Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A dirty shirt

There's a moment that I would guess every military spouse knows all too well. You half heartedly decide to finally attack that growing mountain of laundry and while sorting the whites, the darks and all that fall somewhere in between you find the last piece of clothing worn by your husband before he left for parts unknown.
I don't know about other spouses, but I usually bury my face in said item and inhale that lingering scent before throwing it into the wash. For me, that moment came last week, when all the other laundry from Greg's visit home had been washed, dried, folded and placed in a suitcase that will live at my parents' house until Greg comes home because we simply don't have room for it out here in our trailer.
Finally, last week, I got around to unpacking the small bag I took up to Baltimore and added those dirty clothes to the laundry mountains in the hall way. There, with my favorite jacket and my "date night" dress were Greg's clothes from our night out. I brought them home with me because there's no need for "civvies" over there.
The dress shirt, one of my favorite things to see my husband wear, still smelled like him. Greg doesn't usually wear cologne and our night out was no different. The smell that lingered there on the collar was simply the smell of my husband. It's familiar, safe, clean ... intoxicating.
I buried my face in the shirt and cried my eyeballs out.
I still haven't washed that shirt. I folded it and put it up on the bookcase-style headboard of my borrowed bed.
When I was a little girl, my grandmother died. My mom gave me one of her house dresses and I slept with it for months. I loved inhaling that scent -- it was a mix of soap and fried chicken and some indescribable something. But, after a few weeks, that smell faded and I had to try really hard to find even the faintest whiff of my grandmother on that house dress.
I haven't slept with Greg's shirt. I have picked it up and inhaled that sweet smell from time to time. I know that like Grandma Bessies's house dress, Greg's shirt will soon be just another dirty shirt atop a mountain of laundry.
I miss my husband.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I said goodbye to my husband Wednesday. Really, we had six days of goodbye. Greg flew home to NC on Friday and on Monday morning, we dropped him off at the airport to fly back to Louisiana, so he could take a bus to Houston to fly up to Baltimore. The infinite wisdom of the U.S. military is astounding sometimes. (This is a picture of my handsome fellas I took over the weekend.)
On Tuesday, I took the 50 minute flight from RDU up to Baltimore Washington International and waited in the USO for Greg’s flight to arrive a couple of hours later. It’s the same USO where we nervously waited for our flight to Italy when we moved there in 2005, the same USO that welcomed me home countless times over those four years when I’d take what is known in military circles as a “hop,” essentially serving as a seat filler on a military chartered flight that left once a week every week from our base in Italy to Baltimore.  BWI is more familiar to me than any other airport because I’ve spent so much time there over the years and the USO has always been a little haven where I could sit down, have a cup of coffee, watch TV, make phone calls or use the computers. As I sat there waiting for Greg’s flight to arrive, I couldn’t help but think of how many of the biggest transitions of my life have started right there in that room: moving to Italy, flying to the states for IVF treatments, moving back to the states after four years in Italy and now, oddly enough, seeing my husband off for a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. I thought about how every time we have experienced one of these life changing events, we couldn't see what was down the road but we found blessings at every turn. In Italy, we were surrounded by the love of a close circle of friends and we traveled and ate and drank and spent a good part of our four years there in absolute awe. Our failed IVFs tested us, strenghtened us and make us ever so grateful for this sweet sweet life. Louisiana was horrible, but it brought us to Dr. V and now we have our miracle boy. I wondered what blessings this deployment might hold in store for us. In a few years, will we look back and feel grateful for this experience?
 A year flies by. I know this because our precious son will soon be a year old. And, yet, when I think of an entire year without my husband, it feels like an eternity lies before me. Andrew will have his first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, and first birthday. A New Year will begin. Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. Our world will change. Our son will change. And all this will happen without Greg here to see it, to feel it, to live it.
My husband was unusually quiet while he was home. Greg is nothing if not boisterous. My mama says he has the happiest face she’s ever seen. But he was not himself. Parts of him were already gone. I’ve seen this from him time and again over the years. When our second IVF failed and we returned to Italy, we had less than a week before he left on a five-month deployment. I grieved mightily while it seemed Greg had flipped a switch somewhere in his brain, turning off his emotions and turning his focus to the job in Kuwait that awaited him.
This time was a bit different. I didn’t need him to grieve with me. We have had a year to come to terms with the reality of this deployment. We have our sweet boy now so the pain of infertility is gone, replaced by this great big love. At this point, tears won’t do us any good. Talking about it, well, we’ve done that. We’ve talked about it until there really was nothing left to say.
On Sunday night, Andrew fell asleep in my arms while drinking his bedtime bottle. I asked Greg if he wanted to hold his son for a while before I put him in his crib. Andrew is so active these days and so curious and so busy that to get him to sit still in your lap for a good cuddle is quite a feat. Those tender moments are usually reserved for those first and last waking minutes of the day. I placed Andrew in his father’s arms and went about the business of washing bottles and getting ready for our pre-dawn drive to the airport. It took a few minutes for me to realize that Greg was crying as he held our snoring son. Just like the night before he left for training and I found him hunched over Andrew’s crib crying, this scene broke my heart.
And so, the uniformed man I met at the Baltimore airport had already said his goodbyes to his son and his thoughts were focused on the days ahead – the travelling, the job, and the danger. He tried hard to be there with me and there were moments when I felt the weight lifted from his shoulders but they were fleeting.
On Tuesday, I awoke early (even though it was the very first morning since Andrew was born when I could have slept as long as I wanted). I watched Greg sleeping, the cool gray light of a rainy morning lit his face. His breath was steady, his face was peaceful. I laid my head on his chest, my hand covering his heart. And I begged God to place a shield around him. I silently pleaded with God to deliver him back to us in a year – whole in body, in mind and in spirit. I tried to push away thoughts that this could be the last time I would ever wake up next to my husband.
We spent the next hours in relative silence. I went over the rules again: no helicopters, no volunteering for dangerous shit, no being the hero and lastly, no worrying about us.
At the airport, we sat in the observation area, which gave us a certain amount of privacy. We held hands and watched the planes take off and land. A steady rain fell outside and the raindrops on the glass reminded me of teardrops – like a Holocaust memorial we once visited in Boston where steam continuously forms condensation on the glass panels so they appear to be crying.
My own tears came later, during our last moments together. I was wrapped tightly in the safest place I’ve ever known – my husband’s arms -- and I felt myself giving way under the weight of the moment. There are moments in a marriage that are so intimate and tender that to try to describe them would be foolish. There simply are no words.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oh my poor neglected blog.

