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