Sunday, April 22, 2012

This changes things

I've been writing this post in my head since Wednesday, words and phrases coming to my mind as I drive, cook, clean, take care of Andrew. So strange how a matter of seconds can change things.
Wednesday started off normal enough. Andrew and I were here at home, my parents were at their lake house for my dad's birthday the day before so my sweet boy and I were doing our thing, he was banging his wooden blocks together and inspecting Brody's crate while I drank coffee and made shopping lists and worked on making a "Newlywed Game" for a wedding shower.
My friend Lisa called and invited us to meet her and her son Nicholas for lunch in a nearby town. She was taking Nick to the dentist and would meet us at Chick-fil-a for lunch and playtime when they were done. So I showered and dressed and got Andrew ready to go. I remember putting on the bracelet my friend Anna made for me for my birthday. The colors didn't match what I was wearing but I just wanted to wear it to be reminded of her and to combat the loneliness I sometimes feel.
Our lunch was nice, even though other moms allowed their children to play without supervision and to climb on the outside walls of the play equipment and to practically step all over my son in their rush to get to the slide. On a normal day, this would have been what I talked about if anyone asked how my day was. Those lazy moms really annoyed me.
 A group of sheriff's deputies ate lunch in the booth next to ours. Andrew was fascinated by their uniforms and their shiny badges. He kept saying "hey," to them. They shared a homemade birthday cake. The woman deputy made fast friends with my Andrew and by the time we decided to give up on the playground and instead, sit and chat in my van with the boys watching a movie, Andrew was waving and saying goodbyes to her.
On our way home, I tried to keep Andrew from falling asleep in his car seat so that he could take a good nap at home. I was grabbing his foot and saying "give me those piggies," over and over to make him laugh and keep him from nodding off. I noticed the beautiful wildflowers planted along the roadside. The orange poppies really caught my eye. I was thinking how beautiful it would be to take Andrew out there at sunset for some photos. The orange poppies and his red hair would just be so lovely. While I processed the logistics of a roadside wildflower photo shoot, the traffic light ahead (the only one for miles around on this rural stretch of highway) turned red and I came to a stop. Just ahead, on the road to my left, I saw two vehicles stopped in the road. Dust was flying and a man was standing in the road by the passenger side of a pickup truck. I thought there had been a fender bender. Then, it looked as if the driver was going to leave the man there and the thought flashed through my mind that maybe this was one of those car fights where the driver makes the passenger walk home (or at least far enough to make them want to say 'I'm sorry.') But in a flash, I knew this wasn't a wreck or a silly disagreement between lovers. The man in the road lifted his arm and I watched as he fired four shots from a handgun toward the vehicle stopped in front of him. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.
And in a matter of seconds, the sense of security that living in this rural farm community has always given me was shattered. The man got back in the truck and my light turned green. I told myself to make a note of the kind of truck, the color, all the details and I sent up a prayer that the shooter would not turn his weapon toward our car.
I fumbled to call 911 and when I got the operator on the line, I started blurting out what I'd seen. My stomach was in knots. I pulled off the road into the parking lot of a gas station. After giving the operators all the information I had, I took a deep breath and drove home.
I had gone only a mile or so when I started meeting various law enforcement vehicles speeding toward the scene with their lights flashing. I was nauseas. I felt like my brain was foggy, floaty. I touched the bracelet on my wrist. It was real, tangible proof of goodness and kindness. My whole body was tense and I gripped the steering wheel with both hands, white knuckling our way home. I was trying to process what I'd witnessed and whenever I thought about how close Andrew and I were to a man who was trying to kill another person, I shuddered. When we got home, I took Andrew in my arms and held him tight. I had planned to put him in his crib for a nap while I did some chores. Instead, I brought him into my room and lay down beside him as he napped. I put my hand on his chest to feel his slow steady breathing and inhaled his sweet baby scent. I thanked God for bringing us safely home.
It's been several days now since we witnessed this crime. The shooter was captured. The two men he shot were treated for flesh wounds at a local hospital and then promptly arrested and charged with robbing the man who was doing the shooting. Basically, the shooter is a drug dealer. He arranged to sell drugs to these two brothers at a convenience store, but when he met them in the store parking lot, they robbed him of $60 at knife point and drove away. He and his driver gave chase, running their vehicle off the road at the intersection where the red light had me stopped.
I can't quite get my head around what I saw or how different it might have been if the people in the other vehicle had shot back at the man wielding the gun, sending bullets in our direction. I witnessed an act of extreme violence. I saw a man trying to kill two people. He stood no more than 50 feet from our car. I shudder to think that my baby was so close to such danger. One minute I was driving down the road looking at wildflowers. The next, I was witnessing a violent crime.
All for $60.
My husband is in Afghanistan and Andrew and I are the ones who witnessed a shooting. It doesn't make any sense.
I was terrified when it was happening. I was terrified when it was over. I am still emotionally shaken.
How tenuous is the line between life and death. How long a second is when you are watching something so scary.
Since the shooting, I’ve spoken with the sheriff, a detective and a newspaper reporter, a former co-worker of mine. They all assured me that the shooter was arrested and is in jail under a pretty hefty bond. But that is little comfort. I know there are dozens of others like him right here in our little community. Drugs have permeated our rural area, spurring violence, ripping families apart and shattering lives. Needless to say, I’ve been more vigilant about locking my doors, more alert when I’m out in public and certainly more aware of how little control we have over something like this.
My Andrew is no worse for wear. He didn’t even know anything had happened. Though, as I cried when I told my sister what had happened, he walked over to me and reached his little arms up to hug me.
And so we continue along each day, waiting for Greg to return and trying our best to put what happened behind us.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sunday's coming

