Apparently, I do my job too well.
As a spouse getting ready to see her husband off on a year-long deployment and getting ready to guide her family through whatever the upcoming year may hold, I saw it as my job to be a shield.
I shielded my children from a large portion of what their daddy was doing and the dangers that he faced (they were 2 and 5 for the bulk of this last deployment). I shielded my husband from the majority of the pain we felt when it came time to say goodbye because I knew that he would much rather stay with us and exposing him to all of our pain would only compound his. I shielded him from a large majority of the mundane, irritating crap that went on while he was gone…at least until the storm had blown over and I was able to give him a calm, unemotional, censored recap of the events. I shielded myself from the reality of what saying goodbye could mean.
We made it through the deployment and he’s been home now for about 7 months. He was getting ready to head out on another TDY trip recently and we were getting ready to take him to the airport. I explained to him that, no, we would not be going into the airport to see him off and he gave me the “sad face”.
“Why not?”, he asks.
“Do you not remember the LAST time we had to say goodbye to you? I would much rather not have a repeat performance, thankyouverymuch.”, I replied.
He looked at me, blankly. He had no clue.
Rewind 24 months. The scene is set in one of the hangars on post – the “Wind Tunnel” as it is affectionately known. The cast includes about 200 soldiers and their families, including ours. All are in various states of melancholy or denial, depending on your poison. It is down to minutes now before they are due to assemble their rucksacks and get information for one last brief briefing (how’s that for redundant?) before they leave us.
Our car is parked on the west end of the “Wind Tunnel”. (remember this – it’s important later) WE are standing about as far to the east in the “Wind Tunnel” as humanly possible. (remember this too) Odd how it works out like that. It comes time for us to say our goodbyes and the reality of what this goodbye means comes crashing down on my sweet (almost) 5 year old daughter. She is truly a “daddy’s girl” and the thought of having to say goodbye to him for a YEAR is heartbreaking to her. And she clings to him like a cat stuck in a tree.
There are tears – lots of tears. And then, pragmatic thing that I am, I decide it is time for us to leave. We’ve drawn this out as far as it needs to be (and probably beyond) and now it is time to go. We’re done. Stick a fork in us and call us dinner. We’re done.
I literally peel my child off of her father, throw her over my shoulder (ala “fireman’s carry”), take the boy in the other hand and start walking toward the car. Remember how I told you earlier that WE were on the east side and the car is on the west side? Yeah. The “Wind Tunnel” is not short, nor is it empty. I have to schlep my now-howling almost 5-year old daughter who is slung over my shoulder like a 50-pound sack of dog food across this football field sized hangar that is FULL of other families saying goodbye and trying desperately to hang on to some semblance of self-control.
It. Was. Awful.
As we walked, it was like a wave of sorrow rippled across the hangar. People who had been managing to hold back their tears lost the battle as this little red-headed girl with VERY large lungs howled, “IWANTMYDADDYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!” all the way across that damn hangar. It was pitiful. By the time I got to the car, we were both covered in tears, snot, and sweat. It was ugly.
My husband never realized how awful it was. After I peeled her off of him, he did not realize or hear what was going on as we left the building. He had no clue until I told him this just the other day.
I was blown away.
I guess I did my job well.