The holidays were a hard pill to swallow when every precious moment was tainted by my worrying about the without-yous. More than once I had to hold back tears. When he hiked through the woods with our daughter on his shoulders and our son strapped to his chest. As he attempted to tame her curly locks and fastened her black patent leather shoes on Christmas Eve, getting ready for church. As we shared an oatmeal stout in the library, after taking bites out of the cookies left out for Santa Claus — Madeline asleep upstairs and Benjamin in the ring sling on Andrew’s lap, dreaming of Christmas morning.
Each day crossed off of the new year brings reality of our situation closer and closer. And while I’ve accepted it, the heartache hasn’t gotten any easier to bear. During the nights when Benjamin refuses to be consoled, as we pass him back and forth, short on patience and short with each other, I find myself dreading the nights when he won’t be here to help. After a long day alone with the children (Andrew having busted his bottom to make it home just minutes before Madeline’s bedtime), I’ll sit nursing the baby and listening to their nightly tickle fight over the baby monitor, wondering how she will possibly comprehend his absence. And when he comes down the stairs frowning — “That was so hard,” he says, “What if she’s not the same with me when I get back?” — my stomach rolls over, and I swallow hard to send the lump in my throat away.
40 weeks. The length of a pregnancy. I know just how long that is. I’ve done this (and more) before, but not with babies. Worrying about them makes it more difficult. So much will happen between now and then without him. So many firsts. So many tears. So many hugs. So many memories. He’ll miss it all, and we’ll miss him more. There’s no getting around that part of deployment. It’s sad.
But we’re a strong family, and we will keep calm and soldier on. Together. Again. Until we are together again.