Saying goodbye at five a.m.with the yellowed light from the bathroom spilling into the hallway wasn't exactly what I had planned.
Sky's gone for the annual two week summer training for the Army Reserves. Millie told her daddy goodbye the night before. I asked if he wanted to go tell her goodbye as she slept before he left. We crept quietly into her room but she bolted up in her crib right away and reached for us. She bumped elbows with him (it's their special thing), said bye-bye, and as he walked out of her room, called out, "See you!"
I usually remind myself that two weeks is nothing. That it's easy. That it will be gone in a flash. But then the night before comes- he shaves his head and asks me to check it. He pulls out his uniform and boots, and stuff a backpack full. I write little notes for him to read while he's away. And that panicked feeling pieces through my heart when I realize he is actually leaving and I know I'll miss him.
My confession? I rarely see him off. He usually leans over the bed to give me a kiss goodbye, and I sleepily tell him I love you and can barely make out that he's in his ACUs. When the morning comes, I tell myself he's just at work. It's easier like that. Waking up with him is to acknowledge the fact that he's gone, and to watch the car pull out of the driveway and head slowly down the slumbering road.
But I couldn't sleep last night, and I woke fifteen minutes before his alarm was supposed to ring. So I pulled myself into a tight ball on the couch and waited in the dark until I heard the chiming from our room. I watched him gather a few last minute things. We hugged, my cheek brushing against the roughness of his uniform, his name tape digging into my skin. We said goodbye. And I held it together until I heard the engine turn, and then felt hot tears pooling and then falling down.
It's been a rough few weeks for us- weeks of tension and arguments, bitterness and silent nights. The pressure of him passing this last chance PT test and the failure of the last had been eating away at both of us. I was ready for him to go. He was probably just as ready to leave. But with only a few nights to go, he wrote me a letter, rare and sweet, pouring out his heart about his feelings and his fears of letting me down. I was finally able to exhale and be glad that we could miss each other after all.
It is only two weeks. It's been done many a time before. And while Millie seems to notice that he's gone this time, and we've both agreed we miss him here, I know he'll be home soon. The ache of him being gone ebbs and flows, but the happiness of welcoming home is always a fever pitch.