Today we drove Ian to Madison. We had to get up very early to drop him off on time. Aden and Mona both decided to dress up for the occasion, Mona in her red velvet dress, and Aden in a long brown sundress that she got from her aunt. Her aunt is from India and petite, and last time we were in New York she was cleaning out her closet and gave some of her clothes to Aden. My daughter is tall for her age and fits into a lot of her aunt’s clothes just fine, but seeing my seven-year-old in such a grown-up looking dress stopped me in my tracks for a moment this morning. She’s old enough that this is a goodbye she will remember.
Quinn and Mona I don’t think really understand what’s going on. I
tried to explain again to Quinn yesterday that we would be saying
goodbye to daddy because he had work to do with the Army and it was
going to be a long time before we saw him again, Quinn just said, “Oh”
the way he always does when you present him with information, and then
he asked, “Why is daddy going away for the Army?” Mona, without even
looking up from what she was working on said, “Because of the war.” I
have no idea what that means in Mona’s mind, but at least she’s able to
keep the basic facts straight. I’m impressed that unilke a lot of
adults she remembers a war is even happening.
The last deployment there were too many goodbyes.
We had six days (that included projectile vomiting just for added
fun) to prepare for Ian to leave in April 2006. Here’s what that
goodbye at five in the morning looked like before we had to drive Ian to
Was it supposed to be a break for him or a break for
me? It was hard to explain to the girls that he was back but would be
leaving in a day or two. After he was in Iraq for a few months he
arranged to return in the fall for Quinn’s birth. There was really no
choice about when he should take his two weeks leave. How do you not
come home for the birth of your son if you can? But later might have
been nicer when I wasn’t in the hospital and recovering from a C-Section
and we could have really seen each other. Was he a guest while he was
home, or was he home? The reality of running a household without him
meant clearing my space of all his things. With a new baby coming I
needed all the space I could get, so I emptied his dresser and boxed up
his books, but I waited to do that until after his fourth goodbye once
Quinn was born.
So we said goodbye in April, and May, and July, and November…. It
was beyond draining. It was confusing for the girls and gut wrenching
for me, and it’s one of those things that is hard to admit to without
sounding like a heartless freak. I felt guilty for not wanting the
disruption, because he was the soldier at war and no complications I
experienced at home could ever compare. From the outside I’m sure it
looked as if we should welcome him with open arms anytime we could get
him–and we did, but that doesn’t mean it was all fun. Small children
change very quickly, and the routines keep shifting. Ian would be home
just long enough to realize he’d missed a lot, but not long enough to
find a way to integrate himself into the new rhythm. And each goodbye
got harder, especially for Aden.
This time I’m not even sure if Ian will get two weeks leave. This
goodbye had a different sort of certainty to it, although knowing Ian is
a nintey minute drive away at the moment and we can’t see him is
A week ago, some friends of ours offered to take some family pictures
of us all together. It was a lovely idea, and one I greatly
appreciated, but it was another one of those things that’s hard to
explain to someone else why it wouldn’t completely work. It’s one more
way of drawing attention to something we’re dreading, and the dread
extended to the photo session, too. I got depressed and agitated before
our friends arrived and had to take a walk alone outside. I wanted to
take Aden with me, because I could see she felt the same way, but it
wasn’t possible to go anywhere without Quinn and Mona coming along too.
We got through some basic pictures with all of us sitting on the front
step of the violin store, but Aden kept slumping lower and lower. She
couldn’t make herself smile. Mona was a ham and Quinn was cute, but
Aden looked like she wanted to disappear. She tried to angle herself
behind me. Her eyes are an intense blue when she cries. The more my
friends tried to get her to smile the more despondent she became, so I
told them to let her be and I was just grateful she agreed to sit with
us at all.
The last time Ian got deployed a neighbor took a few pictures of us
at my request, and Aden was completely uncooperative and sad. The July
goodbye looked like this:
There is also this picture from that same time that I include only
because Mona looks like a lamp standing on that pedestal. She used to
climb everything and it was impossible to stop her, so we just let her
get good at it and stopped paying attention. Most people look at this
picture and don’t notice her up there, but I laugh every time I see it.
We’re not done with goodbyes yet. We’re going back to Madison to
spend the night in Ian’s hotel so we can go with him to the airport in
the morning. He told me someone is trying to arrange a special send off
for the soldiers’ families so we can say goodbye at the gate. It’s a
goodbye with a lot of logisitics–packing an overnight bag for four,
cancelling violin lessons, pulling the girls out of school, a bunch of
driving…. I hesitated briefly when Ian asked if we wanted to do it,
but Aden looked at me imploringly and said, “I want to see daddy.” So
of course we will.
You’d think we’d be better at ‘goodbye’ with all the practice.