- Posted March 22, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Salute to families
A deployed husband's home leave triggers flood of emotions (part 4 out of 5)
Then I caught my breath. It was my husband and my children, playing and messing around as boys do. I started to cry as I drove past -- trying to smile and wave, with tears streaming down my face.
My husband is a deployed soldier and has been gone since the end of March. Now he's home for a two-week visit. I've felt a variety of emotions that most people never go through. I hope they never have to.
The moment I saw him at the airport, I felt the way I did on our first date over a decade ago. Yet I also felt a kind of desperate relief. When I sent him off to war last March, I did it with a brave face, strong determination and a solemn promise to be the stable force here at home. I didn't know whether he would ever come back, so to see him here, playing with our kids, has flooded me with intense feeling.
These past seven months have been hard. Really hard. While our children usually have pretty stable demeanors, this deployment has brought them to a place that worries me. My 9-year-old seems to struggle the most. His grades are slipping, he's become more introverted, and now suffers from major separation anxiety.
This is the boy who always had friends, completed his schoolwork in record time and never got a bad grade. Not anymore. He misses his dad, the other pea in his pod. Those two have been the best of friends since my son stopped screaming and could verbalize his wants. They look alike and act alike, and they have the same interests. So, what did I expect when we yanked his closest friend away to go to war? Well, I didn't expect this. I wish I had known.
I wish I had prepared myself more for this time of single, yet not really single, parenting. I tried. I read the books, went to the workshops and spoke openly and honestly with my boys. I got them into counseling and signed them up for sports. I gave them every ounce of myself that I could ... sadly realizing, however, that I am still not Daddy. I'm the structured one; the one who washes their hair, clips their nails and makes them eat vegetables. They miss Dad's silly haphazardness -- pizza for breakfast/lunch/dinner, staying up late to play video games. Meanwhile, here comes Mom with lists and chores. Ugh.
My husband has been stationed at a place where there is no running water for showers (they get fined if they're caught using bottled water to bathe); he rarely has phone or Internet service, and when he does, there is a line of people waiting behind him. This wasn't what I agreed to! I figured we would be able to text each other, Skype weekly, etc. Instead, I might go almost two weeks without hearing a word. I hadn't seen his face since June.
Yet I need to be present in this moment. He is home -- with me and our boys -- for seven more days. I smile while typing that.
I didn't even mind the vicious cold he brought me from overseas. I was just so excited to show him all the stuff I'd done around the house, and the car I had bought when our other was dying. (Actually, our first and only fight while he was gone was over the car. In my "single parent" mode, I went out and bought a brand-new car, complete with hefty loan, without fully discussing it with him first. That was a major no. Thankfully, Dan-the-car-man was kind enough to take back my purchase and help me on the way toward repairing my mistake. Hence the nervous excitement of showing him the new used car.) I also surprised him with my basic plumbing skills and the fact that I had apparently become a carpenter -painter while he was gone.
So, here I am -- vulnerable, raw, and mildly impressive. I want you to know the effects that war has on the family, not just on the soldier. I ache for my children, I grieve for my husband, I long for the fullness of my home again.
How can I remotely explain what it feels like to have a piece of me taken, never knowing what the next hour will bring? I've often wondered whether the news I've just read was about him or his unit; I've also thought about who this man will be when he comes home, if he comes home. I know what can happen in war. But the man I saw in the airport is the man who still makes me giddy. I thank God for each moment that he is here (even when he snores so loudly that I can't sleep). Really. I do.
By the way: He liked the car.