It’s been a week today since Matt headed off to travel and see a new part of this world! He sent me a picture today that no kidding… reminded me of Colorado! Well, if you can ignore the concrete barriers! I’d like to journal our last few days before he headed out…
The last week we basically spent together, sleeping late, staying up late watching episodes of Once Upon a Time, and doing last minute tasks. (I had Matt change all the filters in the AC vents because they’re on the ceilings… I have no idea how I’ll change those while he’s gone!) On the date of our casing ceremony the butterflies entered my stomach. I was recently told that “butterflies” implies I am excited and happy about an upcoming event… I get that… but I don’t know how else to describe the sensation. It was exactly the same physical reaction one would get if excited about an upcoming event, but without the happiness and “YAY” factor. Maybe it should be considered “moths.” They’re not as pretty as butterflies but they’re about the same size…
As I saw our soldiers in formation, American flag waving proudly, 1-227 colors cased, the moths, if you will, started messing with me. That feeling really didn’t leave until he was gone 36 hours later.
As I was driving, I had to take deep breaths to still my beating heart. It wasn’t beating rapidly, but it felt like it was about to beat right out of my chest… I could feel every single beat. As I was cleaning the kitchen after a meal, the moths would start up and remind me that we only had x-number of hours left as a whole family. I wasn’t nervous or even overly emotional… but I was experiencing a physical reaction to the fact that my other half was leaving for an extended period of time.
With the countdown going, we planned Matt’s favorite meals for dinners. That week I made for him: Tex-Mex Chicken Melts; Steak and Potatoes, Shrek Noodles, and Coconut Shrimp Bake. The night before his last night we went to Outback, his favorite restaurant in the entire world. We ate SO much! We ordered the onion, six meals, and ate more bread than I care to admit. However, Matt and I both brought home half our meals and ate that for lunch the next day! (WIN WIN!)
Before we were seated Matt gave each of us a parting gift.
The bigs each got a dog-chain with a scripture verse about courage – Deut 31:6. This is a special message between these boys and their daddy. When he sees any scripture about courage he points it out to them. He’s raising strong men! For Parker he got a miniature lava lamp with a verse on it. Parker misses his mini-Christmas tree and cried when we packed it away. This is why the lava lamp is special to Parker.
Matt gave me a wooden heart that says, “My Love,” from the Christian bookstore and he wrote on the back. It hangs in the kitchen in my “Brynnley Window.” (This space is my one “girly” place and where I honor the memory of a sweet baby girl who passed too soon… I pray for her family often.)
The day he left was serene and precious. Instead of going for a run, Matt and I decided to take the boys to a nearby field to play a game of soccer. We broke more rules than we followed, one being that parents are allowed to tackle kids… another was that every point we scored was worth three… in the end, I think Matt and I won by 15, or something like that. Basically, we played a silly game and got some nervous energy out, just being together. After the soccer game – if you can call it that – we let the boys play for a while at the skate park/play ground while Matt and I walked laps and talked. (Just remembering that day the moths are back…) We talked about everything; we talked about nothing. Conversations on “the day” are always interesting.
We headed home and ate a great lunch (remember… we had Outback leftovers!). For the boys’ rest time Matt and I also took rest time and spent some much-needed alone together.
When it was time for me to begin dinner, I looked at my family sitting around the table playing a game of Racko, then back at my spotless kitchen. I didn’t really want to spend the next hour cooking and messing up the kitchen which would then be followed by 20-30 minutes of cleaning the kitchen, all just before my husband left for 9 months.
So, I whispered in Matt’s ear a suggestion that he was fully in favor of: let’s get something quick at a nearby fast food restaurant and then hit Starbucks for a late night cup of coffee/hot chocolate before going to the hangar. This let me be a part of the night with my family instead of the cook… something I will get plenty of time being while he’s away.
After a quick dinner we went straight to Starbucks and we all got our drinks… on Parker! He had won a gift card at our unit’s Christmas party for some pretty awesome dance moves! I’ll have to share those in a later blog post!
