He left two weeks ago yesterday. It’s been eight days since I’ve heard his voice.
When he was gone for a month in the fall, I remember rejoicing at the two week mark: “We’re halfway there! You’ll be home so soon! God, it’s been a long fourteen days!” Now, two weeks in, this time is nothing. It’s meaningless. Two weeks, schmoo weeks. What’s two weeks when most of the year stretches out ahead – an unending road of sleepless nights and long days and the over-analyzation of absolutely everything? And the countdown? Our countdown? I dread it. It’s a countdown to the return of someone I won’t know, and who will only have a memory of me. I’m not trying to be pessimistic, but I’m warning you – this post is brutally honest.
So far, through all of this, there have been some people in my life who have been incredibly supportive – they’ve gotten me through days, nights, moments I didn’t even want to get through. They’ve distracted me, laughed with me, cried with me, listened while I justified everything, dissected everything that’s happened in the months leading up to now, reasoned with myself and with God that this was all happening for a reason. To those people – I am forever in debt. But there are others who have shown a different side of what happens with the other people in your life whenyou’re the one who waits…
There have been those who think they’re doing the right thing but who clearly haven’t bothered to Google how to support someone who’s going through this thing. It’s grieving, in a way, it really is, and so you’d almost think that most people would have a basic instinct about how to interact with the – well – bereaved. If most people do have such an instinct, it’s been lost on this. Patronizing. That’s the best word I have – the kindest word I have – to describe how I’ve been treated by so many close friends and colleagues. If you take a look at one of those “don’ts” lists of what not to say to someone with a deployed spouse or significant other, these people have checked every single point off:
- “Are you sure you want to go through this, that you want this life?”
- ”Is he worth it?”
- ”It must be so hard going home alone to that house every night.”
- “What’s it like knowing he could be dead and you wouldn’t even know?”
- “Do you think he’ll be the same when he comes home?”
- “Did you see that thing on the news this morning?”
- “Do you even agree with the war?”
- “You just need to get used to this.”
- “This is what you signed up for.”
- “I don’t even think we should be over there. We’re asking for it.”
I could keep going. I won’t.
And then there are those who have flat out made this worse. A friend who doesn’t think I paid her enough attention during the last week before deployment – and I’ve got one answer to that: you’re right, I didn’t, and it was conscious, and the absolute right thing to do focus only on him and on us and on my own well-being in those final days.
I haven’t slept in days, really. I added up about ten or twelve hours in going on five days now. I fall asleep, but am awake within an hour or two and never fall asleep again fully. I lie in the dark, cradling my phone, hoping for the call or the message that isn’t coming because it’s all shut down. We can’t seem to go more than a day or two without a reason to block communications – and that in and of itself is enough to keep me up at night.
Last night, lying there, I thought back across the hard months that are behind us. The months where he shut down, shut everyone out. The months I watched him disintegrate, powerless to stop it. The months he pushed me away yet still held me tighter than I’ve ever been held every night – his way of saying he wasn’t letting go of me, of us. But he was letting go – of himself. I thought of all of this and the way it impacted who he was – compromised who he was as a partner, a son, a brother, a friend. I’m angry with him. He won’t fix him and so none of us can fix what exists between us. I stayed, supported, talked and laughed and made love and held him through it. And at the end of each day, there we were, facing each other in our bed: “I love you.” “I love you to.” A long, intimate, hard kiss. A kiss that said, “I mean it. I really do. I mean this. We’re here, now.” And so, each night, I knew we were getting through it. Another day down. Another day we won. But lying in bed last night, in the dark, my hand across his pillow… I was angry.
I was angry at him for compromising so much of our time. Angry at him for hurting me, for pushing me away, for questioning us and for making me question us. Angry for knowing he can’t do this alone and for choosing to stay the course without help. Angry at the reasons for it. Angry at him for leaving me with this wound – in our home, in our life, inhislife. Angry at him for the few precious times we’ve communicated being strained on his part or dismissive. Angry at him for switching off. Here I was, trapped, and this thought comes into my head:
“If something happens, he’s a hero. I’ll stand in a black dress and say all of the wonderful things. I won’t say how he checked out. I won’t say how only part of the time did I see the man I loved in those eyes. I won’t say how I felt gutted the first time he told me he was no longer the man who was mine, and who I belonged to, but instead a monster, detached from the feeling of it all. I won’t say any of those things. I’ll only say how our nights ended, how brave he was, how he loved so fully and changed my life completely, how he knew how to live each day like it was all that mattered and all there ever was. And you know what? All of those things will be true. It just won’t be the whole story. I’ll be the one who will go to bed alone with the whole story every single night for the rest of my life. He’ll be a hero. He already is.”
Instantly I despised myself. I disgusted myself, despite everything I’ve read that says these thoughts are normal. I’m just not supposed to share them. And of course I never will – not with him, not with family, not with friends. Just here. Here, where I hope it makes a difference – to me and to someone out there who’s where I am, or who has lost someone.
I choose, all over again, every morning and every night to wait. It’s my only choice. He is all of those wonderful things I’d say in the end. He’s the world and life and love I want. I know it’s all a gamble, but I wait to be dealt my hand.