Friday, June 18, 2010

The Home Stretch (Babble)

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 unnerving.

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. 

This was 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.

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