"My birthday. Again. Our Anniversary. Again. Both kids' birthdays. Again. . . I start counting off in my head how many events and holidays he won't be here for, and immediately think of what we can do to compensate for his absence.
"I don't know how to do this. We have two kids this time, and they're old enough to understand Daddy is gone, but not why." I search my husband's eyes for answers.
"I'm scared." I admit quietly, and will myself by all the grace of God not to cry.
The last time my husband deployed to a combat zone we only had our son who was 6 hours old. Our baby didn't know any better and I didn't really have to worry too much about how to keep Daddy present in his life. Pictures did the trick. Things were simple then.
Things are not simple now. After years of training, (the Army equivalent of a normal lifestyle because he is home more often than not) and 3 PCS's, we have come full circle. I knew his turn would come up eventually. I've been ignoring the inevitable as a means of survival but I knew it was coming. I just didn't know it would feel like this. We've done this before. Said goodbyes, dealt with separations, dealt with fear, and loneliness. We've done it a lot. We've done it more times than most in this life do, but it's different now. The consequences of what could happen are larger now. They're worse. Much worse, and I'm not even close to prepared to deal with that.
I'm just going to go ahead and say what some wives would be afraid to say. This could be the last time we're together. It could be the last time he holds his children, or me. It could be the last time I see his smile or hear his laugh. It could be the last dinner we have as a family. . . So I hold his hand a little tighter, hug him a little harder, kiss him a little longer, sleep a little closer. We are spending what little time we have left together and making the most of every second. These seconds could be all we have. It's been so long since we've done this, that I'm not sure how to process all that I feel. I'm not certain I am well enough equipped to coach our children through this. I feel like I'm about to jump into the deep end of the pool with a 1000 pound weight on my back.
The day he packs his bags and walks out our door for the last time, I can't promise I won't cry. I can't promise I will let go right away when he hugs me goodbye. I can't promise that I'll keep it together as he says goodbye to our children. I can't promise not to worry or be afraid. I will be lonely every night. I will probably cry myself to sleep for a while. But I can promise to be there for our children. I can make sure that we talk about Daddy every night, and help them know he misses them too. It's going to be hard. Very hard. But we will find a way to make it.
While we wait, I keep having to remind myself of what and who I am. I can do this. I have to do this. I love my husband enough to do this. I love my children enough to do this. I will pull through no matter what. I will find the strength to do it all, and be it all while he is gone. This is my service to our country so that my soldier can do his mission and come home alive.
A WWII Colonel's wife was once asked how she could let her husband go when he deployed. She responded, "I know that what happens to other men in battle could never happen to him. And I believe it with all my woman's heart to be true." So she let her husband go. Like so many other women before and since, I too will let my husband go. I will hug him and kiss him. I will watch him turn from us and walk away. And I will pray every single day that that kiss isn't the last one. Until he walks through our front door again.