The Deployment Diary

Saturday, March 06, 2004

We're finally over the hump...

Day 180

Wednesday finally arrived. It marked six months since the day we said good-bye.

Six months of worry. Fear of the reality and the unknown and what the tomorrows will bring. Regret for things you wished you'd said to him in person when you had the chance - or things you did say, even if it was nine years ago. Relief when no news that is horrible comes out of the area he's in. Sadness when the bad news is horrible. Loneliness every second of every day. Love that grows despite the miles. Pain of knowing he's seen things and gone through things that before this, you could not have fathomed. Happiness when you finally hear his voice, get an email or a letter - and many other emotions.

The high points
Admittedly, there haven't been many. I wouldn't say I'm a pessimistic person, I'm just an emotional one. My emotions get the best of me especially during tough times. I'm a heart-on-my-sleeve person.

Before we found out my husband would be leaving for Iraq, the plan was he'd take two weeks leave during the summer and his buddy would help him put up a privacy fence. The city said no to a privacy fence because we have an alley and our house is on a corner lot. People couldn't see around the fence and could possibly hit a pedestrian on the sidewalk. We could only have a four foot fence and it had to be a style that a driver could easily see through.

The next step was to price the white pre-built plastic picket fence via Lowes. The height was wrong to keep two rottweilers in; the price was wrong for our budget.

He put in for leave unexpectedly anyway. It was a marvelous two weeks together (all still before we knew Iraq was on the horizon). He painted the only part of our house still resembling a crack house ;) - the garage. We took the babies to the zoo. We went shopping. We ate out. We cooked out. We stayed up late and took turns napping during the day. It was the most wonderful two weeks we've had since purchasing the old house that needed some love.

However, no fence.

Word for Iraq came down. I decided to make it through I needed a big project. Something new to learn too to keep my mind off the reality. I'd build a deck to replace the ugly stoop at the back door. I figured if I set my mind to it, I could do it. Somehow, while researching building a deck and being dragged through the yard by two rottweilers on leashes one too many times - building a custom picket fence sprang to mind.

Mother said I couldn't. Husband said I'd never get the first hole dug. Before he left, we bought a post hole digger. I waited to give that contraption a try until after he had landed safely on the other side of the world.

He was gone a few weeks before I set out to build the fence. I had to allow myself a week or two of sobbing and feeling sorry for myself. When I was done, before I knew it I was at the lumber yard with a fence plan I'd printed off the internet. I explained my situation and the owner of the place helped me determine how much wood I'd need, the right brackets for the rails, screws etc. I just wanted to buy enough to build the back stretch - in case I really couldn't do it. I didn't want to waste money

I did it. I was on my way to building my own custom fence. It was beautiful if I do say so myself. The only problem is, one person building a fence takes a long time. We were now into October with winter coming fast. I have a toddler who can't spend the day in freezing cold weather and two rottweilers that I wanted to stop dragging me through the yard. I hired a guy to come out and put the rest of the posts and rails up - and build the gate. Then I cut, primed and put up all the pickets. I bought the post caps and added them and it was gorgeous. It added so much to the yard. Not another fence in town like it. I was so proud.

All the while sending photos to Iraq saying "HA! Told ya I could do it!" From what I hear, my husband was so proud that his wife could build a fence (which means he wouldn't be having to build a fence when he got home), he showed the photos to everyone in the company. I think I overheard several spouses at a FRG meeting saying, "Yeah, because of HER my husband wants me to build a fence. Bitch." Heh heh.

And, that's about it on the high points lol.

The Low Points
Oh so many. I'll list the lowest of the low for space considerations lol!

The good-bye. I don't care how many times I have to say good-bye to him, it's always so excruciating. He's my best friend. He's my husband. He's the father of my children. Saying good-bye to my most favorite person in this world is - well, damn hard. I mistakenly thought through the years it would get easier. I was wrong. It never gets easier. If anything it gets harder.

The best way I can describe why it is always harder and not easier: Each year since we married, on our anniversary I look back over the past year and think about how much we've grown as a couple, how much closer we were than the year before. After six or seven years of marriage I'd think, "This is it. We cannot possibly ever get any closer than this." And each year I look back and am amazed at how much we've grown together, how much closer we were than the last. How life events had brought us together seamlessly and deepened our relationship and our love beyond anything imaginable. Because of our marriage becoming deeper and closer and more loving (if that is even possible), as the years pass, it makes it that much more difficult to say good-bye.

The good-bye. I was rock bottom. There was only two ways to go - into a padded cell or up. I chose up and very slowly worked my way out of the darkness.

The Holidays. From Halloween through Christmas, there is only one way to describe my feelings: Numb. I felt nothing. I did the best I could for our children, but beyond that, it was a blur of wishing it were over. We aren't much for celebrating New Years, so that holiday wasn't a big one to get through thankfully. We don't celebrate Valentine's Day either, so that was another "eh, who cares" holiday. We are very loving on any given day, we don't feel the need to make one day more special than another. They are all special.

The Deaths I thought making it through the holidays there would finally be a light at the end of the tunnel. I thought if I could just get Christmas behind me, I could take a breath and find another project to work on around here to make the time pass. I was almost to that point when the worst time of all hit.