We sat there and I saw the look on Matt’s face… he had held off so long! He did a great job of being present with us the previous two weeks instead of leaving mentally before the deployment. This is a huge deal! Usually he (and lots of soldiers, apparently) find it easier to separate emotionally and mentally before a long deployment and find it difficult to connect intimately with their family during the past few weeks. Matt was WITH US the whole time… I started to see him “leave” while we were at Starbucks:
Here are some pictures of those bittersweet moments we had together there:
We left Starbucks and the moths were going crazy in my stomach. We pulled up to the bag-drop area and Matt unloaded his bags and placed them in the mountain of other bags. After we parked we went inside and a weight lifted. Honestly, once we walked into that hangar, the mood shifted. We were not happy to be there, but I can honestly say we were relieved to have made it to that moment.
Matt’s mood changed instantly. He brightened up. That look of consternation disappeared and I saw my husband return. He actually did a few mini-counseling sessions while mingling and I loved letting the boys see their daddy do what he does.
The music played was uplifting and upbeat. Nothing sappy or depressing! We got to say hello and give hugs to friends. The boys got to see that their daddy was going to be with a lot of great people and that all the other kids in the room were also loaning their dads (and some of them, their moms) to the country for a while. We are not alone!
After we sat around and basically twiddled our thumbs for a while Carson went out to the car to get our “in case of emergency” deck of cards. We play a few rounds of Hill Rummy before we decided it was time for me to take the boys home. I dropped them off and returned to the hangar to spend the last hour with my husband before he had to load the bus.
I asked him if he wanted me to head out early. Many soldiers prefer their spouses to leave them there rather than to have to be the one to walk away from them… if that makes any sense… (if not, I do apologize). But Matt said he wanted me there to the end… it kept him from having to awkwardly make conversation… there’s my introvert!!
At 10-minutes-to-load-up-time they called for formation. Last hugs and kisses were given and our brave men and women lined up. Seeing formations always makes me feel patriotic. The following picture is only one of our companies.
Matt gave me my last kiss and headed over to stand with the unit commander. It was at this time our COL made his last remarks to his soldiers but more importantly, to the families remaining behind. He really does a great job of telling us how vital we are to the mission… how much he appreciates what we do for our unit. I’m glad Matt’s with this team!
He called for Matt to pray and while he did, I snuck out about 15 feet from where I was standing in the above pictures and took a picture of Matt praying. I was that wife.
I didn’t get to see him again. After he prayed he walked away, toward that helicopter, and the unit also turned that direction, and Matt was one of the first solders out the door to the busses. I turned and hugged my friend, lost it for a minute and sobbed into her coat. But, her husband still had one more kiss to give her, as his bags were at her feet, so I pulled it together, hugged one more friend, and headed out the door. I didn’t stay to watch the formation fully make its way out of the hangar.
I managed to regain my full composure on my walk in the cool (yes, I said cool) air on the way to my car. My mom had texted me a few times and I called her as I drove home. But as I got to a specific spot I looked back to the hangar and realized I could see all the busses. I pulled over on a side road and parked, turning my hazards on. I texted Matt and told him to be watching for me. We were in communication as the busses started moving; as they exited the air field; and then he saw me! I didn’t get an extra kiss, but he did see me and he got to know I was waving my farewells… Why that matters, I don’t know. Love isn’t logical, is it?
When I got home I loved on my kids and we handled this well. Only Carson seemed to be a little teary. We kept our bedtime routines the same and the week started off very well.
Matt and I argue a little about when the “week mark” hits. I count Saturdays because I slept alone that night. He counts Sundays because he left the country on Sunday. I think it’s all about perspective and that we’re both right!
I will be updating soon how our first week of the deployment went. I will tell you now, it was really good and I’m chalking that up to the MANY prayers worldwide on our behalf. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! My family is doing so well right now… thank you! (Oh, and even Matt sounds great! He’s settling in and looking forward to getting into a good battle rhythm.)