As I write this my husband is upstairs in bed, fast asleep and snoring. I know that, once I finish writing and have worked this out of my system, I can go upstairs and wiggle myself into the crook of his body and fall asleep slowly. He will be hot to touch, malleable in his deep sleep; I will need army issue ear plugs to block the noise of his snoring.
Tomorrow I do not have to work, I will wake up enough to bid him goodbye at the ungodly hour of four forty five and then go back to sleep for many more hours. Today I cleaned the entire house, focusing on the downstairs; everything is dust free and smelling of Febreeze. So, tomorrow, I need only get up, make myself coffee, do the dishes left over from last night, and then the day is mine and he will come home for dinner.
We have a little over a week before he leaves for a year. Right now, I can't imagine what that will feel like; not knowing is part of the agony. I hold his shaved head in my arms and I can feel how thin the skull bones are, the blood pulsing hotly right beneath my fingertips. Doing this is a prayer; it must be, because when I do this, sheer emotion rises up in an inarticulate surge; my prayer is a babble.
We make plans now; we are close enough to the time for this to be a comfort and not a terror, as it would have been two or even one week ago. He will fly out on September 2nd, the flight will be over twenty hours long. I will drive him on base, but will not linger there to say goodbye; we will say them privately, at home.
Provided he has a base that is not in the middle of nowhere, he will be able to call me when he gets off missions; this will probably be about every other day or so, and at any hour of the day or night. Provided he has internet access, we will be able to chat on line as well, also most likely in the middle of the night, due to the time difference.
I will subscribe to a diesel truck magazine called 8-Lug and mail them to him, along with other goodies, in monthly care packages. (His last deployment, he had only four for the entire year. Needless to say, he knew them front to back by the time he returned.) I will write a letter once a week, I will buy a digital camera so I can take pictures to include with the letters. All the bills will come out of his account, I will be responsible for the utilities alone, I will call the Red Cross in cases of emergency and they will contact Rear Deployment and they will contact my husband's unit's commanding officer and he will contact someone who will then contact my husband.
His prayer tonight was articulate, as it always is; his prayers have all the simplicity and assurance of a child's, they never fail to comfort me. "Dear Heavenly Father," he always begins, "thank you for everything you have done and given us." Tonight, he added, "And help Jenny as she prepares for me to be gone for a year. I know she will be strong."
There are certain lessons I am learning. One; never, ever rent or watch or pay attention to military movies before a deployment and for heaven't sake, don't play military playstation 3 games with incredibly vivid graphics and a story line based off the Iraq war. (This last one should be obvious to even the most dense of idiots, but Keith was playing it, I watched it, I got sick to my stomach, he apologized: that's how that went down.)
Two: do not pay attention to five minute segments on the nightly news about wounded soldiers, dead soldiers, memorials for soldiers, or handicapped soldiers and the toll this takes on their families. More importantly, if one does happen to pay attention, do not, I repeat, do not then immediately jump on line to look up more statistics about this, read personal stories or look at pictures of soldiers with no legs, or missing an arm, or most of their stomach, or half of their head, and yet look at how bravely and vacantly they stare into the camera!
Three: try not to get frustrated by people who ask well meaning questions cheerfully, like "What are you going to do while he's away?" What do they expect me to say to that? "I'm going to take up knitting..." maybe or, how about the truth, like "I'm going to be completely miserable and frighted and frustrated. I''m going to feel helpless and alone and resentful, despite my best attempts to take care of myself. It'll be fun, you can come join me. Really."
Finally, pay no attention to banners all over town, from the airport terminal to the army surplus store on the corner that proclaim "Welcome Home Troups!" In a town this small, with this many military bases, there is always someone leaving and someone coming. However, when it is your man leaving, it is not exactly good for the moral to see the local Chinese take out place celebrating the troup's return in bright, cheerful colors.
At least I'm not alone in this; I am one of many women who never in a hundred years would have guessed they'd choose to be a military dependent, attached as though by umbilical cord to their husband's social security number. ("Memorize it," stated the women who officially inducted me into this whole new world. "Everything depends on it." I looked at my picture on my i.d. card; I looked sober, rendered in stark black and white, my new name carefully inscribed across the bottom.) I am not the only woman up late at night, trying to come to terms with the cost.
"We have to cherish every second," Keith told me tonight. I feel vaguely guilty being down here, writing, while he is alone upstairs, accessable. But I had to mark this point in time, so that I can look back and remember it. In a short while, I will envy myself this bittersweet distress.
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