Nearly everyday I have an amazing idea for a post -- you know, a real post that has real writing and isn't just a laundry list of Andrew's newest milestones or what's going on in my life -- but it seems I always choose to curl up in the big blue castoff recliner that sits in my living room and just do nothing at the end of the day.

Our Andrew, well, he's amazing, of course. The baby who we couldn't take anywhere as a newborn because of his crying jags has turned into the happiest, sweetest baby in the world. I can take him anywhere and he's usually content to look around at the great big world, make friends with passersby and just be his cute, happy self.

He will be 10 months old on Sunday. That means I've already started looking at party themes, party supplies, and first birthday gifts. It's so crazy. He is crawling on hands and knees now, has been for about two weeks, pulls up on everything and forgets he can't walk from time to time and then quickly remembers when he falls.

He is a world class explorer and he gets into everything. Just yesterday his little fingers found a candy dish on a side table at my mom's house and then he took his treasure and hid under said table. We would have had a hard time finding him except he was giggling from underneath the tablecloth.

He is a big talker already. He says all kinds of things. The most amazing being "I love you." And, you might think I'm making that up, except I have video of it and can prove it. He also says "hey there" and "Got it" and "No no no no" (usually to the dog).

He loves to eat and has pretty much decided that he's done with baby food except for during breakfast time when I can still get some fruit into him. I still haven't found anything he won't eat.
Just this week he's been sick for the first time with a cold. Seeing him sick really gets to me. I can only imagine how bad it's going to be when he gets the flu or something like that. He still only has one tooth but I'm expecting the one beside it to pop up any day now.

 The biggest news I have is that after getting a contingency offer on our house in early October, we got a better offer just this week. It's a cash offer so we will be closing next week and that means I have already made our very last mortgage payment! The offer was more than we could have hoped for, being that we were fully financed with a VA loan and have only owned the house for a little over two years. This turn of events is an answered prayer.

My parents, Andrew and I spent a few days in the Blue Ridge Mountains last week and it was wonderful. The picture here is one I took of him in the yard of the house we rented. It was a beautiful place.