I've been waiting to write this post for over a year now - since 13 October, 2005, to be exact. He arrived yesterday afternoon. It's been a year of hand-wringing. Worrying. False alarms (those darn doorbells and 3 a.m. phone calls). Taps. Lonely parenting. It's been difficult. No, this year did not "fly by." But we made it.
We're enjoying this time together as a family. E. is thrilled and giddy. So am I.
...and, no, I'm not going to quit blogging. I'm sure there's still lots to share. And there are more dimensions to me than this deployment (*eta: although it did define this blog - and now J. wants to know what I'm going to name it - "the Longest Year and a Half? haha" Funny, J.). So, what's next? Well, the venting and sharing (J.'s stories started today at lunch. They're pretty scary). And we will be working on getting out of the Army. That, in itself, should be an adventure!
A special "shout out" to my self-described lurkers/stalkers who have recently left comments. I LOVE that you finally came out of hiding! And I know there are more of you out there... ;)
It's 2 a.m.; I shouldn't be up. But I am. J. comes home tomorrow (well, today really). And I can't believe it.
I spent the evening with friends, who put their busy schedules aside to throw me my own little sign-making party. I painted my sign while they baked cakes for J. (and his best friend in Iraq). I decorated them later - this is why I sew. When I came home, my kitchen was sparkling. My neighbor came over while I was gone and realized I would have a huge chore on my hands when I came home, so she cleaned it for me. Tomorrow (today), my friend Diane is bringing her hubby to help me hang my huge sign. And then my friend Lisa is lending me her van so that I have the room necessary to pick up J. and his friend. I am SO blessed. I'm going to miss this true sense of community when we leave the military.
Must go to bed now. Goodness. He's really coming home.
J. called me at 6:00 this morning for about 7 seconds - long enough to tell me he was in Germany (which is NOT Iraq)! He should reach Colorado tonight. He'll be there for several days, but I am just so relieved. No more IEDs. I just laid in bed thinking, it's over. I think I'm still in a little bit of shock.
Yesterday, E. said, "I want Daddy." And for the first time in over a year, such a sentiment didn't break my heart. You'll see Daddy soon, Baby. Even as I said it, I could hardly believe it.
eta: in case you're confused, Colorado is not where we are stationed, but it is where J. was trained for this mission and where he deployed from. It will take a few days to get home.
Well, maybe you are; maybe you aren't. :) I haven't heard from J. in a while. I was able to talk to him a week and a half ago, briefly. He let me know that he probably would not be able to call again until he was in the States. The replacements arrived some time ago, and his not calling is a sign that they have turned over their equipment to the new Team. He will stop in another state for a few days to turn in his weapons. I'll keep you posted...
Let me start by saying I have a lot I want to tell you, but I have to stew in my thoughts a little before putting them all out here. The Army is about to give my husband back to me. Yes, I am elated! Ecstatic! But it turns out the end also brings a flood of other feelings I didn't expect. Despite having gone through deployments before, the nature of this one was drastically different, and I didn't realize we would both be left a little "traumatized." I'm a planner. So I am spending this time before his return trying to "process" everything so that I can be The Stable One when (if?) he falls apart. I want you to know what this feels like - in case you're going through it (and don't think you're normal), in case you have family in the military and haven't always been sympathetic to their mood swings, or for no other reason than fair warning to my own friends and family :). I'm sure I'll share more as I'm able. For now, on to my little victory...
A crochet beanie for E. That I made! (will share pattern in a separate post) This very project has been rolling around in my head for months now; I can't believe I did it! My Aunt S. joined us earlier this week. She brought crochet lessons. This is a modification of two patterns I found online. I have a matching beanie - not by design, but by mistake. The first attempt went awry and so it became mine.
Mom was feeling left out of all the creativity so she decided to press leaves (they're in all colors right now). When she was younger, she used to press them in wax paper and leave them in her books. What a neat way to treat your books - to some pretty leaves!
This morning I sent them off on their mini-road trip to Montana (they kept referring to themselves as Oprah and Gayle). I was sad to see them go; I had so much fun with them. Their visit was a welcome "chill pill" for me.
