Tuesday, March 1
Dan called last night . . . from Kuwait! He was falling asleep in his chair because they flew in to Kuwait at three a.m. and had to be up again by seven for a meeting. Rumor has it they’re leaving Kuwait at either 0600 or 2200 tomorrow their time, which translates, I think, to eight p.m. tonight or noon tomorrow our time. The flight should take approximately fifteen hours, which would put him into *** around either eleven a.m. tomorrow or three a.m. Thursday.
Thursday, March 3
It’s about seven-thirty a.m., and I’m awake without the aid of an alarm clock, though I went to bed only three and a half hours ago. It was a good nap, I guess.
I hadn’t gone to bed yet when Dan called at three a.m. from . . . well, he knew the name of the airport, and he knew it was in eastern Canada, and he thought it might be on an island, but he didn’t actually know where he was. According to our latest calculations, he should get in to *** no later than eleven-thirty this morning, so we should be able to pick him up at the three p.m. ceremony today (there are so many returning soldiers going through Fort *** right now that they’ve scheduled ceremonies for six times a day). If I wasn’t so tired, I’d be so excited I couldn’t stand it.
Tuesday, March 8
We were indeed scheduled for the three p.m. ceremony, but Dan’s plane was delayed, so he was finally released about four-thirty Thursday afternoon. Dan is exhausted—he slept in the car on the way home, went to bed when we got home, and got up the next morning long enough to eat breakfast and take a shower before laying down for a four-hour nap. His four days off were relaxed and peaceful: We watched a movie with his brother, went hiking, went to church, spent an afternoon with his family, and that was the extent of our formal program. He couldn’t keep his eyes open after eight or eighty-thirty at night.
He had to be in formation at Fort *** at nine last night, so we drove up after dinner and I dropped him off. He’ll be there for about a week, and leave this weekend for ***, where he’ll spend two weeks going through PLDC—the Army’s Primary Leadership Development Course, which is a prerequisite for promotion to Sergeant.
Saturday, March 12
It’s almost noon, the house is clean, the dishwasher is running, and I, with a notebook and my second cup of coffee, am sharing a patch of sun in the living room with the houseplants. Dan is not here—but he’s in the next time-zone. I could drive to where he is in a day and a half; I can call him, if I want to, for the first time in a year.
Of the last nine days, I’ve spent at least part of eight with him. Tuesday is the only day I didn’t see him at all. He called Wednesday morning to say he’d already been released, and did I want to come up and see him. I got there around five that evening, and we spent the rest of the evening running errands to get him ready to go—which mostly meant spending four hours playing hangman in a Cingular store near Fort *** while their employee tried and failed to transfer his old phone number to a new phone (the old one didn’t survive its year in a hot duffel bag). We managed to get a room at Lodging on post that night, and he went to work the next morning, while I slept in. I was still in bed when he showed up again three hours later—he’d already been released for the day, bought a new shirt, and had his hair cut. After we checked out, we finished his errands—picked up his new phone and a book for him to read on the plane—then spent the evening at my grandparents’ house. I took him to the airport on my way home yesterday. He’ll be gone for two weeks.
Tuesday, March 22
I’m in my second week of “my husband is home but I’m still alone” now, and it’s a bit of a strange life. Dan is calling every night, which is really nice, though most nights he’s too tired to talk for long. He’s doing well in his course, passing all of his evaluations. The class wraps up Thursday, they graduate Friday, and he flies back to Fort *** Saturday. He’ll work there for two weeks while he waits for his last class—a ten day class to update his medic specialization—and after that class he’s done. He gets thirty days leave, and then he goes back to being, more or less, a civilian. He won’t have to report again until drill in August.
Just having him in the country and knowing that he isn’t going back soon has made a lot of life easier. It’s been easier for me to do things that take some willpower—like exercising every day, and eating healthily—perhaps because the deployment is no longer using up all my “enduring discomfort” reserves.
On the other hand, I keep being surprised by sadness. I was flipping through a copy of The New Yorker last week and when I turned the page to see a picture of a soldier, it took my breath away for a moment. I didn’t read the article. Running across a picture of DW, who was killed in Iraq in September, in a friend’s blog yesterday made me cry. I avoided thinking about the war and Dan’s deployment as much as possible during the deployment because I just couldn’t—the end was still too far away to face up to how miserable it was. I wonder if, now that I’m letting my guard down, those emotions are rising to the surface. No one ever said getting back to “normal” would be easy.
And it seems like I still don’t know for sure what getting back to “normal” will be like, because we haven’t really gotten to start doing it yet. We’re kind of in limbo, stuck in a holding pattern while we wait for the runway to clear.
The other thing that’s weird is that even though it’s over—it’s over for us—it isn’t over at all. Dan came home because another battalion went to replace him. We’ve got a friend in the Marines who’s heading over for his second tour in the next month or two. It’s being fought by another set of soldiers, endured by another set of families, but the war goes on.