'd be Mrs. Harry, pregnant, and no longer working. It fascinates me, the way life changes, how truly undomesticated it can be.

Instead, here I am. The first time Keith wore his uniform around me, I could hardly breathe. It was in the early morning, after he had come home from PT, one of the first days we were together. I watched him put it on; I was more than half afraid of him, once he had shrugged into the jacket. It was as if one of those faceless soldiers on TV had suddenly walked though the screen and into my bedroom.

I kept coming across the little velcro insignias that mark his uniform. I found them all over the place; American flags in the kitchen drawer, his last name propped up on the dresser, the symbol for his Division under the bed. The entire spare bedroom was taken up with his gear, a great jumble of camouflage. On the dryer was a little, waterproof booklet designed to help soldiers identify potential terrorists in Iraq, with friendly, bright colored pictures and a few helpful phrases in the native language. I was horrified.

I've gotten almost used to it now, though I'm still a little shy when he comes home wearing his uniform. When he comes home, the canvas of his uniform is hot to the touch; he spends most of his days at the motor pool, under the unrelenting sun, which is reflected back up at him from the tarmac and made worse by the tank engines. He smells of engine oil and dust, his fingernails are perpetually dirty.

I still remember the day he called, after two days of silence, while I was in my busy office. My phone was kept by my keyboard at all times, in case he was able to get through. We hadn't met in person yet, we couldn't talk often; he was out in the middle of the desert, eating sand and sitting around on his mostly broken tank, hoping for phone reception.

"I bought a book," he said, with the straightforward simplicity I was beginning to associate with him. 'I been readin' it," he added, satisfied with his endeavors.

"Oh!" was all I could manage to say, pleasantly, wildly searching for anything else to add.

"You're always readin' n' stuff, when I call," he explained, into the little pause. "So, I thought I'd give it try..."

Sheer happiness suffused me, further clouding my mind. "Is it nonfiction?" was all I came up with to say.

"Yes...huh, that where it's true?" he replied, hesitant.

We still have the book, it sits with all my other cherished and well read friends. Its cover is ripped and half the pages are falling out; neither of us have finished it but I won't ever get rid of it.

Yesterday he left work early so that we could begin to get all our paperwork in order before he deploys. Consequently, he was still in uniform and very focused on successfully concluding the current mission. This made me a little nervous; it's rather intimidating enough to be going to the DMV by oneself, but add to that a six foot two Sergeant intent on expediting the foibles of local bureaucracy, and you have one volatile mixture.

We stopped by the library first and that was adventure enough. There I was, in long, tailored linen skirt and blouse, hair up in a knot, high heeled shoes (of course) and carrying books to be returned-and on time, too!

Beside me strode my husband, in uniform- combat boots, black beret and all; barely pausing to place a well aimed spit before opening the door for me. He had never been in a library before. He did not wait to ask for directions; he went straight to the computers while I waited docilely in line to inquire about the use of the aformentioned computers.

Two minutes later he was back. "Do you have your card?" he fired at me, quietly.

I gave him the card. Two minutes later, "What's your pin number?"

By this time I was conversing with the librarian, whom I recognized. The sudden question caught me off guard. "Um..." He strode back to the computer, to pursue plan B. I have no idea what plan B might have been, because once he turned away, I remembered.

"Try the house number," I suggested.

Once he had printed off the proof of my new insurance, he came over to retrieve me from where I had drifted. I paused to borrow the book.

"It's really free?" he whispered, suspicious, waiting beside me in line.

"Yes," I assured him.

"What are you laughing about?" he asked me, the corners of his mouth turning up despite himself, as we stepped out into the hot sun.

I understood in a whole new way that I had entered a seperate world when I saw that there were county clerks at the DMV set aside specially for "Uniformed Military Personnel," as the signs above them heralded. When we sat down with one, we found we needed a vin verification done, so back out we went and to the dealership. There, the engineer called Keith "good sergeant," and fixed the radio for free.

Back we went to the DMV and successfully concluded our mission. There were no injuries. Now, all that remains is to go on back and register both myself and my car with the army officially. That will be an adventure...

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