J. called and I was SO excited to hear his voice. I LOVE talking to him. (what's with the ALL CAPS?) Lately he has been more open about his feelings. Some of the things he has to say are sad and frustrating, but I'm glad he is able to say them.
Today my normally quiet husband vented. And vented. And nearing the end of the call, he said, "Oh, yeah - I got a bronze star!" He didn't say too much about it - heck, he almost forgot to mention it. But I could tell it was important (according to Wikpedia, "the fourth-highest award for bravery, heroism or meritorious service."). Several (all? I couldn't tell) of his 6 teammates also received them, for both individual and team merits. He will be mortified when he finds out that I have told all of our close family and friends (and now the internet - somebody stop me!). Soldiers are sheepish. They get the job done bravely and quietly. This is what makes me so proud of them. Good job, boys.
There was a comm blackout (sniff, sniff), but J. managed to call long enough to wish E. Happy Birthday and tell me that the Team's replacements should be arriving soon. Getting to talk about "the replacements" is always a bitter-sweet milestone for military wives. On the one hand, it signifies being inches away from a homecoming (yay!); on the other, we know that a group of families is getting ready to say goodbye and go through their own "longest year."
I asked J. (in general terms) about the comm blackout. As I had thought, someone was killed. I didn't ask for details; J. didn't know him, but he knew the guys who did know him. I asked J. what the Army does in Iraq to memorialize these men; it felt like a silly question, but I wondered if there were always flags at half-staff around. He said they do a memorial service, and put out the soldier's gun, boots, and helmet as a memorial. I remembered seeing pictures alluding to this. I asked if he'd been to any memorials; he answered "several." For some reason, that hadn't even occurred to me. J. is good about living in the present, but I can't help but wonder how much a year's worth of danger and death has changed him. I guess we'll see.
It's arrived. No, not Christmas. Fall. The season I have been waiting for for almost a year. J. left for training and deployment in the fall of last year. I have always thought that I would feel "over the hump" of this deployment when Summer was over, and the chaos that Fall brings filled up my calendar once again.
Hence, the banner change. E. and I spent an afternoon this weekend counting and collecting (and dumping) acorns; it seemed like a fitting tribute to this milestone.
That was a good afternoon.
*Bloglines users: apologies in advance if tweaking the banner causes duplicate posts.
Army wives are well-trained: don't bother your deployed husband with your (circle one) depressing/sad/emotional/upsetting news/stories/feelings. I have done my best to abide by all the unwritten rules governing Army wives. But I slipped a little when he called. Okay, I poured my heart out. I told him about Paula, who gets a short email from her hubby every day - unless there is a "comm blackout" ("communication blackout" - when soldiers aren't allowed to contact family). Such blackouts only occur when someone has died, to avoid rumors getting back to wives before the chaplain can. When she doesn't get an email, its like a silent bell; the worst part is, she has to wait 24-48 hours to find out that the bad news isn't hers, and it drives her crazy. I told him our friend Erin, who only knows two deployed soldiers, found out some bad news the other day. She's still in disbelief, I think. I told him these past two weeks had been rough - and then I started crying. Army guilt set in. Bad Army wife. No crying to deployed husbands! I wanted to hold it in, but I couldn't. How do you not confide in your best friend? He was sympathetic, and said (with no prompting) "I miss you terribly right now." It was the first time he's said something so heartfelt in a long while. It was a bit of a relief to hear apathy hadn't iced over him, as it does with so many soldiers.
He asked if I got my package for E. At the time I hadn't. But shortly after we got off the phone, I opened my door and found this!
Just seeing his sloppy handwriting was comforting. Inside was the traditional Kurdish/Peshmerga uniform that one of the Iraqi batallions gave him (I think they were inspired by MC Hammer):
And E's gift - a bootleg collection of "100 Disney Movie" (100 doesn't have to be plural). She's going to love them! My Darling Doofus did not include a card or a note (writing any sort of sentiment is stressful for him). So I will be keeping the box as my token.
While running an errand later, I noticed a rainbow had appeared over our little village of a town. I was instantly comforted by the reminder that God's hand is over my sky - the same sky that J. and all of our soldiers sleep under.