My two-year-old likes to take walks around the block with me in the evenings. Sometimes, like last night, we’ll do a “night walk” if he can’t sleep. He’s so dear it sometimes makes my heart ache. He hangs tightly to one of my fingers and asks questions like, “Where did all the fireflies go?” and “Why did the sun go down?” He declared the other night that the planet sitting near the full moon shouldn’t be called Jupiter, and told me he wants to call it “Abracadabra.”
Some questions I
can answer, some of them I say we’ll ask his dad later, and all the
insect related questions I promise to save up for a call to Uncle
Barrett the entomologist. I told him I thought Abracadabra was a
wonderful name for a planet. I also reminded him it’s fine to rename
things as long as he remembers that it can be confusing to other
people. As an answer to almost anything I say he gives my finger a
squeeze and says, “Okay.” Quinn is the nicest little boy I’ve ever
met. Seldom fussy, always curious, easier to reason with than many
adults I know. Our night walks will be one of the many tiny sacrifices
we will make when Ian leaves soon because I can’t leave the girls alone
in their beds to walk around the block with Quinn.
I keep asking Ian what HE wants to do. Surely there are things
he’d like to enjoy before spending a year in Iraq in a life impossibly
far from this one. I keep asking him what would make him happy. But
this life we’ve made together is what makes him happy. He likes getting
projects done that he knows will make my life a bit easier in his
absence. He likes making the kids pancakes in the morning and driving
them to school and helping Aden with her homework and answering Quinn’s
endless questions. He likes just being with us.
I like just being with him, too. I remember the very first
significant stretch of time we spent together in college. We had a long
weekend off from classes and hung out from Thursday through Sunday, and
when he had to leave me in my dorm room to head back to his own across
campus he just kept lingering in the doorway. He finally laughed and
said, “I’ve been with you for days and I still don’t want to go!” He
was the first person in my life I didn’t need any break from, so I knew
what he meant. It was confusing because the feeling was exciting yet
comfortable, and from a rational point of view a bit alarming. Needing
another person is scary, and we had our first glimpse of what that was
like for us that weekend.
We’re still happiest if we’re just hanging out. One of my favorite
things is when the girls are sleeping in the next room and Quinn is
lounging next to me in my bed looking at a book while Ian and I lie next
to each other working on our laptops. We each do our own thing and
once in awhile read each other something amusing or interesting.
Eventually, either Quinn passes out or we tell him it’s late and walk
him to his own bed. Being with the people I love makes me happy and I
try very hard not to take it for granted, but counting down the days to
when Ian leaves imposes an urgency on our time together. Just having
him nearby doesn’t seem like enough somehow, even if it’s what we
enjoy. It’s hard to relax. My nails are bitten down to the point where
my fingertips hurt.
I can’t imagine being away from my kids for a year. I don’t know how
Ian can do that. I see him looking at our kids as they go about their
busy lives and know he’s wondering the same thing.
But at this point it doesn’t matter if I don’t want him to go, or
even if he doesn’t want to go. It’s the Army’s decision, not ours. The
countdown continues. The kids seem blissfully unaware of the
approaching date because we haven’t discussed it much. They know he’s
leaving soon, but the idea of a week or two weeks is still hard for them
to grasp. I think Aden probably could if I showed it to her on a
calendar, but I don’t want to. I want her to enjoy this last bit of
time this year with her dad. She’s enough like me that I’m pretty sure
she would stress herself out rather than let the days unfold naturally.
She can resent me later if she feels the date came upon her too
abruptly, but I think it will work out better if I give her a heads up
just a day or two before. I’m sure Ian wants to take memories of Aden
to Iraq that are honest, even if that means she’s being whiney or grumpy
once in awhile. The best thing any of us can do is to keep being
ourselves. Regardless of the countdown.
If only my fingertips didn’t hurt as I type.