It was the question I have been trying to avoid for a couple of years now. With rapid deployments leaving my family ragged—just like most families—I had hoped for time.
Time to forget what it means for him to begin packing.
Time to forget what it feels like to move toward a goodbye. Again.
Time to heal the thick wounds of war.
Time to make peace with a chosen separation while he goes to a school and we stay in our support system.
Part of me thought a couple of years would be enough time. As a military family, I think we have learned how to absorb the moments with vigorous passion. We have learned to value the ticking minutes, and we can live fierce and strong in a short amount of time.
While we have been at Fort Jackson, my kids and I have had time. We have had time to learn who we are. To figure out more about each other. To get closer. To breathe.
But we have done most of this time without him. He was working. Constantly. And we rarely felt what it was like to have him home. So we had nowhere near enough time together.
And now our separation is here. He will leave in weeks, and I am grasping for the “one more’s” for our family.
One more bike ride. One more date. One more family outing. One more. One more.
I am struggling. And feeling guilty.
Because these “one more’s” are self-inflicted. We made this choice for him to go on without us. This is not some altruistic deployment or some service associated separation.
Part of me wants to talk about how I should feel lucky. I should feel appreciative. “At least he isn’t deployed. At least we can go see him.” At least. At least.
And the other part has become quite hardened and smart. Goodbye is goodbye. I don’t apologize anymore for missing him when he is gone. Even if it isn’t to a war zone.
Because so much of it has become a war zone in our lives.
My children will cry. Their hearts will bend. Again. I will sleep alone. He will sleep alone. And we will connect through writing and hopeful weekend trips and phone calls.
I have stuffed so much of this down for a while now. And it wasn’t until I broke some dishes at Fort Jackson with some amazing women that I realized I am just so sad.
I will miss him. And my heart hurts. So I broke dishes in order to begin to release it.
It was then that I realized how to answer my kid.
The pieces of this puzzle have become complicated and thick. And the more I look at the big picture, the more I am realizing how personal all these choices are. How each family has to do what is right for them in hopes of getting out of this with a sense of connection and wholeness.
“It’s part of his job, honey,” I tell him.
“Will he go back to Afghanistan?” he asks, anxiety already filling his body.
“No, honey. This time he is going to a school. And we are going to stay here so you can go to your school until it is time for the whole family to move. Daddy will visit and call and see you as often as he can,” I explain.
“Oh,” he says. Tears filling his eyes. His sister, ever the protector, puts an arm around him.
“Do you want to break dishes?” I ask.
Their eyes light up.
“Really?” they respond.
“Yes. The only catch is you have to write on it what you are upset about. Then, we will smash it to pieces until you feel better.”
And so we do. Watching pieces of our stories and hurts and anger shatter. And looking at the puzzle pieces of all we are going through. Knowing we will find a way to put it all together. It will just take time.