Maybe it is just tonight, but right now, I am at the lowest point since deployment day 1. I feel apathy and exhaustion. As I wander through the house, I force myself to do one small thing; like return a coat to a closet, or to wash a few dishes while waiting for the popcorn in the microwave. I stood for a long, long time under the hot water this morning, just stood there until there wasn't any more hot water left.
Keith is not coming home in December after all. I heard this as I was driving up to the city for a seminar, in the middle of the season's first snowfall. The snow was thick and lay heavy on the roads, long lines of cars and trucks slowly wound their way through the white, dull morning.
The phone rang and I thought it was someone from the seminar calling to see if I was alive and well, or overturned in some snowy ditch somewhere along the way.
"This is Jenny," I said in such a dull voice.
"Hey Sweetie," came the voice of my husband, very quiet and raspy with exhaustion, faintly tinged with humor at the way I had answered.
"Sweetie!" I cried out, the joy overtaking me. It was the first time I'd heard his voice in a long time and I wasn't expecting to hear from him at all.
That is when he told me that they had changed the leave dates. I remember exactly where I was; at an intersection in the city that I am very familiar with. Very near by was the posh, upper middle class neighborhood that used to be my home, down the street was Ruby Tuesdays that I used to eat at with Harry so often, dressed up and ready for a strawberry lemonade, in the balmy summer evenings.
I cried in the car, I cried at the horror of it. The horror of the Christmas decorations I had already put up, the way I had arranged time around him coming, at the desolation that was left.
Not only that, but they had moved him to another platoon, so he was not even with the men that he had known, some of whom he had trained and worked with for years. Quiet, capable Gunner and Driver, a laughing, cocky boy from mid America with a dirt bike and not much else.
His move was due to the fact that after being promoted, there was no place for him in his old platoon. So now, not only is he living in a shack with no electricity, but with men that he had not worked with before. And even though he is not working a classified mission, he cannot give me any details of what he is doing. I cannot say, "He is training Iraqi soldiers," or "He is on patrol missions in his tank." I do not know what he is doing.
He sounded defeated and exhausted over the phone. He had already ordered parts for his truck, so he could work on it during leave. In the next few days, they will show up at the front door. I will put them in the already crowded, cobwebbed garage or stack them downstairs in the family room.
There were countless little projects and things he was going to secure for me when he got here. We had gotten into the habit of saying, "But you can look into that when you come..."
I haven't sent packages for Christmas because of course, we were going to celebrate it here. Now, even if I mailed them today, they would arrive too late. He will celebrate Christmas with nothing at all.
Last night I had a strangely vivid dream of him. I dreamed we rode the four wheeler to the grocery story. It was winter and I was expecting it to be cold, but I didn't feel the chill, I felt warm and snug with my arms tightly around him. I remember the clear image of his boot as he climbed off and the look of impatience on his face, an impersonal look which I've seen often when he had to go grocery shopping.
He called me during the seminar, when I was on break. I told him the car had been slipping around the roads.
"Maybe I should put a chain the trunk to weigh it down," I suggested, which made him laugh, so unexpectedly tender. "What?" I asked. "What's funny about that?"
"Oh, my little wife," he said gently, "what am I going to do with you?"
"Keep me, I hope," I replied, grinning.
"Oh, that I will," he assured me with lazy confidence.
(It turns out my car has front wheel drive and therefore, putting weight in the truck would just make the sliding worse. "Slow down," was my husband's advice to me. He always suspects me of driving too fast. I wonder what in the world would cause him to think that? It's not as if I have three speeding tickets and two accidents under my belt...)
Time has been moving along in its irrevocable way all along, and will continue to. The horrible holiday season will pass by and it will be the cold, white clarity of January, which I have always appreciated, and by then, the days and the light will be growing.
I will mark the advent of spring, knowing that I will see him then, and spend the summer months preparing for a whole new life.
I just need to hold on through this horrible and tangled agony, knowing that it will pass by. And it won't be that bad. I'll spend Christmas with my family, my marvelous, courageous, inspiring family.
I just want so badly to hold my husband in my arms that it hurts.
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1 year ago