Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dad interrupted

On Friday, my Wife and I celebrated our 16th anniversary. It was the third anniversary we have spent apart, and each time I promise that this will be the last time. Somehow that hasn’t worked out yet. 8000 miles and 9 time zones is a long ways apart, but we managed to spend some time together anyway. It was early evening here, late morning there, the kids were at school, and I was done with work for the day. We chatted, flirted, and blew each other kisses on the webcam. We smiled and laughed. We talked about the past and the future and pretended that the present wasn’t real, like we were on a date, enjoying dinner and each others company. Keeping a marriage going is tough under any circumstances, but we are pretty much a statistical miracle. 3 deployments, and 9 years working in a prison, night’s weekends and holidays, working Christmas day or Thanksgiving evening, it amazes me still that she stuck with me. What the hell is she thinking? Well, whatever keeps her from tossing me out like yesterdays trash, Thank God for it!

Missing another anniversary reminded me of all the other moments I have been missing. A couple of weeks ago, school started. Our oldest daughter (the artist) started high school. Our middle Daughter (the athlete) started middle school. And our youngest Son(the Jedi) started second grade, his first year of being “alone” at school, without the burden of a big sister running around the school creating oh so unreasonable expectations for him. The Artist is keeping my absence a secret from her teachers to avoid any special attention it may bring, because talking about it with people who lack a mutual perspective just doesn’t help her deal with it. She made me very proud the other day when she told me that she doesn’t like her government teacher because “Dad, she is really liberal”. I get the feeling that if this particular teacher knew that The Artist spent Election Day 2004 waving a Bush/Cheney sign over Highway 10, it may cost her a few points on the final. She is currently scheming to create the perfect moment to inform this teacher that “My Dad’s in Baghdad and he says wishing failure on his mission does not support him!” She chuckles with glee when she talks about this, and at the same time feels bad that I am not there to share the fun. Her confirmation is next spring, and I will be home.

The Athlete doesn’t share too much with me about how she feels, until it is time to say goodbye, then the emotion comes surging to the surface. She has always been the fiery one, tough as nails and determined, but still a little girl when faced with a father going to war for what seems a lifetime. The single most painful moment of my life was in 1996, as I was leaving for Bosnia, when my name was called to get on the bus. The athlete, who had been tough through the whole thing, asking questions and taking in answers with little comment, watched me turn to climb on the bus and screamed, as only a 3 year old can, “Daddy Noooooooo!” as I walked away. How I climbed onto that bus I don’t know to this day. Subsequent goodbyes have gotten easier, sort of, if only through repetition and familiarity. Hockey tryouts start in 2 weeks. I won’t be there.

The Jedi, named that because he is 7, and what else could a 7 year boy old be? While I was home on leave, we saw “Revenge of the Sith” together. It was all he would ask me before I came home. “Dad, are we going to see Star Wars together?” As far as he was concerned, once we checked that box, it was a successful vacation. The rest was icing. His current plan involves building a clubhouse in the backyard together when I get home. The plans are elaborate, as they should be. When I asked him how we would build the clubhouse in the middle of winter, when I get home, he applied perfect 7 year old logic: “we can build it in the garage, and then move it when the snow is gone”. As far as I am concerned, it is a perfect plan. A few minutes a day of sweeping snow off of cars, and scraping windows, is an insignificant price to pay. Cars come and go; clubhouses last forever in a son’s mind.

Four more months. I get to be a real Dad again in four more months.

8 comments:

charrisa a. said...

my husband is overseas as well and we have a 3 year old. he has been on three deployments, which well has been pretty much all her little life. though he is not home much she adores the man. it sounds like your family is the same. god bless you and thank you for your service. i know how hard it is to be away from the ones you love.

Anonymous said...

Your post today was so sweet! It brought a tear to my eye knowing that I won't be experiencing that situation, but will be surrounded by people who will. Sometimes those of us who are "single" in the military don't realize what's it's like for you "Married.....with Children" folk who make up a substantial number! I'm thankful for your sacrifice and your family's, and now it's my turn to repay by volunteering, and hoping that I can keep someone at home with their partner and family! And I'll be leaving for this journey starting tomorrow!

Pebble said...

You sound like an excellent dad.

Have you been over at Pass the Brass....
There is trouble re: blogging

http://passthebrass.com/?cat=1

May be offer a word of encouragement?

Sandy said...

It's obvious that you're all "real Dad", where ever in the world you might be, though certainly we celebrate your impending return to be the day at home very soon!

Anonymous said...

Your as real of a Dad as they come! Can't wait to hear the words that you are on your way home...your cousin,
Linda

afspouse said...

I still remember the clubbouse my dad started making for us. I remember being out in the back garden helping him. That's when I learned about tongue-in-groove... I was fascinated that the wood did that. :) I have never forgotten that afternoon spent with my dad. It is such a crisp, clear memory for me. I am sure, building a fort with Dad in the snow will be even moreso for your son. Don't be surprised if your daughters are just as fascinated! I was actually more involved in that afternoon of building than my brother was. :) I look so forward to those winter afternoons for all of you. I know your kids miss you... mine missed their father when he was overseas. And... the reunion was the sweetest moment of our lives. In the meantime, your kids have the same wonderful gifts mine did... they know their Dad is doing his very best to do a really good thing, and he is a hero for it, even though he will say he is just doing his job. And, they know their dad loves them more than anything or anyone. Not bad things to hold onto until they can climb all over you again! Best to you...

Bill Faith said...

Great post, great blog. I just left a comment on Blackfive's post at http://www.blackfive.net/main/2005/10/_in_the_past_th.html recommending your post for inclusion in the MilBlogs anthology he's putting together.

AFSister said...

*gulp*

My boys are 5 and 8, and for some reason, my 8 year old is experiencing really bad separation anxiety this week. He has cried, uncontrollably, each day when I dropped him off at the daycare. His school doesn't start until 9am, and I have to be at work at 8am, so I can't put him on the bus. I have to take him to daycare. It's been breaking my heart. I can't imagine the heartache of leaving him or his brother and heading off to war for a year.

God bless you, and thanks for being Over There, when you would rather be Over Here.