My husband will be home next week.
(I have to pause to just let that sink in.)
I've been saying that to myself and others for the past two days. I remember so vividly right after he deployed, the very day, in fact. I was working the evening shift, gathering dirty dishes from dinner. I was in this haze of grief and disbelief. Deployment is such a large and bruising experience that it takes weeks to come to any kind of equilibrium within it.
"My husband left for Iraq this morning," I said, my head down.
I felt as though I were walking within a bubble, it was my first experience of the commonly experienced "deployment bubble," compounded not only by isolation from one's mate, but from everyone else around you, from general society, except those few who have also experienced it.
Sometimes it felt as though I were swimming through deep water. Sometimes I could hardly keep my head above the water and I would come up for brief gasps of air. Those were in the long, dark winter days when I would not get dressed, when the sun hardly came out and the dust lay heavy over all the surfaces of the house.
Now the journey is all but over. Yesterday I was gathering the menus after dinner. I stopped by the table of an elderly couple, ensconced in a table all by themselves, surrounded by windows that look out over a grassy expanse and then the stately buildings that line the street.
"How many more days?" asked the elderly man with a twinkle in his eyes.
"Next week," I replied and then just stood there, while the truth of this dawned on me. I was accutely aware of everything in that moment, the feel of the dry paper between my fingers, the carpet on which I stood, the bustle of dinner going on behind us in the main room, the evening light that slanted down outside across the grass.
These last few weeks have been anything but uneventful. My husband's truck got hit by shrapnel from a rocket (no one was hurt), our dogs got out of the backyard fence and were taken to the pound before I could get there to prevent it. The window of my husband's beloved Bronco was shattered on accident by our well meaning and good neighbor Larry as he was trimming the lawn.
But looking back, I won't remember those things clearly. What I will remember is the delicious experience of falling even more in love with my husband. It is, I cannot help but conclude, one of life's greatest joys to be in love with one's husband.
I am a realist in my attitude toward marriage; I assume that it will be challenging, that it will require work, commitment and dedication. I assume that human emotion will rise and fall as it always does.
So it is a most delightful experience to find my emotions swelling up so sweetly, without restraint. The thought of Keith himself causes me to grin with sheer happiness, the thought that he is my husband causes me to swoon. (Yes, I said swoon. It's a perfectly good word!)
I think he's become comfortable with the fact that I think him adorable.
"Cause I"m just so darn cute," he said the other day, and waited.
"Yes, you are!" I whole heartedly agreed, swooning.
"You crazy kitten," he said, with affectionate humor.
He already wrote down a detailed list of everything he will need accomplish on his first full day back in order to feel relaxed. He shared this with me so that we could be on the same page. I love that sort of thing about him, I love how organized and focused he is and I love how he then includes me, to make sure that I don't get the wrong impression.
The closer we move to the homecoming, the more jittery I become. I find myself staring off into space often, or not being able to complete a sentence. I can't sleep. Last night and the night before, I couldn't sleep until past one or two am. I am anxious about getting everything ready, I have a grocery list made, I have cleaning to do.
Today I have to go into work for a few hours and hopefully (please God!) I will sleep well tonight and then tomorrow I will wake up refreshed and focused and tackle the house.
Each day passes in the same way that entire months used to. The day begins and the first half passes by quickly and then the afternoon and evening drag by. I am usually awake in order to see the clock go past twelve am, at which point I always tell myself the next day has begun and mentally cross it off the calendar.
These days are filled with a strange, breathless energy. I know very shortly the entire fabric of my life will be up ended. I will no longer work, I will be up early. I will have trouble sleeping, not because of excitement, but because Keith will take up most of the bed and snore like a bulldozer. I won't have an entire afternoon to myself, I won't be able to have yogurt and blueberries for dinner and leave the dishes for the next morning.
The days will speed up and go by with a blur. September will come before I've had a chance to turn around. Family will come to visit and weddings will be attended and then there will be the move. Hopefully, at some point in there I will become pregnant.
I feel in some way as though I am waiting at a train station for the express to come through. Right now all is quiet. I hear the muted sounds of traffic from somewhere far from the platform, the sun falls down on the cement and the wind moves softly. However, I know that sweeping toward me with speed and intent is a huge, fast moving express train that will scoop me up and carry me away to places I've been imagining for an entire year and that will now become real.
I just keep waiting for that one moment when I suddenly recognize his face and hold my arms out toward him.
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1 year ago