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.