Jun 20, 2017

The Buttons

"She was feeling the pressure of the world outside 
and she wanted to see him and feel his presence beside her 
and be reassured that she was doing the right thing after all." 

Sometimes, when they ask how I am, I wish I could explain to them about the buttons.

During this deployment, Sky is gone to a lot of people in a lot of places. He is conspicuously absent from his job. The seat beside me at church is consistently empty. All the drills and training at his unit have breezed by without any planning and writing on our calendar for the last year. Emails about tasks to finish and projects to begin are deleted, not pertaining to him far, far away. The list of what he has missed seems to grow by the hour, something I plan to write more about in another post. But the most noticeable parts of his absence were those least noticeable to the rest of the world.

The buttons. I would twist my hand in different directions, hoping to feel the little, round disc and the loop it's meant for. Sometimes, I've called Millie and asked her for help, even though I know she is usually needing to ask me. And after a few failed attempts, I've felt the sting of tears. I would stop to take a breath, and find something else in the closet to slip on. It wasn't about the dress. That didn't matter. It was just one more thing that reinforced the constant of reality now- he wasn't with me.

How can I explain something that is so fused to our year, so intertwined in daily life that it's hard to pull from my chest and hold up to the light? It is every small instance of wishing him here. Forgetting what it feels like to belong to someone, to be one half of two during any social gatherings, fidgeting with my rings to remind myself that he loves me. Feeling sick but having somewhere to be or someone to meet, knowing that if I don't get in the car anyway, I'll have two disappointed kids. Moving my hand towards the other side of the bed and not having his meet mine. Reaching those parenting moments when I'm tempted to lock myself in the bathroom with a hard cider, facial mask, and a podcast, but remembering I'm always on duty. Trying to calm an upset child who is asking to talk to their daddy, but explaining that he will be asleep until hours after they're in bed. Hearing or watching something that is hysterical, but relaying it to him in the past tense, rather than glancing over to see him wiping away tears from laughter. Everything feels past tense these days.

And as for Millie and Walter? I would imagine it's also the little things, like feeling his hands lifting them up in the air, sneaking a sugary snack with him when I have my back turned, or having another soothing presence there for brushing teeth and bedtime prayers. The pride of hanging on to him and thinking he's the greatest ever. Maybe it's also the small victory of tucking their daddy dolls in the closet until the next time he has to go.

What a strange feeling it is to have someone in your life without having their presence there, too. While he's been away, it's as if a pause button was pressed. We can still talk, and laugh, and even argue, but the substance isn't there in quite the same way. Funny, because if you had asked me five or ten years ago, I would tell you that words are all the substance there is, or at least all I need. But something shifted, and I think maybe, there's just as much value in sitting in someone's company, completely silent and still, as there is in all the long conversations in the world. (Come to think of it, there are people in heaven right now that I would love to talk with, but even more, to simply experience again.) To watch someone, to study their features, expressions, and actions, can often conjure up vivid stories in my imagination, because they give much away with those little clues. As simple as it sounds, one of the things I miss most is to have my head on his chest while he twirls a piece of my hair in his fingers. That's become home, and home has been missing for such a long time.

I am so grateful that, other than a few days here and there, we've been able to count on working internet to exchange words. The communication has been pretty steady, and reassuring for that reason alone. But I'm ready for my husband to be home. To say, "Here, I've got it." And one by one, to feel the buttons being pulled through buttonholes, and a gentle pat on the back when every one is done. That's when all is right again.
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