Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Battle Buddy and The Happy Thought

She's been by my side from the very beginning.  We've seen each other through sickness, and trouble.  Through sad days, hard days, through the happy days and holidays.  We've been inseparable and have made the Separation bearable for each other.  Even in my loneliest moments, she was there.

But so were you. 

The day he left, you were there.  We had no idea.  My first night broken and alone, you were there.  And I had no idea.  Then, he called for R&R dates, and I realized.  He didn't just leave two people behind.  He left behind three. 

I lived in fear of losing you.  I was so busy taking care of everything and maintaining some constant sense of normalcy, that I hardly had time to enjoy you.  Running after her all day, trying to clean the house.  Classes.  Doctor's appointments.  Meetings.  Trips.  Life has been full the past eight months.  Mornings full of tidying up after the toddler, afternoons of stolen naps and skyping with Daddy.  Evenings found me making dinner, getting her a bath, putting her to bed. 

But, after that--those were our moments.  I would sit on the couch and wait.  And it would come.  Kick.  Poke.  Squirm.  And I'd smile.  I'd pray I could make it through the remainder of the pregnancy without him, through the delivery.  Scared to death of going it alone, without my best friend.  Saddened that he would miss such a special moment in your life--the beginning of your life.  Terrified of being a mom to two, alone. 

But I forged ahead.  For you. 

And now it's time.  You could come anytime. I can't wait. 

Because while she's been my source of constant strength, constant companionship, you have fulfilled your own special role.  You have been my constant Light.  My Happy Thought.  In the dark moments, on the days when I felt like I couldn't keep up.  Despite feeling like I'm always third place in a constant race.  You were there.  In the evenings, when I was alone, you kept me company with your prenatal dances.  In the middle of the night, when I'd wake up lonely in that big bed, I'd feel your presence.  I could dream about holding you the first time.  Kissing you the first time.  Of him coming home to us and holding you--for the first time.  And it made me happy. 

I hope to be a wonderful mother to you.  I pray to be what you deserve.  I promise to always love you, to always try to be the best mom to you.  As we face this new beginning together, I am excited.  Finally.  I cannot wait to meet you, to hold you for the first time.  To bring you home and love you. 

My tiny tagalong.  My happy thought. 

It's time.  Welcome to our family. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"We're pregnant!"

I never saw his reaction.  I just heard it. 

He'd been gone less than a week, and I had been suspecting for several reasons.  I was waffling between absolute fear and ridiculous excitement.  To say that was an emotional week is an understatement.  So, I kept waiting to take a test.  Until he needed R&R dates. 

"When do you want to do R&R?"

"Well, here's the thing.  I think I might be pregnant."  My voice was shaky over the DSN line.

"What? Have you taken a test?  Well, then take one!"

And we were.  I heard his happiness, I heard his joy, his elation.

But, I was never able to see it.  And that made me sad.

I moved forward.  The pregnancy has helped The Year fly by faster.  And, despite the constant rush, responsibility, and struggle to maintain joy, there's always been my ever-present Happy Thought.  Moving, wiggling, growing.  My middle started slim and trim, and now resembles a small watermelon.  Through worries, scares, and stress, my little trooper has hung on. 

He won't be coming home for the birth.  It wasn't an option.  At first distraught, I remained positive.  The military hospital had just built a new delivery unit, complete with internet access.  All the military wives were talking about it, especially those of us left with an impending arrival.  The rooms were supposed to look like civilian hospitals and Skype was a commodity available in every room.  I was counting the days until I could go for my tour and see it for myself.

The other women all had their husbands there.  I had my little Battle Buddy, who was making an awful lot of noise.  We stood in the new delivery room, more than twice the size of the room I'd delivered my daughter in at the same hospital.  Nice flooring.  Windows.  Room to walk around in.  Wow.

"Any questions?"

"I'm sorry, the new commander nixed the wiresless internet.  We don't know why, but there is no internet up here."

I'm scared.  I can't lie.  I can't pretend.  The thought of giving birth without my husband had me in such fear that for months I couldn't even talk about giving birth.  Not having him next to me.  Holding my hand.  Cheering me on.  But, I consoled myself.  He'll be there on the video chat.  You'll still be able to see his face, hear his voice.  This time, you'll see his reaction.

