Saturday, November 29
Dan’s time off for Thanksgiving was up tonight. I drove him up to Fort ***, and we sat in the car outside the barracks for a long time, holding hands and looking out at the darkness. There was nothing new to say, but it’s hard to say goodbye.
I find that’s true pretty often. We’ve been able, thanks to cell phones, to talk almost every night since he’s been gone, but we often run out of things to talk about once we’ve covered the events of the day. He’s tired and sick, I’m doing the same things day after day after day, and rehashing the same ground again (Any new news on dates? How’s work?) gets old.
And then, some nights, an hour will go by before we know it.
Sunday, December 7
I was out with some friends last night, around eleven, when I got a call from Dan: He just found out he has tomorrow off—can I come up? What a silly question.
I got there about ten this morning. We went to breakfast at Shari’s, then drove the hour farther north to my grandparent’s house, where we sat on the couch in the family room and watched old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Somehow I managed to avoid the feeling that we ought to be doing something useful with the time, and relax. It was really nice to just be together, with nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to see.
Sunday, December 14
Dan’s mother called this morning: We got him! (We being the Fourth Infantry—congratulations, Gentlemen!—and him being Saddam Hussein.) Mama and Mary were here, and we broke open a bottle of sparkling cider and turned on NPR to listen to the news.
Everyone I talk to asks if I’ve heard the news, if Dan will come home sooner now, if he’ll still have to go, if I think this will make a difference in the violence in the area. The answers, in order, are yes, probably not, yes, probably not. I’m glad, of course, that they caught him, but I suspect that the majority of the bombings and attacks lie at the doorstep, not of Saddam’s henchmen, but of religious extremists, operating not out of love for Saddam, but of hatred for the U.S. I’m having a hard time getting excited prospects for change. But then, I’m even more inclined to pessimism these days than usual.
Wednesday, December 17
Dan got today off, so I went up last night and brought him home—so he could sleep in a real bed, after a cold, wet week in the field, and so he could see his family. It was one of the roughest days, emotionally, that I’ve had since this whole process started back in October. I think the idea of living like this for another year is starting to catch up with me.
It’s quite difficult for me not to pull away from discomfort—a natural human tendency?—and the discomfort in my relationship with Dan, occasioned by this weird separation, where we can still communicate regularly, is no exception. He is busy, working hard, learning, experiencing his own set of worries, fears, pleasures, sadnesses, different from my own, which I’m unable to participate in or really understand, and it feels, sometimes, like I don’t know him anymore. I find myself wanting to close off my thoughts and my feelings from him, wanting to put up a protective wall against the sadness that distance brings me. If I push him away, it hurts less—in theory—when he doesn’t have time for me.
This distance pushes me, forcefully, into awareness of myself as alone—not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. But in that separateness, I also find a stillness, like the still point at the center of a wheel, or the eye of a storm. It gives me time and motivation to think, to examine my ideas, the world around me, and particularly my marriage. What, after all, can I expect from marriage? To what extent is the popular idea of “soul mates” a valid, workable one? It isn’t fair or realistic to expect Dan to meet all my needs, hold together all my broken places, complete me. And it’s selfish. Which leads me to the next question: What is this feeble thing I call “my love”? It keeps getting tangled up with a selfish desire for company in my misery.
Tuesday, December 23
The latest dates in the ever-changing schedule are as follows: After Christmas, ten days at Fort ***, two weeks at the *** Training Center, ten days at Fort ***, two weeks in California, two weeks in Kuwait. Then Iraq.
Time off for Christmas is the only set of dates that has only changed once since they were announced. Dan is released tonight, and doesn’t have to be back until the night of the 28th—five whole days!