His Alarm

When his alarm goes off, I still half expect to hear the jingle of his id chains.

When he walks in the door, I still expect to see a freshly shaved head.

When he gets ready for work, I still expect him to walk out in ACUs and boots.

A part of me still braces for the day he comes home to tell me he’s on the deployment rotation again. I still brace for the avalanche of paperwork, the rush to get everything done, the rush to get packed. A part of me is held in reserve, waiting for the day I have to let him go, and watch him walk away again.

My little girl does the same. Sprout gets anxious when Daddy is not here at night, when he’s working. Night time was always the worst during his last deployment, and she still struggles at night. There have been times I have debated calling him at work, just so she can hear his voice, and let him talk her down from the stratosphere of panic. I always manage to get her settled back down, but there is always that temptation, now that we have the ability, to call Daddy for some reassurance.

We carry battle scars, her and I. Reminders of the hard season known as deployment.

I keep waiting for the tightness, that feeling at the back of my head, to unwind. We survived, all of us. On the far side of that last deployment, we are at peace. We’ve knit ourselves back into a family, we’ve added to that family. And still, that tension lurks in the back of my mind.

I should let go. I should be in the moment.

I try to be in the moment. I wrap a necklace made of prayer beads around my wrist, and they become worry stones, tiny pieces of stone to remind me to get my head out of the past, and in the moment. I meditate on the moment. I stay in the lotus position until my muscles are cramped, trying to find peace. It often eludes me.

I force myself to find the good in this.

The good still finds me. Traveling to new places, going to the beach, to see the twinkling lights of Vegas, staying up late with the girls, and watching them talk Daddy into one more movie, one more bowl of popcorn. One more bite of candy. Daddy can you play this song on your guitar, Daddy can you swing me up one more time, Daddy can you carry me to bed.

So I search for peace, and I search for a way to let go of the white-knuckled grip that I still have on the memories, and the pain. The good moments come. And gradually, I can let go.






On Father’s Day

I said I needed a man who was tough enough to take on my problems.

I said I needed a man who would let me hide behind him.

I said I needed a man who knew how to cook, knew how to fix cars, and could iron his own clothes.

I said I needed a man who did not mind that my email address was in latin, that I read medieval history books for fun, and that I know some of the weirdest trivia facts.

I said I needed a man who would be a good father.

I said all that, in a note. I tucked the note into my journal, almost 10 years ago, and forgot about it. I got busy with school and work, and life.

And then -he- wandered into my life.

I had 1,001 reasons why it wouldn’t work. The age gap (I’m older), he was in the Army, I didn’t want to leave Texas, I didn’t like to cook, I had baggage from a string of failed relationships. He was nothing if not persistent.

I found myself, somewhere around 2 years after writing that note, sitting in a bathroom in a rental house in Georgia, south of Savannah, a few minutes from the gates of Fort Stewart. My pants were around my ankles, a Route 44 Strawberry Limeade was on the bathroom counter, half-empty. And 3 pregnancy tests were sitting on the counter.

Every single one was positive.

He became a father while on an airplane coming in from Iraq. He didn’t hold his first born until the next day. He smelled like dirt and sand and airplane, and his ACUs desperately needed to be washed when he dropped into the chair next to my hospital bed, and held his little girl for the first time.

And that was all she wrote.

Family life has heaped a heavy burden on his shoulders. He took it.

He held on as I cried through the loss of a sibling, and then another. I lost an aunt, then grandparents that never really liked me, and still I cried. He has endured countless mood swings; both girls inherited my temperament. He carried first one baby, and then another, on his shoulder, propped in the crook of his elbow, changed diapers, changed their clothes, brushed their hair. He’s learned how to give breathing treatments, allergy medicine, how to put on cortisone on itchy skin, where to put a humidifier to get the maximum effect.

He has gone to work on little sleep, after spending the night up with a sick baby and a wife too stressed out to remember how to measure out baby Tylenol. And slept with a sick baby in a recliner. And slept with a sick wife propped on his shoulder.

That note, with my list of things I wanted in a man is long gone. But I remember the last line, he has to be a good father.

He is the best father.