February 24, 2014

Navigating


The realization came to me this morning, before the coffee had even finished brewing in the kitchen.

I always clean first.

He tossed his bags into one side of the car, with Walter peeking out of his seat from the other side. When we reached the airport, he waited in line at the ticket counter, the only one in line wearing camouflage and boots. He leaned down to tell Walter goodbye one more time, and then told me, and then he was gone- away for more courses and training. I drove home with a tightness in my chest, biting my lip and wondering exactly what I was feeling.

And then, I shut the door and started to clean. It's become a habit, a tradition that surfaces every time he leaves. He has been gone so many times now, there are traditions in his absence.

I wiped the counters with a dishcloth, and cleared off the kitchen table. I vacuumed and hand washed the dishes in the sink, leftover from the chicken I made us before he left. There was a pair of his sunglasses here, some of his papers there, and I scooped up everything and put it away. Twenty four hours ago, the house was covered in various things in various shades of Army green. Now, it's like it never was.

I'm trying to figure out how this works. What it looks like to be apart with the state lines drawn between us. What it feels like to have that physical distance while we steer through so many emotions. All the articles talk about the long nights pining away and the sweet homecomings with new dresses. They never mention the fight.

While he's away, navigating new places with his new compass, I am here. And there are no maps. The compass is a worn Bible. The shelter is this clean house, with his toothbrush gone and his towel tumbling in the dryer. I'm looking around at what's left.

The bed is made up on his side. I should be sleeping.

23 kind comments from you:

Jen said...

Hugs sweet friend! You are right there are no maps for the families to go by but you will be okay.

Katie @ Chalk it up to Better Luck said...

I love the way you write...

Marcella{The Life After "Trust Me"} said...

I always did the same thing and I never understood why. You would think we would want to leave their stuff lying around so we could pretend they were still there for a little bit longer...
Praying for you Erika.

Amanda said...

Stay strong my friend. The emotions are always hard to read... especially given your circumstances. Cleaning is good for the soul though. I've always thought that.

Jen said...

It's going to be okay. You'll be okay. :) I always clean when he leaves too.

Chantal said...

I clean up after he leaves. Wash the sheets. Do the laundry. Tidy up. I don't know why!

Jenn said...

Our traditions are wildly different. (WILDLY) You do productive things and write beautiful blog posts. I pour another bowl of cereal and lament the fact that I only bought 2 bottles of wine to tide me over until his return. (Whyyyyy did I only buy 2 bottles? It was on sale! And why didn't I also buy ear plugs? I want to drink without listening to whining...)

PS. Got your card today- hilarious! I loved it. Thank you :)

Jessica Lynn said...

Thinking of you and I hope you'll find a groove soon. Have you thought about writing a book? Your words captivate me. I know I say that for just about every post, but it's so true!

Elizabeth, The Young Retiree said...

I'm up there with Jenn! I sulk and do nothing productive the first few days Gene is gone. You're a strong woman and you will get through this- you have all of our prayers coming your way and good thoughts! I know that's not what any of us want to hear at times like this, but it's true. Hugs girl!

Alice Chase said...

Prayers to help you navigate this time. I find cleaning during stressful times helps me put a few things in order when inside I feel everything is out of control. You will find the balance. ((hugs))

Kathryn B said...

Thinking of you! These times apart are never easy. I clean after he leaves as well. Mainly because he makes such a mess while packing that I have to or I will go insane.
Keep your chin up! You've got this!
And no, no one ever talks about the fights or what is in between the homecomings and the new dresses.

Mrs.B said...

lots and lots of hugs.
Hope this time apart goes by fast. xoxox

Beckey said...

((hugs)) I remember the days of weeks apart while DH was off at trainings etc. Everyone told me it got easier. It never did. I always tried to fill it with fun stuff for the kids to try to make the days go by faster. But nights were difficult. Each time there was a hole where he belonged until he came home. I'm saying a prayer for you.. right now.

Beckey
http://www.etsy.com/shop/queenbsbusywork
Beckey

Jane said...

Thinking of you. <3 I'm so sorry that you guys are going through this, again. And as if separations weren't hard enough it can be devastating when you're fighting and you just want to know where you stand and what's coming next.

Caitlin said...

Ugh this post gave me that familiar sinking feeling. My husband was only in the Army for four years (one deployment, and we weren't married) but he was a wildland firefighter for the past two summers (nothing compared to what military families go through, I know) and I remember how it always felt when he left. Can't imagine what it's like when you've got kids together and still have to figure out what to do when there is no "normal" and things are constantly shifting.

I'm a cleaner too. Thinking of you guys.

Mrs. K said...

I pray for your family a lot. Specifically I ask God to grow your relationship during these times apart. I rarely have to do the mothering alone these days and I'm amazed by you and much of the military community who do it with such grace.

Jessica said...

As so many of your readers have stated, you write beautifully. Every feeling you put into words struck me like lightning.
My husband just recently left, again, for school. While he's been in the Navy for almost 21 years, sadly it doesn't get any easier. It just doesn't. We just live two lives. An "A" life- when he's home. A "B" life- when he's not.
While you may be alone physically, you have so many of us that are going through something similar, if not exactly the same, and we're here for you.

Sending lots of positive thoughts your way.

Jessica
JessicaFawn.com

Michelle said...

This is beautiful. Sending you love, hugs,prayers, and coffee <3

JG said...

"All the articles talk about the long nights pining away and the sweet homecomings with new dresses. They never mention the fight." Dude. It's so true. Pretty much nothing I read or anything people said prepared me for homecoming. Thankfully I had one friend who believed in our marriage enough that I could confide in without fear of judgment or bad advice. But yes, there needs to be more. I'm still working on writing our own story, to do the whole thing justice.

wanderlynn said...

A big hug to you. You're right about the homecoming. No one tells you about how you get used to him not being home, then suddenly his boots are in the spot where YOUR shoes go. His tiny hairs make shadows in your just-cleaned sink. The laundry piles up. You start cooking the meals he prefers. And nothing is as easy as you imagine it will be when he walks back in the door, though right now you hope that maybe it will be different this next time. Thinking of you. xx

Melissa Gilliam Shaw said...

Thinking of you, Erika.

Colleen @ Mommy Panda said...

This is very beautifully written.

Karen said...

I seriously love your writing. Hugs to you my friend.

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