Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21st, 2009

As I was getting dressed to go pick up Keith, I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror. I looked remarkably pale. As a matter of fact, I was having trouble breathing. Leaning both hands on the sink, I looked myself sternly in the eye.

"No passing out, Jenny!" I said, and then bent to the task of getting on my high heeled, white sandals.

Before I left, I shut all the windows and turned on the AC. I looked around at the deeply quiet, glowing house. Every surface was clean and clutter free. I could hear the sound of the clock ticking above the mantel. It was completely unbelievable to me that when I returned, I would be bringing Keith back with me.

Driving was an ordeal. I just focused on the road and remembered to breathe. That worked out OK. I knew where I was going; the weekend before I'd stopped to locate the Special Events Center on my way to get the necessary groceries.

"Dear God," I kept praying, "please just make sure I can find a parking spot and then some place to sit down. I can't stand. That's all I ask. Just a parking space and somewhere to sit." I do find the strangest things to focus on when anxious.

I found a parking spot quite easily and stayed a minute in the car to collect myself. I had to remember distinctly to put the car in park before turning it off, made sure I had my cell phone and took off my sun glasses so I could see better; I was terribly afraid of tripping and falling on my face, as my legs were a little unsteady and the high heels weren't helping.

The Special Events Center was massive, with high ceilings and overflowing with waves of high energy. I stood inside and got my bearings, overwhelmed at first by the crowd, the banners hung every where, the blaring music.

There was a large bouncy castle for the kids and next to it, the bleachers were mostly empty. I went up three rows and sat down on the end. I had thought I would be early, but it appears others had been there for at least an hour and the place was packed. They were showing video of the men getting off the planes that were somewhere outside and with each scene there was a loud shout of appreciation from the crowd watching.

It was a while before the men appeared and every time a stray curl of smoke escaped the double doors, the crowd went wild. It seemed surreal to me that within moments, I would see Keith. I sat very quietly; I found it impossible to make any sound. I sat with my purse on the floor, my hands demurely in my lap. All I had to do was wait a few moments and he would come in those doors; the phrase "to possess your soul in patience" occurred to me more than once during that time.

Finally, they played "American Soldier" and everyone surged to their feet, banners waving. But no troops. Each time the chorus of the song came around, the crowd shouted out, but the doors didn't open. The song ended and the moderator told us all to sit down again. We were a confused, but a very amicable group of people; we all sat back down again.

Then another song began, the doors opened and every one let out a great shout. Except me, I watched mute, electrified, as lines of soldiers marched solidly into the empty space and then turned crisply to face the front bleachers. My eyes flew from face to face but I couldn't see Keith at first.

Then, as they were talking, suddenly I saw him. He was fourth from the end, in the front row. He couldn't see me; they can't turn their heads at all when in formation and I was to the side of him. In the first moment I saw his face, I knew him. He stood out, one of the taller soldiers and his face was very composed.

It was a mercifully brief ceremony; the troops were thanked, the families were thanked, a prayer was said and then we were all released. There was a general surge forward. Keith and I had planned for me to stay on the bleachers; I had sent him a text before the troops entered, letting him know in what general direction I was in.

But when he started forward, I forgot all about the plan. I ditched my purse, I literally vaulted down from the side of the bleachers (I have been doing all that working out!), made my way over the deflated bouncy castle and then looked up and saw him just a yard away from me, looking shy and delighted. I ran the rest of the way.

He felt exactly right, every inch of his six feet two were well known to me, I curled my arms tight around his neck and just breathed in the scent of him. There is a hollow in his shoulder that fits my face perfectly, I nestled in there. He smelled good to me, which is saying something, considering he hadn't had a shower in over three days.

"You little kitten," he said tenderly, amazed. When I finally lifted my face to look at him, I immediately had to kiss him and even with my heels, I had to stand on my tip toes to reach him, my hair was loose down my back; it bothers me that way, but he likes it so I'd left it like that.

The kiss quickly became so passionate and deeply personal that eventually I remembered we were in the middle of a huge crowd and drew a little away, shy for the first time. But every time I looked at him, his face delighted me and then I had to kiss him again.

"Let's get out of here," my husband said, gripping my hand tightly. And then I remembered my purse.

When I went back for it, to my horror I discovered it gone. What were the odds, I wondered? What sad, sad person would steal a purse at such an event? And then I saw the kindly, mustachioed face of an elderly man who, with his wife, had been sitting next to me. He had my purse safely in both his hands and extended it to me, his face aglow.

"Thank you!" I cried, receiving it. I thought the world a marvelously beautiful place in that moment. If a rainbow had appeared over the high ceiling and the voice of Louis Armstrong began singing "What a Wonderful World" from above, I would have taken it as a natural extension of the general environment.

We made our way through the crowd somewhat erratically, as I had to reach up to kiss him frequently; some of the way he simply put his arm around my waist, lifted me off the ground and carried me.

Outside there were tents with their bags stacked in piles and there was a great deal of confusion over where each person's bag was. They had three huge packs to carry; I ended up carrying one of them as we made our way through the parking lot.

Someone looked at me funny, I suppose it did look a little odd. I was wearing a white dress with a full, pleated skirt and heels, with a huge, camo patterned bag over my shoulder. It didn't feel odd to me though; as any Army wife knows, we are always carrying a burdens for our husbands; usually they are invisible. To be literally carrying something was almost a relief.

