Deployments are weird. They have a way of forcing you into a time tunnel. Like time is trapped inside a shallow vessel, swirling around your head in a whirlwind instead of neatly pushing forward and away from you. Does that make sense? Moments in time seem to touch one another more often than they do before the deployment. Before, moments were stacked and organized and my mind could retrieve a memory by going backward for it. Now, to retrieve a memory it seems to get it from above, below, or from the side willy nilly...memories encircle now instead of make a road beneath and beyond.
Here's an example. This picture here was taken two hours before my husband was off to the airport for parts unmentionable. I remember everything about that day. It was sunny but cool. The breeze made the foliage dance and shush together like tap dancers wearing paper shoes. We all needed sunglasses and nobody had them. I was extra terrified Abby was going to run like Forrest Gump into the pond water and never come out. Two very nice strangers (neighbors, we later learned) took this picture knowing it was going to be an important memory. And it is. But it sashays around me and feels both very recent and very long ago; like it happened two weeks ago and 2 years ago all at the same time...I cannot retrieve the exact memory from the correct amount of time ago. I can remember my voice cracking as I told the couple photographing us that my husband was off in a few hours for the airport. It was the first time I broke. Before then, my emotions were hermetically sealed. I didn't cry once until 5 minutes before he had to go. Watching him say goodbye to our kids was so hard it still makes my chest cave in a little bit. Then we said goodbye to each other, had a good cry about it, then dried up. And man did I do a good job of that.
I can honestly say I haven't gotten emotional that much since he left. And when I did it was always because I was tired, worn out and had said something I wish I hadn't to our children. You know, gotten too grumpy and verbal about it. Since the last episode of tears I had with our son, I've completely sucked it all in and have steeled myself in a full body cast of armor. Nothing coming in, nothing going out. Just doing my job, laying low and getting things accomplished.
Great plan. Except for one thing.
I miss him.
It feels like an eternity that he's been away even though I can open up his closet and still smell his aftershave. It feels like I've forever been the one doing it all and remembering to buy stamps. It feels like I've always been the one making too big a deal out of dinner, organization, and cleanliness when just yesterday I was making fun of my husband for prioritizing those very same things. The day he left feels like yesterday yet I can't remember what it's like to have him at home. It's a very weird sensation and one I've struggled with a little bit until I realized this time tunnel has been a coping mechanism for me. If I keep all the memories of him and our life together moving around me in a shallow vortex of air then he's never very far for very long. A memory surfaces and he's not that gone anymore. And then he is.
Mostly, I am no longer a steel Roman. My armor is starting to chink.
I miss him in real time, not tunnel time.
I was walking with the kids and dog last night. The sky was turning dark but when I looked up between the black trees and deepening blue I could feel the warmth of his hand on mine like so many nights we've walked together, behind our little family, holding hands to keep them in. Strange that a color could evoke such a strong feeling but it did. That color blue - somewhere between river rock and oilspill- brought me right back to the way his hand found mine, laced into it perfectly, and then rested. And I missed him so much I had to look away from my kids who were racing Sadie on the sidewalk. I missed him being there with us, with me, for us, for me and I was tired of pretending I am so tough.
I am not so tough and I'm tired of pretending.
Deployments are weird. They play mind-games on people who have the strength to get along but not the heart to do without.