January 3rd, 2010 – Day 1
We just got back from the airport dropping off the love of my life to begin his year long journey into what is, right now, the virtual unknown. The day started with me waking up to the alarm and rolling over to bury my face in his warm back and then burst into tears. Those tears were surprising as I have been so strong and in control since he got his orders. When we jumped in the shower I was still weepy and he started teasing me to make the crying stop. He would have rather dealt with anger, I think.
We all piled in the car at about 8:30, then half way to the airport I said, “I thought your flight was at 1:30. I was a little surprised when you said 11:30 last night.” At which point he started digging in his backpack for his itinerary. Throwing it at me he says, “What time does that say?” I look at it and say, “1:30.” He pulls off the expressway and we proceed to drive back home, he was sulking and I suppressed more than one giggle.
Once we got to the airport he insisted that we park the car and go inside with him (which we never do). Once he had checked his bag we found a little corner where we could all sit together and he took that opportunity to speak to our boys about their responsibilities while he was gone and what he expected from them. Then we held hands and prayed together. Richard prayed for his safety and God’s protection of his family. He thanked God for His financial provision and recognized that the Lord’s ways are not always are ways. I cried – big silent tears – but my heart was tearing in two. He took half of it with him, I think.
We got up to go and he kept stalling – he walked us to the car and hugged and kissed us all there. They were long, strong, tender hugs over which a slight mist seemed to hover. The kiss we shared together was a little salty with our mingled tears. Then I got in the car and drove away from him standing in the darkened parking garage, waving us goodbye, looking a little pinched and lost. It took a few hard swallows and every ounce of strength I had, to stop crying and not slam on the brakes, to run back to him and cling to him sobbing hysterically.
The boys were very strong and brave when with their father, but very quiet and subdued on the ride home. They asked “What happens to us if Daddy dies in Afghanistan?” which I answered honestly and calmly. Then Adam said, “Daddy’s last words to me were, ‘take care.’ I started crying because I kept thinking those might be the last words I would ever hear him say.” I didn’t respond. What does one say to that? When we got home Sean turned to me in the kitchen and said, “I already miss Daddy.” His chin quivered and his eyes teared up. I hugged him tight and told him that he couldn’t spend the next year worried and upset. That was no way to live. He had to focus on the tasks of each day and find each day’s happiness. I was glad I didn’t cry. Then we made hot chocolate with marshmallows. Things seemed better after that, I think.
In many ways the departure day is the hardest. After that day you fall into a routine and life drives you forward. But, for this day, and this day only, we’re going to indulge in a little sadness at our big man’s absence and that’s okay, I think.
Thus begins Day 1.