Yesterday, Keith was gone officially one month. Several things come to mind. I have begun to display certain almost OCD like symptoms that have become endowed with superstitious meaning. For example, my screen saver is, unsurprisingly, a picture of Keith. When shutting down the computer, for a brief moment, all the little icons disappear and all I can see is his face before the screen goes blank. I must stay and watch this, I must on no account shut off the computer or walk away until his face fades. I don't know what will happen if I don't, all I know is, I can't risk it.
I have developed a strange fondness for the digital camera, as lately I have taken so many videos to send to Keith. Sometimes when I am very lonely, I feel like taking the camera out and talking to it.
I have always been a jumpy gal, but now, when my phone rings, I leap at least six inches in the air and fumble to open it.
Certain aspects of this journey were explained to me before hand, and the forewarning was excellent. Like, for example, the fact that he would, once over there, become more emotionally unavailable. This is true. It is as though his uniform were eating my husband alive.
I could try fighting it, but I'm pretty sure I would lose. I remember watching him pack his bags and the impact of realizing that for one year, he would wear nothing but his uniform. He literally has nothing else to wear. And I remember with what relief he would get out of it as soon as he was home from work, change into his most shabby of tee shirts and shorts and invest himself in his domestic projects.
It becomes more and more clear to me that I have a multifaceted role to play. I imagined myself simply house-sitting. It's not like that at all. I am the memory keeper and the living connection to all those pieces of himself he has been severing. It's not a role I object to, I like cataloguing moments; I must, for my own sanity, wrap every memory around me like cotton candy on a stick, into a big, fluffy ball of insulation between myself and his absence.
It's just that, when I think of the marvelously sappy things he used to say to me, (things he would never forgive me for posting) I miss it. But at least I can remember them. In the meantime, I must get used to the feeling of reporting to my Staff Sergeant instead of sweet talking with my husband. It's a good thing that I am very fond of them both.
I do make him laugh, but usually when I am not intending to, like when I innocently asked him, "Where are you? Are you in your office?"
"Ya little kitten!" he said, when he could speak. "In my office," he chuckled again, to himself.
I have been putting together his first care package, an endeavor that makes me feel incredibly conspicuous. I seem to make the project way more complicated than it should be. Where does one get a box? Does one use an actual shoe box, or should it be merely that size? If one buys it from the post office, does one buy the box, take it home, fill it and return it to be mailed, or does one bring the contents to the post office, fill it there and then post it? Where does one buy long cut, wintergreen chewing tobacco, other than on post? How can one possibly put down on a piece of paper everything that needs to be said, and nothing that should not? I haven't written an actual letter in years, I've lost the knack of it.
I went to the post office to figure out some of these things, I found what seemed to be a good sized box and waited in line to pay for it. I brought it up to the counter, only to be told the box was free, I could take it home and fill it, then pay for the package when I brought it back to be mailed. He took one look at me; wedding ring, dog tag, box.
"This is going APO?" he asked, flatly. I recognized, after a puzzled moment, the letters from Keith's address.
"Yes," I admitted. "Yes, it is."
The same day I bought chew at Walmart. "Do you have the large packs?" I asked the cashier. She looked at me, puzzled, and brought over one. "Oh, thank you!" I exclaimed, taking it eagerly. "Can you get me another one?" She gave me another look, with my pink toe nails and embroidered skirt.
"I just really enjoy my chew," I told her, my eyes twinkling.
"To each their own," she replied with a shrug.
The good thing about being one month into deployment is that the beginning, the raw beginning, really is the worst so far. It hurt so badly because in the months leading up to him leaving, I had trained myself to be as aware of his physical presence in my life as possible. Then, in one severing moment, that reality is gone, and one is driving away, alone, and the morning sun is making it hard to see the road in all the construction and it's a different route home and once one gets there, it's empty and cold and quiet. He's gone, but only an hour ago he was there and his towel is still damp and his clothes are still on the floor and it's like any other day, except he won't come home that evening.
Then, that person I trained myself to be had to die, and I had to curl up alone to let her die and I had to be a new person. Then the pain healed and one gets wrapped up into a new routine, and the things that once hurt so bad now are comforting; look, it's his coat on the chair!
And he gets to where he is suppose to be, and he is alive and can call and the phone becomes one's best friend and bosom companion.
The worst thing about being one month in is the fact that there are eleven more to go. By I try not to dwell on that too much. September flew by, so will October and then it will be November..etc, etc. And then it will be spring!
In the meantime, this day is a good day. Maybe I'll go spend some quality time with the camera...
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