being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus
My hair is blow dried and straightened. I’ve even put on make up for the occasion. I found the perfect outfit: a long, red sweater (because red looks so good on me) and a denim skirt that my friend insisted I try on. I found some fun black suede boots that will get me through the winter. The girls’ t-shirts say, “Daddy’s Girl.”
The kids don’t even know what’s happening. I wonder if they can feel the electricity, the buildup, the anticipation seeping through my pores.
It’s all come down to this. One year, two months, 3 days and 5 hours give or take some minutes is how long I have waited for this moment. I’ve waited through the lonely nights, the long days, the anxiety a ringing doorbell created, the single parenthood created by deployment, the missed birth, the holidays without him, the arguments that had to be resolved via phone call, email or more frequently instant message, the knee and back injuries, all the missions where I didn’t hear anything for weeks, the loss of friends. I have prayed in the wee hours of the morning, awakened abruptly for no other reason but to just pray. I’ve cried buckets of tears behind closed doors: tears of fear, anger, loneliness, frustration, confusion, bitterness.
The waiting is finally over.
The gym is a little crowded. I doubt everyone’s here yet. It’s like any other gym. Except there are flags and banners and signs everywhere. Women and children sit in the bleachers, and we’re all here for the same reason. We’re here to welcome them home.
Someone hands me a small flag. My oldest, just two and a half, sits in the front of the stroller, concentrating on some video I’ve downloaded on my ipod. My youngest, nursed before we got into the car, is just now starting to fuss. I pick her up and let her play with the flag in my hand. I notice a news camera several feet away, focused in on us. Waiting. Pregnant with anticipation and hungry for a glimpse of him.
I’ve made a sign for my oldest to hold. It says, “1 LT R is my Hero.” I think I’ve been clever, but find that the small red construction paper sign written in black sharpie pales in comparison to the others prepared by spouses who have already been through this scenario two or three times over.
His former Platoon Sergeant puts my oldest on his shoulders. He’s a welcome sight. He represents that my waiting is over. “Won’t be long now.” He tells my daughter. She stares at him blankly. I wonder how much she’s absorbing of this moment, how much her two and a half year old brain understand. I’m torn between my desire to see him walk through that door and the maternal instincts that tell me to care for my babies.
The band assembles. It’s time.
The door opens. A blast of frigid Alaskan air rushes in. But none of us notices We’re hot with eagerness.
And one by one they come.
My heart starts to race. Where is he? What’s taking so long? They all look the same. Will I recognize him? Will he look different? I can feel each heart beat. The blood rushes to my ears and all I can hear is my heart thumping so heavily inside my chest that I’m sure I’m about to explode.
And there he is. I scream his name, waving my hand. My voice is hoarse. His eyes catch mine. Still all business, the only smile I see is the one in his eyes. And there’s the RELIEF. He’s home. He made it. We made it. He’s safe. We’re together again.
We’ve been indoctrinated. Him, mission first (which at this moment is formation). Me, to wait patiently until he’s given the go ahead to break ranks.
So we wait through a two-minute speech and one-minute prayer. And while it’s a nuisance, it’s also expected. Three minutes is nothing compared to how long we’ve already been waiting.
They’re dismissed and he’s lost in a sea of gray and green. I don’t see him for a little bit. And then, like some Hollywood movie, the crowd breaks, and he’s in front of me. I run to him, and hold him more tightly than I ever have before. Tears. Passionate kiss. Relief.
I’m oblivious to how hard the next few months, NO, years, are going to be. I have no clue that we’ll find out we’re to be parents for the third time in a few months. I don’t know that in about 30 minutes I’ll see that the man who left me fourteen months ago is gone, and the man that stands before me is a different one, fatigued and jaded by what he’s experienced and seen. I can’t even begin to imagine the conversations we’ll have or how our relationship will change and evolve, going to a place I never thought would exist for us. I’ve told people that the grace of God brought us through it, but I don’t know how much further his grace will continue carrying us. All I know at this moment is this:
He’s Home. He’s in my arms. And I’m relieved.
This post brought you via inspiration from Mama Kat. The prompt? A moment you felt truly relieved. Need inspiration? Go visit!
If my written words didn’t paint enough of a picture, here’s a video of a friend of mine whose husband came home right around the same time mind did. This short video captures it all: