When my husband’s unit returned to the states in October 2010, his work wanted him there for the homecoming. Though several charities and organizations offered to foot the bill, he still had reservations about going.
He was still in a lot of pain and you could see it in his face and by the way he walked. He tried to hide his limp and he was embarassed he was still using a cane. The nerves in his left leg weren’t firing, causing his foot to involuntary drop as if he pointed his toes. It hurt for him to sit, stand, or walk for long periods of time. Like clockwork, he would get fatigued by early afternoon and was done for the rest of the day. He couldn’t walk or stand after he reached that point. The only thing that helped was lying down, a big problem if he’s on a long flight. His urethra tore in the accident so he had a superpubic catheter (connected to a hole cut through his skin and bladder and just under his belly button) and a urine bag, or “pee bag” as we affectionately called it.
Despite his medical conditions, I knew in my heart I needed to gently encourage him to go.
He had to go for his team. They bravely continued their deployments knowing that someone on their team almost died. They needed to see him, to talk to him, to breathe a sigh of relief that he was still alive and kicking.
Most importantly, he had to go for himself. I know he needed to see his friends again. To be with the men and women who had his back, who screamed when they saw the car roll over, who helped lift a car door off his broken bleeding body, who tied the turnicate around his shattered pelvis that ultimately saved his life, and who called me every hour to tell me where my husband was until he was back on American soil and holding my hand.
My husband was thrilled when I suggested he bring our son and even more thrilled when they said they had funds to cover M’s flight.
I pulled up to the airport feeling like I had never felt before. I was dropping off my husband but knew this wasn’t like other drop offs. He was coming back in five days.
Five days. I felt like I won the lottery.
I forgot about the lottery when it dawned on me that he was taking our baby. Our boy. Our first born. This would be the second time in my life that I wasn’t sleeping under the same roof as M. The first time was when my husband took him for a week-long visit to his parents’ house in Idaho. I didn’t have time to miss them as I was very pregnant with the second and slept most of the time.
The thought of not being with my son made me breathe a little faster but this was nothing compared to what my husband lives with every single day.
To be the one left behind feels like you’re being deserted. You have this household to run, kids to keep clean and well-fed, a house to maintain, bills to pay, and sanity to manage. Sort of like he’s jumping ship, every pun intended.
Sometimes I take it personally, as in why would he want to go? Why can’t he just retire early and I’ll go back to work full-time? If he wanted to stay, wouldn’t he find a way? Surely there must be some loophole that we
and every other military family haven’t explored.
Sometimes I reach out to my friends and make plans to catch up. I know when I’m avoiding feeling something, anything, when I take on too much.
Other times I just can’t stand it anymore and cry.
In the end, he ultimately is the one that leaves, clearly the suckier deal. He doesn’t get a daily “Good morning” from three sweet angels. He doesn’t get to snuggle with his wife, a woman commited to him in sickness and in health. He doesn’t get to make pancakes with fresh blackberries picked from the side of the road. He doesn’t get to walk his kids to school every morning, pack their lunches, or help them with their homework. He doesn’t get to sit with them, vegging out to some tween show on Nickelodeon, or go camping in the living room on Friday movie nights.
He doesn’t get a good night kiss from his wife.
I don’t get a good night kiss from my husband.
How does he do it?
By definition of his job, he puts his life on the line every time he goes to a training where any small oversight could result in serious injury or death. Every time he deploys, he places himself in harm’s way.
[DISCLAIMER: This is the part where we'd go into lengthy and volatile discussions about Iraq, patriotism, politics, war, etc. and while I respect your opinion NO MATTER WHAT IT IS, this blog is not about that; IT'S ABOUT ME. Perhaps in time we can entertain these subjects but right now it's ALL ABOUT ME. Thank you and back to your regular programming.]
But if you asked my husband what the biggest sacrifice he’s making right now, he wouldn’t tell you any of that. He wouldn’t say that it’s facing danger in every facet of his job, pushing his body to the limits to keep himself in shape to the point where he has broken ribs at several trainings, or even the money we’re paying out of pocket to pay for a separate residence [housing will pay for one residence and that is the house in which the kids and I live].
The biggest sacrifice he’s making is time. Or lack of it.
He’ll never get back the months of memories of each child or nights slept in a place that isn’t home. He’ll never get back the weeks we could have spent doing nothing which of course means everything. All of those hours playing with the kids or listening to me drone on and on about celebrity gossip.
All of the moments where he can just hold each child and get lost in their embrace.
Early retirement is off the table for him. With his twenty year mark being two years away, the financially sound decision is to just wait it out and most likely have disability stacked on top of his retirement.
Two years is not very long.
Not very long for a final and well-deserved homecoming. A PERMANENT HOMECOMING.