If we are lucky, it looks as if Ian may come home before the summer is over. We’re not allowed to know exactly when because that counts as troop movements and for their safety that’s classified, but for the first time I have a vague idea, so we’re in the home stretch. I know summer is just starting, and for other people looking at a couple of months to care for kids and house and business without their spouse sounds like a long time, but at this point for me it looks like nothing. So I’m already getting antsy and starting to let my guard down, which is dangerous.
When you know you have to get through a long ordeal, you can steel
yourself to it. You can take care of what you need to take care of, and
worry about how it feels later, when there’s time, and it’s safe to do
so. I’ve had little breakdowns here or there during this particular
deployment, but for the most part I think I’ve done a good job of
keeping everything running and the kids happy. I was all set to keep it
up through Thanksgiving.
But then I learned I might have my old life
back before Labor Day and some of my defenses, some of which I didn’t
even realize I’d built up, began to crumble a bit.
Just imagining being able to share the workload of our daily family
life with my husband again has made me realize how tired I am. I
realize I miss feeling desirable and pretty because I’ve had to shut
those needs down for so long. I miss not keeping track of all the bills
and all the appointments and all the everything alone all the time. I
miss being able to say, “Go ask your dad.” The thought of having my
husband back and in our lives again is akin to winning the lottery.
There is no other thing I can think of that I want more right now. But
who can live with that kind of anticipation stretched out over an entire
summer? There’s delayed gratification (which, frankly, I’ve never been
a fan of) and there’s torture.
I’m assessing the toll this journey has taken prematurely. I can’t
help myself. I can see the finish line and I shouldn’t start poking at
the blisters on my feet until I finish the race. I often think about
how hard it was to appreciate my grandma’s stories of living in
Milwaukee while my grandpa was away in the Navy, because we already knew
the end of the story. We already knew grandpa came home, so the
frightening suspense she lived with for years was lost on us. There is
an underlying terror
to my daily life that goes with knowing my husband is in a war zone
that most of the time I’m able to keep at arm’s length in order to
function. But I don’t know the end of this story yet, so it’s still a
scary one for me.
It doesn’t help that the things my husband says to reassure me,
aren’t reassuring. The life he’s living is so far removed from anything
I can relate to that he doesn’t realize how the snippets from his life
sound out of context. He’s done remarkable work, and I’m very proud of
him. The amount of corruption he’s uncovered and the areas he’s been
able to cut costs has more than paid back the taxpayers for the service
he’s been hired for. (Then there’s odd stuff
he gets into that’s kind of funny. Well, Ian makes it funny, even
while in a war zone. I’ve watched that clip dozens of times just to
hear his voice.) That’s all good.
But accomplishing those things and
exposing problems makes him a target, and when I tell him that makes me
nervous he says things like, “Don’t worry, I’m always the most heavily
armed person in the room.” I know from where he’s standing in his
combat boots on Iraqi soil that seems like a sensible thing to say.
Listening to it here in Milwaukee where the biggest danger we face is Mona’s clothing choices,
it doesn’t do anything to calm my nerves.
It also highlights
dramatically that in certain ways I don’t know my husband at all. I
can’t picture the life he’s led for the past year, I don’t know the
people he works with, I don’t know the rhythm of his days or the food
he’s eating or where he does mundane things like wash his laundry. His
life looks nothing like the life we’ve built together. And yet somehow
we’re still a family and this will all work out, even though I have
trouble wrapping my brain around the fact that this pistol-toting
uniform guy is somehow still Ian. That that IS Ian. It’s surreal and
I also find myself worrying already about the possibility of yet
another deployment. I know that probably sounds absurd since he’s not
even back from this one yet. but I can’t escape it. When I tell people
about when he’s coming back, they all ask, “Is that when he’s coming
back for good?” It’s an interesting expression “for good.” My brain
tends to run with it in odd directions and I think yes, it is good, and
he will do good things here, so his being here is for good.
kind of how we thought of our pet rabbits. We always talked about how
they weren’t good bunnies, they were good at being bunnies, which are
two very different things. I tell people that he’ll be done with this
tour, but that “home for good” depends entirely on the state of the
world and whether we are done fighting wars. It’s not the giddy all
positive response I think people want from me, but only the President
can really answer the question of whether or not when my husband comes
home how long he gets to stay here. I don’t actually know.
In the meantime I’m trying to pace myself. We have more than enough
to keep us busy this summer, and as long as I concentrate on sweeping up
the sand the kids track into the house and doing the laundry and
keeping my business running, I shouldn’t have too much time to wish my
husband would walk in the door. Soon. But not today.