And then that came crashing down.

Someone will post pictures.  Someone will let the news out as to the sex of the baby.  Before I can get to him, before I can see his reaction. 

He won't see video of his baby until we get home. 

This is one of the hardest moments I've faced.  I feel as though all the previous struggles and Crosses I've overcome during this deployment have been a mere hill as I come increasingly closer to this mountain.  And it keeps getting harder.  Larger. 

But, I do it for you.  Your daddy does this for you.  You, who was microscopic when he left.  We didn't know about you when he left.  You were already hanging on strong.  Quietly.  Consistently.  Against all odds, through immense stress.  You are still here.  I've been so busy, so rushed, that sometimes I forget about my little tagalong.  But, during those rare quiet moments, I lie down and feel you moving.  Feel you living.  And I smile. 

You have hung on for your daddy and me.  Now, I will do this for you.  My darling child.  I will get through this so that I can hold you, love you, bring you home.  Let you meet your father. 

Despite the hardships, through the odds, you and I will get through this.  We will climb the mountain.  We will arrive on the other side.  And you will be surrounded by your sister and me, who love you so much.  And soon, your dad will join us, too.

And then we will all be together again.  A different family than when he left.  But, bigger and stronger.  Happier.  More grateful. 

I'm doing this for you. For your Daddy.  Because you both deserve it.  Because I love you both. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"She'd take Colorado if she'd take her with him, closes the door before the winter lets the cold in...."

I feel like somehow, he's left frozen there in time.  The winter.  The cold.  Snow still barely on the ground from a few days before....

"She wonders if her love is strong enough to make him stay....She's answered by the tail lights shining through the window pane."

The bus doors closed, I ran after him that day, a sick and sleeping baby in my arms.  I just made it to the side of the bus and found his seat, as the bus pulled away.  The tail lights still bright in my mind, as the white bus pulled around the block, his head and arm hanging out. Until I couldn't see him anymore.

"He said 'I want to see you again, but I'm stuck in colder weather...'"

The winter.  We lived together.  Shared a life together.  I see the coats in the closet, the scarves hanging inside the door, and shudder.  A long time ago.  A long time to go.

"She said 'you're a rambling man.  You ain't ever gonna to change.  You gotta gyspy soul to blame and you were born for leavin.....'"

This is his vocation.  A Soldier.  To leave.  To defend freedom and the lives of the innocent.  And I was called to be left behind.  To support him.  It hurts so badly to watch him walk away, to leave you.  Alone.  And for a long time.  But, I would do it again, if he asked me.  I will do it again.  I committed to that the day I said , "I do."  I don't regret it.  I'm proud to do it.

"He thinks of Colorado, and the girl he left behind him..."

He misses me.  I know he thinks of me, thinks of his little family.  I know he wants to see us again, but right now, he's stuck in colder weather.  That life we had, that we shared, is stuck in that colder weather many long months ago.  But, we wait in his stead.

And we trudge forward.

"It's a winding're a lover, I'm a runner and we go round and round."

"And I love you but I leave know it's you that call me back here, Babe."

Winter will come again.  And with it, him.  That man we left behind when the weather turned warm right after he left.  Who left us to follow the call of duty.  Even now, the hint of fall in the air in early morning finds me momentarily hopeful.  It's coming.  The cold is coming.  My soldier is coming.

"I want to see you again...but I'm stuck in colder weather..."

It's coming full circle.  We go round and round, until we are together again.  Then the warm can come, the Spring can dawn.  We'll still be together, sharing life again.  Sharing moments again.

"When I close my eyes I see you..."  Yes, in the night, when I'm alone and the house is dark, I see you.  In my dreams every night, I see you.  Always.  Thank, God.

"No matter where I am..." On a trip, far from home.  In our own home.  Having our child.  I see you.  Always.  I do this for you. You are my constant motivation.

"I'm with your ghost again..."  Awaking from a dream again at four a.m., reaching for you.  Smiling painfully.  Again.  He'll be here soon enough.  It's not cold yet.

"It's a shame about the weather, but I know soon we'll be together...

And I can't wait till then.  I can't wait till then..."

Oh, God, I can't wait till then...

Song and lyrics: Zac Brown Band, "Colder Weather"

Friday, September 09, 2011

It's funny how words take on such a different connotation.