I was horrified to learn that I would have to drive, as no soldier is allowed until they've been home twenty four hours. I took a deep breath and negotiated the parking lot. It didn't help my concentration any to have Keith beside me, making me laugh and otherwise distracting me.

It's a miracle that coming or going nothing adverse happened.

It's still a source of wonder to me to know that at night, he'll be beside me in bed. This despite the fact that because of it, I cannot sleep. Last night, I got up in desperation and put cotton balls in my ears to block the snores. Each evening he assures me with adorable gravity that he will not snore that night. It's very cute and completely useless.

He wakes at five and he never stops going during the day. On the first afternoon back, he mowed the back yard and got the HD up and running. We sat in it late that night, listening to the radio and talking.

I still haven't gotten used to the fact that I can touch him. He is touchable, he takes up space, he fills clothing that have hung limp from their hangers for the past nine months. The first time I saw him in jeans, boots and his pale blue shirt, the sleeves rolled up, I got a little dizzy.

He has the most deliciously long eye lashes, he gets splatters of oil on his face like freckles and his muscled forearms are covered with thick, copper hair. When we went ATV riding today, many times I buried my face in the back of his neck and felt how warm and solid his chest was under my arms; I thanked God over and over again, an almost wordless prayer that Keith had come back safe and sound.

Sound. That words means so much more to me now. He's himself, he's whole. And I get to keep him!! He's not going anywhere!

"What are you gunna do with me, woman?" he teases me often, with his little wicked grin.

"Well, they will put you back to work here in a couple days," I replied with a grin of my own.

"C'mere," he said to me, the first night he was back. "I have something for you."

He gave me a little red velvet bag that I didn't even recognize at first. I opened it and saw the little enameled pill box that I'd given him before he left. I looked up at him over my shoulder, he was standing behind me, watching me.

I opened the box, inside was a thin silver ring, a tiny crucifix, and a thin piece of rolled up paper on which I had written a Bible verse. The ring was the first piece of jewelry I had ever owned and something that I had always worn, every day for fifteen years until the day before he left for Iraq, when I had taken it off and put it in the box for him.

"I kept it with me every day, on every mission," he said quietly, bending his head to my ear.

I slipped the ring on my right hand and it was as though it had never been off.

Friday, August 14, 2009

August 14th, 2009

Here's how my days go lately:

9:12am: Yay! It is officially a new day! I cross a day off the calendar and stand back to admire this incredible improvement to its design.

10:45am: Absorbed in reading the articles at, time passes by quickly as I either cheer or boo the screen.

12:03pm: Yay! The day is half over. But no, I remember that the afternoon drags on indefinitely.

3:29pm: Listlessly wandering around the house, unable to focus on reading or cleaning or eating or any other activity. But it's almost four o'clock!! Soon it will be evening!

6:32pm: Thank goodness! Soon it will be dark and the day will be over.

8:45pm: The day is over!! Let me count the days for the zillionth time...

12:04am: It's the next day!!! Oh joy!! Now please, for the love of Pete, can I fall asleep now?

Rinse and repeat, for the past week and for several more days left to go.

People who say that the very end of deployment is one of the worst stages are absolutely right.

Oh my goodness, look at the time!! It's already 1:30pm!! Yay!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

August 10th, 2009

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.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

August 5th, 2009

I have been a really bad blogger. I can hardly keep up with even the small amount of commenting that I used to do. I've started and in some cases finished at least five blogs, but did not post them.

The problem is is that I'm caught in the crux of two extremely compelling forces. One, of course, is my husband's return. This eclipses everything else around me except for the other compelling force and that is my concern for and awareness of my country.

My days are all spent either standing still, lost in space, completely illuminated by the sheer, breathless happiness of knowing that very soon my husband will be in our home or lost on the internet as I research more and more about recent government policies, their impact on our country, how the government is structured, how it used to be structured, what is possible still to do and what is lost already.

I don't consider myself to be a controversial person. Or at least, I didn't. I am amiable and easy going, shy and withdrawn. I have an analytical and logical mind and a healthy dose of scepticism.

Consequently, the more I learn about government today the more I feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole. And I just keep falling. I keep wanting to blog about this, but first of all, my ideas keep evolving the more and more I learn and I think there's still a great deal more to learn. I don't want to present half baked political ideas.

However, I am curious. How many of you are aware that Congress voted against bailing out GM back in December and then the President took their authority into his own hands and took over the company without Congress? That is a breathtaking, heart stopping abuse of power. Fascinatingly, Bush did the same thing.

Furthermore, GM is right now not being managed through pre-established government bureaucracy, but through the Auto Task Force set up the President. Sound too weird and scary to be true? I feel the same way! That's why I'm not sure if I want to even blog about it, but follow these links and then do some research. See where it takes you.

I could go on and on, but I won't. I just wonder one more thing, what all do you think or know about these so called "czars"? Is this a good idea? What is their purpose? Who do they answer to? What precedent is there for them? How much authority do they have and where does it come from?

I'm still trying to figure it out myself. But I'll tell you one thing, I have very bad feeling about it. I will try to hold off drawing conclusions until I learn more about them though.

So, between that and preparing for Keith to come home, I've just been absorbed. And I promised myself that I wouldn't spend the whole day down here on the computer feeling like Alice in Wonderland. Today I'm going to clean the house and do some much needed grocery shopping. So I better head off and start, but if you don't hear from me as much, I'm still here and following right along.