Monday, January 23, 2012

It's still so fresh in my mind.  The nights alone, the caring for babies by myself, being the sole responsible person for the homefront.  I'm still "standing down," which has proved so much harder than I had thought.  But, life was starting to assume that natural and relaxed feeling.  The joy I hadn't felt in a long time.  Life was starting to settle down.

"Do you want to know where we are going next?"

I was sitting at the stoplight, preparing to turn onto the highway for our trip to the grocery store when he called.  He had come home early.  I nixed the shopping trip and headed home.  I needed to hear it from him--not the telephone.

Huntsville.  Three to four years.

My stomach burned, my mind reeled.  We have to leave both of our families.  Elizabeth's grandparents and aunts and uncles.  We leave our parents, brothers, sisters.  I am leaving some of the closest and dearest friends I've had.  People who saw me and helped me through a deployment.  We have to leave the most incredible parish community I've known.  People who care about us.  And our house, our dear little house.  The one we spent evenings getting to know each other in when we were dating.  We planned a wedding here.  Brought two babies home here.  We've held each other in grief here, and celebrated joys, too.

We are leaving a life behind.  And it makes me sad.

But, we will make a new life there.  We will make new friends, build new memories.  Our new home will see more joy, receive new babies, gain it's own beauty.

Questions fly through my head.

Will there be a deployment?  When?  We don't know.  How will Elizabeth handle this? I don't know.  Where do I start with this move?  I don't know.

There was a time, I would lament in tears at the chaos that is our life.  I have vivid memories of crying, "Will things ever settle down?  Will they ever be normal?"

Ha.  Nope.  And you signed up for this, sister.  

In the last year and a half, I have learned so much.  Life is not normal, period.  But, it's especially chaotic in the military.  But, it is this chaos, this upheaval, that gives me a sense of purpose now.  I view it not as a defeat, but as a battle to be won.  There's one constancy in this life, and it's the perpetual change that strikes when life feels most "normal."

And so, dear reader, another adventure commences on the Stravitsch Homefront.  A new chapter.  A new life.  Stay with us, pray with us, as we begin our next journey. 

Charlie Mike, ya'll.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

I came out from our bedroom after putting the tiniest one to sleep.  I heard the crackling of a fire and came into the living room, seeing my Soldier and my battle buddy standing in front of the fire place.  Something strange was in there. 

"What is it?" I realized as soon as I asked--our Flag. 

"It was tattered." he said, watching diligently.

That flag waved outside our home everyday he was gone.  Only twice did I take it down, because of storms ripping through the area.  As soon as they passed, the flag went back up.  That flag represented so much to me.  I saw it everyday that I came and went from our house.  My daughter somehow learned to call it "Daddy's Flag."  I was sad--it was a very important symbol for me. 

It was tattered, though.  Threads hung from the hem that was falling out.  The strings were wrapped around the pole from the wind.  The colors were faded, and the material dirty.  It had fought hard and it was time to retire it. 

Maybe that's why that flag was so important to me.  That flag was new when he left--bright, clean, ready.  It stood tall in the hot summer sun, the bitter cold, the occasional rain.  Despite the circumstances, it never waivered.  And it survived.  The end of the deployment found it tattered and worn.  But, so much more beautiful than when he left.  It had scars.  It had stories.  It had pride. 

I wound my arm around my Soldier's waist. 

Yes, time to retire it.  Time for calm.  Time to hunker down and enjoy some peace.  Tattered.  But proud. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

I called the first one wrong.  Totally wrong.  I was scared to death, was calling the Nurse's Hotline at our Army Hospital.  She'd been crying--screaming and writhing for over an hour.  Refusing to get off the toilet.  Grabbing at her stomach. Calling for Mommy, desperately.  Hitting the wall in pain.  Slapping irrationally at anyone who came close, then calling them back.  She was in pain.  I knew.  I was prepared to take her into the hospital.  Something was wrong with my little girl. 

I handed her the scarf.  That plaid scarf she's carried around the entire time I was in the hospital having her little sister.  At that time, she wouldn't leave the house, go to sleep, or do anything without that blasted scarf.  As soon as things settled down, I hid it.  That night, while she was screaming, I handed it to her.  She took it, and within thirty seconds, she calmed down and climbed off the toilet. 

Yes, she was in pain.  But, it was no pain a doctor could have fixed. 

"Ma'am?  Can I confirm you called the Nurse's Hotline?  What symptoms is your daughter exhibiting?"

"It's fine."  I sheepishly replied. "I thought she was having digestion issues, but her Daddy just got back from Iraq and didn't want us going on a date tonight." 

Her responses were shocking to me.  She was so nonchalant. "Oh.  We get this all the time.  Have a nice evening, ma'am." Click

Really?  She's two.  They get this all the time? 

It's glorious having my husband--my Soldier--home.  I don't have to worry anymore.  I don't have to live for my computer to ring.  He's home--I can hug him whenever I want.  Talk to him whenever I want.  His name shows up on my phone when he calls.

But, I made a critical mistake.  I thought that, as soon as we held each other on that parade field, this deployment was over.  It's affect on my life--my family's life--would be over.  I fell for the newspaper images, the media's portrayal.  That the Soldier comes home and everyone lives happily ever after. 

But, we are human.  And life's events affect us.  The younger we are, the smaller the ability we have to communicate the chaos, the suffering that this life brings, the harder it is to cope.  We are still making sacrifices.  My daughter is still sacrificing.  She's still suffering.  She lives in horrible fear that Mommy or Daddy will leave--suddenly.  That Daddy will disappear.  She has fought going to bed, panicking and screaming in fear.  She has refused to get dressed because she does not want to leave the house--her comfort zone.  She's scared to take naps. 

She's been such a fighter--such a trooper in the last year.  But, she's experienced more than most compitent adults do in saying good-bye repeatedly to her father, to her source of security and love. And it has taken its toll. 

At first, I was angry with myself.  Why wasn't I just happy that he was home?  Why was I complaining?  I felt I had no right to feel the negative feelings--the worry, the fear, the anger.  But, it's not over.  He's home, but it's not over. 

We are readjusting.  Reintegrating. 

Oh, joy.

As tired as I am, as emotionally burnt out as I am, I will not lose.  Unfortunately, this time, the battle lies not within me, but within my daughter.  But, I stand firmly knowing that we will win this fight, too.  Don't mess with my family; don't mess with my innocent children.  I will give her all the love, the structure, the routine I can.  We are slowly seeing progress.  She will be okay.  It just kills me that she--so innocent and so young--must still suffer. 

I do this for him.  I committed to this for him.  But, why?  Why must it hurt the little children?