Husband left the US of A today. This precipitated a series of major errors in judgment on my part. And not in a tastefully accented by italics kind of way, either. It was bolded, underlined, italicized, printed in all caps and followed by multiple annoying exclamation points for “emphasis.”
As it turns out, I am a real lightweight after all these years of being a military family member.
Do not try this at home. Rookie Milspouse Mistakes 1-8:
- Hearing the phone ring, stepping out of the shower soaking wet, and stubbing my previously broken toe in an effort to find the absentee cordless phone, which is off its dock and undoubtedly now resides in the same location as the safely hidden will, aka The Document Never to be Seen Again.
- Cussing because I may have re-broken my toe, and doing so in front of my small children, particularly the one that has a fascination with dirty words that he can share with all the little children in his Christian daycare.
- Waiting to find a towel until after I found the missing phone.
- Realizing, after stubbing my toe and still being wet and naked that (1) I was not going to find the phone; (2) it was Husband’s voice broadcasting through the answering machine; and (3) He would be leaving the country today while I was at work.
- Panicking and deciding to make a run for the downstairs phone while I was (1) still upstairs; (2) nearly 40; and (3) still naked. Not pretty (tastefully italicized).
- Making it to the downstairs phone just in time to hear Husband say “Well, I guess you guys aren’t there, so let me just say …” and then cussing in front of my children a second time upon noticing that the downstairs phone was also missing from it’s dock.
- Frantically pushing random buttons on the wall mount in an effort to find the speakerphone button, which resulted in deletion of all saved messages, including the one I was saving in case Husband …
- Hearing dial tone and cussing. In front of children. Again. Naked.
Don’t worry, that whole escapade ends with a successful Skype at the breakfast table – one in which I was fully clothed. I’m guessing this was a real plus for all of the Taliban spies that were probably mining the video feed for valuable OPSEC violations.
It was surreal. Husband sat there in his uniform chatting away and being silly with us from an outside picnic table. In the background we could see the bags being piled up and hoisted into trucks which were bound for the military air transport. I tried not to look past his face at the flurry of activity going on in the background. It reminded me too much of that feeling I had at the in-person goodbye, when we were sitting on the living room floor with his luggage piled up by the front door, waiting for the taxi to arrive.
Eventually, it was time to say goodbye to him – again – and this time it was on a computer screen.
Rookie Milspouse Mistake #9:
- Last visual impression I left with Husband was the bobbing and weaving of a crazy woman attempting to look him in the eye via Skype. Imagine strutting chicken meets Max Headroom.
If you haven’t said goodbye to a loved one via internet feed, let me advise you to prepare yourself. There’s obviously no hug, and no kiss, so you think you’re prepared for that weirdness. But there’s no way to get any real eye contact, either. I could look at the camera lens OR his eyes, but not both. Somewhere in middle made me feel like I was looking at that guy in yoga class with the wandering eye, and I was DeNiro. “You talkin’ to me?”
Rookie Milspouse Mistake #10:
- Husband said “I love you,” and in response I completely choked. Not like blubbery tearful can’t understand a word choked, or coughing to cover a well of emotion and eventually spitting it out choked. Nope. It was complete absolute muteness-choke. Crickets.
I went from eye-dodging weirdo to dumb-mute instantaneously. Turns out it’s super hard to read a pixellated face, so when the goodbye comes, it levels you. Wipes you clean out. You miss the socially accepted foreshadowing of hints leading up to the emotional catharsis. You are relying on a false ability to interpret emotional cues that are obscured by the etherworld and distorted by grainy resolution. I found myself attempting bravery without warning, and it was an epic fail. I was suddenly (and not too convincingly) clamping down every muscle in my body to avoid tears. I was doing it so hard that there was no room to open my throat for anything, not even the words I wanted desperately to say. Total dream scream.
And all because I thought I heard a tiny hint of a miniscule little crack in his voice. He was in a uniform, so that meant he was in man mode. But I swore I heard something in that space. In that infinitesimal glottal stop I heard him saying:
“If I don’t come back, it will be OK. You will be OK. But I will be back. I promise to do everything I can to come back. Always remember: I love you. No matter what.”
And then I responded with silence. I literally even opened my mouth, but there was nothing to give. He was a gentleman – he waited. He gave me a one potato, two potato … before rescuing me:
“Give the kids a hug and a kiss for me! Goodbye!”
And then, he was gone.
Maybe he thought it was an internet blip. Maybe it didn’t look as ridiculous or obvious as it felt. Later, sitting at my desk, I got one last text message. I breathed a sigh of relief at the opportunity to correct my mistake and frantically sent him a message about being sorry I couldn’t say the words earlier, and letting him know how proud we were. But there was never any response. I imagined that he got the message, right before turning the phone off for a very long time.
Late in the day I got one more text from a fuel stopover: I assumed you loved me … I am after all, very lovable.
And that was really, finally it. That was the perfect ending to a second goodbye, no matter how hard I had tried to screw it up. It was time to make momma some pie.