I have been watching "Out of Africa" and as usual, I now long for her entire wardrobe and her accent.
"...then dahnce with me," she says in her low and husky voice.
(When I look back at this year, I will no doubt think of it as the Year of Watching Movies, among other things.)
Keith called in the middle of this and when I explained that Abby was half in my lap in her avid pursuit of my cheesy nachos, he paused.
"Cheesy nachos?" he asked in a small, small voice. "You're eating... cheesy nachos?"
If he were using that voice and were with me, I would give him cheesy nachos along with many, many kisses, which is the point of him using it. But it's just torture when he uses it over the phone like that.
He has finished the set up of the mission and is now in the daily grind of simply overseeing it. He stays awake the entire shift, while his men take turns sleeping. I close my eyes and I can see him, sitting hunched up at a little table, a manual in front of him. It is inches thick, and a piece of scrap paper lies beside it, where he has been working out the math problems.
His legs are folded up under him, his shoulders hunched forward in concentration. He is holding in his hand a pen, one of the two pens that he always carries around in his sleeve.
"...because, hon," he explained one day last summer, "some one's always gonna ask me for one and I'll never see it again."
I used to wash his uniforms with the pens still in them; more than once it happened, before I learned to look everywhere. I had to throw away several tee shirts; the dryer is still streaked with ink.
By the time he got to page 16 he already knew how to fix something and was showing his men how to do it and cashing in on favors to get a weight bench down at his work station for his men to use on the off time.
Despite this, he longs to be back in his tank, roughing it and pushing the perimeter forward. He wishes to fall asleep with the rumble of the turbine engine under his head, the stars above, and to roll out with very big guns.
I wouldn't want him any other way, but it seems no sooner do I get used to a certain way of things, no sooner do I get settled into a mindset, "This is the way it will for the next seven months; I can do this, this is not so bad," than it changes up and I must rearrange my own internal support system.
"I been thinkin' about our road trip," Keith said to me this evening, his voice carefree in that moment.
We plan to go visit his family in Indiana and mine in New England during block leave. I think about this often as well, about the joy of pulling out, the tent and ATV behind us, just the two of us, on a journey of our own.
We'll be able to stop whenever we want, rough it and go trail riding, or stay in a plush hotel, which ever we feel like. We'll stop for coffee and argue about the radio station and watch America go by. I've always wanted to go on a road trip and this would be the first time.
Both of us feel that the days are flying by and it is true, they seem to be. Already January is half over, where did the days go? I count the months down as though doing penance, each month has a feel all its own.
I know very soon it will be February and February will pass by quickly, it being so short. And March will be filled with late winter snow and the sunlight growing heavy and spring alive in the tree branches and the running water. And April will smell like lilacs and look like daffodils and I'll keep the windows open, even when I feel the chill.
May will be a riot of green running down the southern backs of hills and it will turn into the heat of summer and June will be mowing the lawn and putting my hair up off the back of my neck and putting potted plants out along the back deck. July will be breathless with heat and anticipation and August will be nothing more than a welter that will slowly melt away like chocolate left in the car.
The nights will be hot and each day will be one day closer to seeing him and then there will be that moment when I must see him come in, but won't be able to go to him, and must instead stand and wait for the ceremony to be over. I don't know how I will manage that, but I've managed everything else so far, so I know I will.
Despite this knowledge, the knowledge of how quickly it will all pass by, sometimes as I drive to work I look up to the ridge of mountains standing up sharp and immediate all along the western horizon. The feeling comes over me that we must still be up there, skimming along through the pines, our shadows racing along beside us in the clear, cool mountain air, up so high it seems the whole world is laid out in green folds before us. And if I could just find my way back up all those winding dirt roads and high along the ridges where the trails twist and turn in the cool pine shadows, I might still hear echoes of our voices.
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