With one IED, my husband lost two of his three closest friends. I cannot describe what the week after that was like. It's all a blur now. It took me over a month to feel somewhat normal again. I've never felt so worthless and helpless in my life. I didn't know how to console him. I didn't know what to feel myself, much less how to comfort him when he needed me most. Can you comfort the person who means the world to you over email? Can you do it adequately? "I'm so sorry for your loss" just doesn't cut it!

He called that day after he'd emailed me the news. I just cried. I was so overwhelmed by finally hearing his voice. I was consumed by feelings of being thankful to God it wasn't my husband and in some dark corner of my soul I rarely go, wondering if I was somehow wishing something bad on someone else - and the guilt and confusion that comes from that.

He was hurting and I could hear it in his voice. I am so far away and I cannot do anything, I can't say anything "right" and everything feels as though it's moving at the speed of light. I feel so inadequate to be his wife. Not deserving, because I cannot find the words to ease his pain and instead he's consoling me. Reassuring me everything is going to be ok and please don't cry. So I cry more because I'm USELESS! The day he needs me and I am not worth a damn to him or myself or anyone.

And he loves me anyway. I thank God daily for him. He's the most amazing husband and friend in the world, but he deserved so much better than what I offered that day. I was just so thankful he was ok, that I could hear his voice. The only thing I could do was cry and tell him how much I love him and how important he is to us.

It was the lowest point. After the tears, after we emailed more, after the memorial that was located at another base in country and him making it there and back safely - the shock wore off. I spent a few weeks obsessed over how fragile our lives are. How little time we really do have on earth to spend with the ones we love while we're still all together - and not some of us in heaven waiting for our loved ones turns to walk through the pearly gates.

The fears that it was my turn. I couldn't fathom what the two wives of his friends had gone through and I tried not to "go there" often. Sometimes though, life will take you there whether you want to go or not.

Such was the case upon returning home one afternoon. With my son strapped into his car seat, we pull into the driveway. It's located on the side of the house. I noticed a vehicle sitting out front with a person in the driver's seat and one in the passenger's seat. I sat in the car with it running wondering who would be sitting out front of the house. The way the drive is and the way the car was parked - I couldn't see the tags to tell if it was a government car. I couldn't make out who they were, but I could tell the person in the passenger's seat (closest to us) had a blue uniform on.

My first instinct was to slowly back out of the drive and go. Go anywhere. My second thought was, there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. I turned the car off. Instead of going through the gate to the backyard, my son and I walked down the sidewalk toward the front of the house to go in through the front door. I figured if this was my life, they weren't getting in my house. They weren't wrecking my safe haven. I'd face it on the street and then run in and call Mother and Daddy and tell them to come help me keep my sanity.

I slowly walked toward the car holding my son's little hand. With each step my heart pounded louder. Each step, I was more sure it was a blue uniform. As I got close enough to see the passenger's face, I felt my knees go weak. It was the postman! Yep, a BLUE uniform alright - it's winter - he has on the blue sweater.

He saw me, smiled and rolled down the window. He was taking a break and his wife met him so he could sit in the warm vehicle and have a snack. Our postman is a wonderful gentleman and I was finally introduced to his wife - and she is just as nice as he always is.

After the introductions I said, "You know, with him deployed, you sitting out front of my house when I drive up, in a blue uniform and a vehicle I don't recognize scared the devil out of me."

I saw his smile turn to horror - he's former Army. He knew what I meant and immediately apologized. He said he didn't even think of that and he bet it did scare me pretty bad. I told him it was ok and played it off - he's just one of the nicest people in our small town. After we finished talking about how my husband is doing and how his brother is doing (he's also Army, but Special Forces - always gone to some scary place doing some scary job), my son and I went in the house. With the door shut and locked - you guessed it. I cried.

Then there's the cell phone ringing. Seeing the Rear D's number on there and my heart trying to come up into my throat. I'm not too involved in the FRG here, so it's rare the Rear D CO calls. It wasn't long after Mr. Postman scared the poo out of me, the Rear D CO scared me by calling out of the blue. All over a CD my husband had sent me via a soldier coming home on R & R. He had the CD, come pick it up when I came on base next time...whew.

In Conclusion
The good news is, we're halfway there. Only six more months to live this fear. I don't know how I'll ever go back to normal life sometimes. Where I don't wake up every morning praying there are no injuries or deaths in the area my husband is in - or anywhere over there. Praying that no one else there with him comes home early - because there's only one way to get home early. You read the headlines, see the deaths in the area and know the communication is cut for 24 hours. You sit calmly on the outside, screaming on the inside. Will you get an email from him saying everything is ok when the 24 hours is up? Or, will a blue uniform that isn't a postman be ringing the doorbell?

Praying that somehow they'll get to come home a few months early to end this nightmare a little early. Even a month early would be a blessing.

Hoping that I haven't been so stressed throughout this year that when he does come home, I look ten years older. I already have twice the gray hair I had before he left.

Dreaming of what it will be like when I finally do see him again. How amazing it will be just to be able to see him, hear his voice without any delay, hear him breathe when he's sleeping, smell the house the way it does when he gets out of the shower - it's such a fabulous smell. Watch him laugh. All the tears that will come those first weeks he's home. I'm sure this deployment will be like before. I cry when I'm happy too - and I dream of those nights where I'm watching him sleep and the tears roll uncontrollably from the shear joy and relief that I finally have him home.

I love this man. And that just cannot describe everything I feel for him - it's so much more...

Less than six months. Not much less, but less, nonetheless ;).





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