Monday, June 20, 2011

On Saying Goodbye

Last Wednesday, my husband left for a year-long deployment to Qatar.

I had just started getting used to having him around again after his last deployment, and now he's gone again.

But we're doing fine. Actually, it is a little scary just how well we're doing. Should this stuff really be normal to us? Should we really be used to it?

Maybe it is easier this time because we chose this. My husband volunteered for this deployment to do a pretty cool job in a not so horrible place so that we can stay here until his military retirement and the kids can graduate from our wonderful school.

Truthfully, I'd rather have him do a year in Qatar than another six months in Iraq or Afghanistan.

And he's the type of man who does this stuff without an once of regret or resentment. He's finishing up twenty year of service to his country by contributing to the safety of his fellow warriors AND putting his family first.

I'm not sure how he does it.

So, I always find farewells and homecomings to be awkward and sort of weird. I think this is my husband's sixth deployment and we have never had a big official send off. My husband always insists that we just drop him off wherever he needs to go. The flightline on base, the airport, or the terminal on the Navy doesn't matter.

He always drives us there, hops out of the driver's side, gives us all a hug (sometimes leaning in the window, sometimes on the curb), basically just says, "Goodbye, love you, I'll call you when I get there," and he's off.

I always figured he was just avoiding a big scene, especially back in the days when media was hanging around with cameras. But last week we were just going to the local airport and dropping him off for a commercial flight, so I asked him if we should park and walk him in and say goodbye at security.

But he didn't want that. "Why prolong it?" he asked. And he's right. It's inevitable. Thirty more minutes in the airport won't make it easier. Besides, he shows us he loves us every day.

So we were standing on the curb saying goodbye and there were about six or seven people standing around staring at us. One woman walked by and said, "Thank you for your service."

Part of me thought, "That was nice." Part of me thought, "Um, hello, whore. Private family moment here. Mind your own fucking business."

But I smiled inanely.

With just a few tourists and businessmen watching us, I felt like I was putting on a show. The Poor Military Family show. And I did not like it.

I've always understood my husband's need for the hurried drop off. But I never saw his point quite as clearly as I did last week.

I've spent ten years avoiding the media at all costs. But I got through what will hopefully be our last big goodbye with grace and relative privacy once more.

Driving away from that curb always goes exactly the same way.

I get a little teary eyed, mostly because I can't stand to hear my daughter cry. And then my son manages to say exactly the right thing to her to comfort her (even though I have no idea what to say to her, even after all these years). He's been doing that since he was four or five years old. And then the tears fall on my face because I have these amazing kids even though I've been given free reign to mess them up all by myself for about half of their damn lives.

So we're back at it again. And the first five days have flown by. Here's to the next 360 of them going just as fast.