Mar 19, 2017

You Would Have Loved It

 "The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, 
as if the things we'd done were less real and important [...]" 

It's a little silly to feel broken over a bumblebee purse. Things like this always sneak up on me.

Millie has a bright red, sequined frame bag on a chain. It's a little purse that is usually involved in any dress up endeavors (both with her and with Walter). But one day at an overpriced children's clothing store at the mall, she found a denim one with lace or sparkles, maybe unicorns. She begged and pleaded. But a six year old doesn't need a purse, in my opinion, so we left the store without it, her girl's heart bruised from mourning what she would never have. And then, the next day, while she was busy at her homeschool group, I stopped by a resale shop, saw a little patent leather bag with a daisy, and decided it was worth the dollar price tag. When she opened the door and saw it, she clasped it to her chest, took it with her everywhere, and was quite the fancy lady. That was, until Walter scribbled all over her prized possession with a ballpoint pen.

Then, tonight, we browsed the Goodwill aisles when I spotted it- a bumblebee purse. It couldn't have been cuter. Bursting with more excitement than most adults should have over a bumblebee bag, I proudly presented it to Millie. "Look," I gushed to her, "Isn't this the best? You could fit twice as many things in this one! And it's just right for summer! You could even bring it to church!" (Why she would need to, I had no idea. The words were spilling out.) She looked at me skeptically. "It's okay," she began, "but...I don't know. It's for a little kid."I stared at her in shock. Never mind that I didn't want her to have one at all. Suddenly, I needed her to have this one. $2.99 to preserve a smidgen of childhood? Absolutely. And whether it was for her or for myself (okay, we all know it was for me), she finally consented that we should probably take it home. 

I thought about it all evening, and why I was so manic and insistent about something so ridiculous. I realized that I was slightly scared. Any day now, she wouldn't agree to take that bag home even if it did mean something to me. Sometimes I forget, in the quiet day in and day out of our small lives, she and Walter are growing up. Every second is farther away from the littleness, and closer to big kids who don't have time for silly things like a bee shaped purse. 

Ah. There it is. Just when I think I've managed to be angry and sad about every part of this deployment, I find another layer. Another reason he should be here, not there. Another small way to grieve.

They were both sad and confused when I had to let them know he will miss their birthdays this year. And really, he will never much know Millie, the six year old and Walter, the three year old. They will mostly exist in photos and grainy video calls, these parts of their stories and personalities witnessed only by me. When he's home later, I know I'll begin laughing at a memory only to realize it's one we don't share. He and I will have aged a year's time, but it will matter little- maybe another wrinkle here or there. Yet a year of their very few years feels like all the time in the world. They've outgrown so many shoes and pairs of jeans, and we keep etching new marks on the growth chart on the wall. Millie no longer stumbling on the bigger words in her stories, and reads to Walter with ease, and he has new habits and loves and fears. Sky will meet new people when he returns, people who didn't exist when he left.

It's such an odd ache, desperately wanting time to move forward to the day he comes home, but hoping it will slow down so they stay small a little longer. There is no way to balance it, so there's a constant battle in my heart. If only it was the end of summer. And if only summer would take longer to get here, because they're already so much bigger than when he left.

We took a short walk after naptime, soaking in the sunshine and pondering when the dandelions would return. At the little creek down the road, we saw that the tall, brown cattails we've passed every day had turned white, and were ripe for the picking. Millie cautiously stepped down to the edge of where grass meets mud, and snapped off a few reeds, one for each of us. I watched as they stroked the velvet soft outside before pinching a part of fluff and watching it sail into the air all around them. The bits of feathery whiteness floated up into the blue, slowly and then suddenly gone, as if they had never existed upright and still in the water moments before.

Sometimes, the proof we have of the past is just as tangible. Maybe it's merely to say, "It's not here anymore. But when it was, it was beautiful. The breeze danced away with it all, and now there's not a trace. And I wish I could describe how that looked. 

You would have loved it."

Jan 26, 2017

A Little Sad, But Mostly Okay

 “I don’t know what they are called, the spaces between seconds– 
but I think of you always in those intervals.” 
― Salvador PlascenciaThe People of Paper 

Sometimes, when it's been a particularity rough day, I try to picture it, to imagine the whole crazy scene- a weary husband comes home from a day at the office or the factory. He dutifully, slowly tells his wife that he has to move to another country for a year. His boss told him to, and there is little time to prepare now. Anything his boss wants, his boss gets.

But it's okay, right? That's his job, and he signed up for it, and so did she for that matter. There is no need to get upset. Just be proud, set your jaw, and embrace the suck. Cue the canned laughter.

My feelings since Sky left haven't really calmed down. I'm still a bit heartbroken and angry. I often feel, though, like I'm expected to be a little sad, but mostly okay. And sometimes that feels unbelievably strange to me. There are times when I am a little sad but mostly okay; after all, when you have kids, there is no luxury for all of your emotion, no time to comprehend it all until they're in bed. But also? I have had days where I've cried through every moment they weren't awake. Where I've had to run to the bathroom to let it out for a moment before pulling myself together to make a box of macaroni or load them into the car for Sonic the third time in one week.

When you marry someone, it isn't because you can't handle life on your own. Most of us do what we need to do to get by as adults, and most of us have lived alone for at least a small part of our lives. You marry them because you love that person. Because you want to spend time with them. And then the military calls one day to tell you that you can't. And you're supposed to be okay. A little sad, but mostly okay. I occasionally wonder how often people think of what it would feel like to have their spouse leave and get a new mailing address. Of course, I can't imagine the many other scenarios that people have had to face in their own lives, either. So many battles we'll never know.

War is incredibly abstract. From a distance, the military is what politicians praise (while secretly slashing their benefits) and people cheer for or blame. It's something we are used to seeing on the news, flashes of uniforms and armored vehicles and bombs. None of it can feel very real, though, because if that face they showed on the screen happened to be someone's husband, brother, son, or father, it would hurt too much to fathom.

The problem is, they do belong to someone, to many someones. I do my best to keep the TV off, but Walter saw a magazine cover with a soldier on it at the grocery store today. He exclaimed excitedly, "Mama, it's like Daddy! It's an Army guy!" I nodded, distracted by unloading gallons of milk in the checkout lane. "Why does he have a gun?" he asked. I stared at his sweet face. They know so little about it all, and thank goodness. To them, Daddy is a hero, probably someone a little larger than life, and someone we spend a lot of time missing.

We feel his absence every single day.

In the morning, he's not there. There isn't a morning kiss, a lazy Saturday with orange rolls to be shared, or a reason to brew a full pot of coffee. There isn't someone else getting them ready for church or running down the road to the next town over for doughnuts as a treat.

At dinner, he's already been asleep for hours there. No sound of the door opening, the cheers because he's home, or someone to compliment me on my (lately barley existent) cooking a full meal. No one else helps Walter with his bath, or does stories with funny voices, or oohs and ahhs over something Millie did in school that day.

At night, it hits all of us the hardest. There are whispered, broken confessions. "I miss Daddy." They each press a paw on their teddy bears that play a little message he recorded, and we stay silent in the dark to listen to his muffled voice say he misses us and he'll see us soon. When I crawl into bed, a day's worth of exhaustion or grief or anger overwhelms my body, running through me. Then I hear the familiar ding on my phone because it's early morning there, and he's saying he loves me before he heads off to PT.

And I think about him, and what it must be like there. A landscape totally unfamiliar. The droning on and on at meetings. The coming home at night to what home is temporarily. The same uniform day after maddening day. The time apart from two small souls who think the world of him.

We're still fine here. The kids still have three meals daily, still have a ball spending time at grandpa's house, and we always manage to get through the day and begin a new one over and over. Sometimes, we have fun, exciting times, or at least afternoons that can distract us. But I can't pretend it feels normal to have a fourth of our family thousands of miles away for a year. (Thank God it doesn't.) The part about deployment getting easier as it goes doesn't exactly feel true in the least, however. We have the days it hurts less and the days it hurts just as much as the time we said goodbye. Maybe it's the expectations, or maybe it's realizing how pathetic I sound, but I'm embarrassed to feel this much, this often. I'm painfully aware that I should be over it by now.

So when they asked me how I am doing, I pause and then give whatever answer I think is supposed to be appropriate. To this blog, I write infinitely too much. To Sky, I probably say more than I should. To my parents, I tell the truth. To my close friends, I say it's hard. And to everyone else, I say something about hanging in there.

A little sad, but mostly okay.
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