For most of my life, it was that dance.  My mother would talk about it.  Her memories from the night.  The dress, the date, the corsages.  Going out to dinner.  The big football game against their rivarly.  I would dream it in my head--my Homecoming someday.  Then, they came.  I had the dresses, attended the dances, cheered at the football games and stood before our bonfires.  Homecoming Dance.  Homecoming week--full of its Spirit Days, costumes, contests.  I remember feeling so grown up--I had made Homecoming memories that I would share with my daughters someday.

I stood in Target today, trying them on.  Eight months pregnant and nearly tumbling over as I fastened them on my feet, while my daughter looked on from the giant red card.  I pulled at my lengthy maternity skirt, as I paced in front of the mirror.

"What do you think, Elizabeth?"  I asked, agonizing.

She blinked.  "Shoes!" and bumped the sides of her fists together for the sign.

"Do they look good?"  I paced some more.  Excitement in the air.

"Ooh!  What about these earrings, Elizabeth?  And look at this bracelet!"  Into the cart they went, alongside the shoes.

Homecoming.  It's taken on a different meaning.  Still, I will put together a gorgeous outfit, agonize over my hair, meticulously apply my makeup.  But there will be no bonfires, no football games.  We will not dance with flowers on our wrist.

We will count down the days for weeks.  Instead of one outfit, I will painstakingly choose three. I will wash and re-wash the outfits, iron them repeatedly.  We will wake up ridiculously early, arrive long before the event will start.  I will stand on a parade field, instead of a gym.  I will wait for my Soldier to enter, instead of praying for a date.  And I will have two beautiful children--our children--in my arms as we finally meet again.

I am so excited.  I still have months to go.  The last few weeks of a pregnancy.  A birth.  Transition with a newborn and a toddler. Halloween.  Thanksgiving.  Christmas. New Year's.

But, it's coming. 

It's like looking forward to Christmas and to your wedding day.  Combined.

When the lights are out at night, and the house is silent, I play it over and over in my head.  That day.  That moment.  In my outfit.  I envision Homecoming, in its truest sense. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

I knew who to call. Right away.  When the day went sour, and I could feel every second of the five months lying before us.  I picked up my phone and dialed.  Within an hour, she called back. 

And we talked.  Again. 

We talk everyday, usually.  For over an hour.  Until bedtime.  Or one of our children starts screaming.  We laugh, we cry, we vent, we advise, we listen.  And it's so comforting. 

I read on a blog once, right after Richard left, that battle buddies cannot live faraway from one another.  In order to properly fill the role, they must live in the same town, thereby being constantly accessible to one another.  I disagree completely. 

She lives four large states away, and it's a 13 hour drive without stopping.  I live in the Lone Star State and she calls the upper midwest home.  But, she's always there.  Always answers my questions, quells my fears, and makes me laugh.  She is my battle buddy.  She has understood every word, every emotion, every mood, and never disagreed or taken offense.  I do the same for her, and it's comforting.

She gets it.  And so few people do.

I can laugh about the latest insensitive statement someone has made, and she laughs, too.  We have talked about kids missing their dads, screaming through the night as they struggle to understand why he left.  We've discussed post-deployment plans, current frustrations and victories, and taken our masks off when we can't take it anymore.  We've promised drop everything and be there for each other should the worst ever happen. 

This life has its beautiful moments.  Victory of making it through another day, of surviving another week, of crossing another month off the calendar.  But, it has its dark moments, too.  Moments when we still feel the pressure to put on a good face and look confident, look joyful.  But, sometimes, we need that person who understands.  Who gets it.  Who can't make this year end, who can't bring our husbands home. But who can give us strength, understanding.

And she does.  She's heard me at my best, and comforted me through my lowest.  I never have to explain, I never have to impress.  My faraway battle buddy lives this life, too.  We are in this together--through thick and thin.  We will cheer each other through our bright days, and encourage each other through the dark days.  We will move forward dutifully through the ensuing days and months.  And we will celebrate together, when the winter brings our Soldiers home. 

I don't think I'll ever feel closer to someone who lives so faraway.  And I don't think I'll ever be able to fully express how grateful I am for her presence in my life during this chapter.  But, I think she gets that, too.