I'm weary.
We're nearly half way through this deployment and the weariness has settled in my heart, like a dense Cape Fear River morning fog that mutes all the colors and makes the once familiar road ahead of you seem strange and treacherous.
I'm clinging to the fact that Greg will be home for 15 days in May for his R&R. If it gets cancelled or postponed, I feel like the fog might swallow us.
God knows I'm trying to fend it off. I've put up a mighty fight. Every day, I do the things I'm supposed to do.  I put one foot in front of the other. I keep going. Our clothes are washed and folded, our house is relatively tidy, the dog gets fed, we get fed. We play, we laugh, we snuggle, we read, we sing. I keep busy. I organize and I read and I plan and I tinker and I stay up late most nights working on this project or that project, dreading going to bed alone again.

Last Friday morning, in that space between sleeping and waking I cracked open my eyes just a bit and thought I caught a glimpse of my husband lying beside me. When I say my heart skipped a beat, it is no exaggeration. Instinctively, I reached for him, only to realize it was a mirage created by my fuzzy sleepy brain and a pillow that I had placed on Greg's side of the bed to keep Andrew from falling off during a nap the day before.
Then, last night, I let my thoughts go to a place I rarely dare. I was holding Andrew in my lap, thinking about how perfectly his little body fits in that space, as if he was shaped according to me. I love how he melts into that spot each night as he drinks his milk before bed. I remembered telling Greg something very similar many years ago, when our love was new and we were still making new discoveries about each other. There is a space between Greg's shoulder blades where I can rest my head if I'm standing behind him with my arms wrapped around him. It seemed to me then that space was created for me, as if God knew that one day, my cheek would rest in that very place and it was sculpted to the exact specifications that would make it a perfect fit.
Hot tears fell then and again later as I Skyped with Greg, finally getting a connection that allowed us to see and hear each other after several weeks of maddening spotty service. He was getting ready for work and I caught a glimpse of that place on his back that was made for me to rest my head.
I miss my husband.

One night this week, after I'd already bathed Andrew and put him into mismatched pajamas, my sister who lives just across the road, called to tell me to go outside to see a beautiful rainbow that stretched across the sky over the trees behind my house.
I grabbed my camera and Andrew and went outside. Andrew was so excited, pointing at the sky and jabbering. I told him the word "rainbow" and he began saying "bow, bow, bow." I snapped a few pictures of him toddling around pointing up at the sky.
Later, I sent the pictures to Greg as we chatted through text messages. "Wow, that's a good one, Honey," he said. "It almost looks like he's pointing at the rainbow in that first one."
My poor husband. He has missed so much in Andrew's life that he didn't realize that little baby he left is a little boy now and he WAS pointing at the rainbow.

It's Good Friday. For believers in Christ, it's a day to remember the sacrifice, to consider the price that was paid for us. Here in my neck of the woods, we are mourning the loss of another teenager tragically killed in a car wreck this morning on the way to school.
This was his facebook status, posted this morning before he left home for the last time: "On this day thousands of years ago a man was beaten and crucified for you he gave the greatest love for you so in that one day you can all live with him in paradise for that I am thankful. Just think about that, all of you who think this is just a half day (of school)."
Christians have a saying, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming." It refers to the belief that after Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, he was resurrected on Easter Sunday.
The phrase is sometimes used when we find ourselves in a dark place, a bad situation, enveloped in sadness or grief. It speaks to the belief that things are going to get better, that salvation is promised, that time will offer healing.
And so I have to remind myself that even though this separation has made me weary and there have been days when I find myself wrapped in worry and longing, I have to lean on the fact that this too shall pass. It's Friday, but Sunday's coming.