Saturday, September 12, 2009

Countdowns Are Nervewracking (Babble)

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.

Now that we are only a couple of weeks away from Ian’s deployment, the reality of it is starting to sink in.  Each time I do an activity that in some way requires two adults, I start evaluating if there will be another way to do it or if it goes on the list I keep in my head of things we’ll have to give up for awhile.  We’ve had so many months to prepare this time that the fact of his leaving has been harder to grasp.  It’s been a handy abstract that we’ve used to get projects done.  (We have to build a better playset for the kids before you go, we have to get a DVD player that works before you go, we have to disassemble the old crib and move this furniture that I can’t lift alone and replace that hinge on the dryer door before you go….)

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.

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