I caught myself just watching Husband many times over the course of his two weeks of R&R. Just quietly looking at him filled a hole I didn’t even know was there. That first morning he sat on my couch with a cup of coffee and the paper, scanning the world news.
I knew exactly what he was doing. Where he was. He had his guys on his mind, front and center.
Husband is constantly thinking about them, their mission, his mission. I can’t begin to understand what kind of guilt is associated with guys who come home to relax and enjoy the comforts of home while their buddies are out there, in a war zone, making hard decisions and/or going in harm’s way. One of the things that originally drew me to my man was his keen sense of responsibility. And it was that very quality which was keeping him distant, now.
It’s about priorities, which makes sense. Me, the kids … we are definitely safer here than his guys over there engaging the enemy on a daily basis. I get it that he doesn’t need to be concerned with our well-being as much as theirs. I do.
But it doesn’t feel good when you’re standing right in front of him, and all he can see is the world news headlines.
But in that moment, on that first day he was home, none of that mattered. From the sink I looked over at him, and he was so consumed with what he was reading that it allowed me to stare for a very long time without being caught. And I smiled. And I imprinted the image on my brain for later.
“I kinda like you sitting there on my couch, reading the paper.”
“I kinda like it, too.”
I came and sat next to him. The kids continued to sleep, worn out from the jittery nights of restless wiggling leading up to the homecoming, and I sat enthralled as he told me so many of the things we haven’t been able to talk about since he’s been gone: his opinions about politics and how they’ve changed or become cemented now that he’s seen the operational side of the military coin; who his friends are and what they are like; what (vague) kinds of things he is doing and what (vague) kinds of people he’s working with. He would periodically get to something he couldn’t discuss. He looked at me and said something like, “well anyway, you get the idea.”
But I didn’t. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
By some miracle the kids slept for nearly two hours that first morning, and the conversation continued the entire time with breaks only for coffee refills. And even though it was completely about him, completely about what he was doing, and completely about his world, it was close to something we had done before. It was sharing. It was almost a connection.
But there was a gap between us I couldn’t quite figure out. There was a determination on his part to help me understand something both of us knew I would never truly grasp; and at the same time, there was desperation on my part to find myself in his eyes, to make up for ten months in one minute, to find what was different about him, and scratch at it until it bled.
Here he was, right in my living room, sharing himself with me. And yet we were miles and miles apart. I knew before he ever got here that R&R would not be about reunification. It couldn’t be. It would be a man “visiting” his home. It would be a family creating a false atmosphere – putting their lives on hold – for their man. It would be a reminder, an idea, a ghostly image of what was, what would be again.
Mostly, it was a swing and a miss. Close, very close, but there was no contact between the bat and the ball. Not enough “smack” to get the momentum moving again. Not enough torque to break through. The gap of understanding, the chasm of unspoken change, it all stood between us. I saw it.
As the days went on, he remembered us more. He looked at us and he touched us and he smiled with us more.
And we kept swinging. We kept trying to hit that ball. Now and again we’d hit a bunt or a fly ball, but it seemed like nobody ever got anywhere. And then, before we knew it, the inning was over. The game was called for rain.
I feel like a horrible person for saying it, but I’m relieved that R&R is over. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t have missed it. And frankly I needed it to look forward to. We all did. But now that it’s over, I’m ready to find my brain again. I’m ready to find myself again. I’m ready to move into the next stage of the Real Deployment Cycle: Batting Practice. Because when he comes back, and comes back for good, I’ll be ready, baby. I’ll be ready to hit a home run.