Saturday, November 20, 2010

Letters To My Love

While my husband was deployed--again--we communicated through all of the typical channels--telephone, instant messenger, email, webchat. But, we also decided to send some messages the old-fashioned way--through written letters. There's really no better way to express how you're truly feeling, without fear of their response. And, best of all, the line won't cut off in the middle of your sentence. It's often hard to put your emotions into words while you're on the phone, in those brief minutes before he has to run, or the line gets blurry. So, for me, writing was easiest when I was settling in for the night--after the kids were in bed, the dishes were done, and the laundry was folded--with just me, my pen, and my thoughts (ok, and usually the cat). I wrote to my sweetheart almost every day for the 11 months and 18 days that he was away. He kept a box of those letters under his cot, as a constant reminder that someone at home was waiting for him, and loving him very much. And I know that we will cherish those letters forever.

Here is one of the many letters that we shared . . .

My Love,

I realize it may not be evening when you read this, but maybe you’ll be able to picture me writing it. It’s 9:33pm. The house is quiet, except for the sound of the ceiling fan humming. I am sitting on our bed, leaned up against the two fluffiest pillows—the two that I don’t let you use because they raise your head up too high, which causes you to snore. Oh how I miss your snoring. I would gladly prop these two fluffy pillows under your head and enjoy the grumbles and sighs—just to have you by my side again.

I’m sitting here in your shorts and t-shirt, hair up in a pony tail, and of course, wearing our locket—the one I kiss several times a day—as I pray for you—for your safety—for us to be strong—for our bond to grow and strengthen. I kiss the beautiful locket and wish that I could be kissing the beautiful man whose picture is inside. Oh, how I love the people whose images are inside this necklace—you—my hero, my companion, my dream come true—and our three, beautiful, amazing children. My family. Our family. I kiss the locket and think about all the wonderful times we’ve had together, and the many, many more to come.

I sit here, leaning against these pillows, holding this journal and pen (a pen that’s about to run out of ink, which makes it the 2nd pen we’ve worn out in 2 weeks), wondering how I can possibly convey to you what I’m feeling…how much I miss you…how much I love you. There are no words. So, all I can do is hope that, somehow, my feelings have made it onto this paper, from my heart to yours.

Our cat sits next to me, snuggling in your spot, as if she’s keeping it warm for you. And the rest of your side is occupied by the laptop—its light illuminating the room—the faces of those 4 people I adore shining in the background. I look at that screen so often—waiting for the window to pop up with a message from you—a “hi” or a kissing face or a simple buzz—anything to let me know that you’re thinking of me—and, most importantly, that you’re safe. My heart skips a beat (or several) every time the phone rings or the computer buzzes—because it means you are safe for another day—and we are another day closer to being together again.

I watch that screen like a mother watches her infant—waiting for any sign that she’s needed, and sighing with relief when she sees that her love is ok. I look at that screen as soon as I awaken now, and when I open my eyes, even if just for a moment, at night—almost instinctively—waiting for another chance to talk to my soul’s partner.

I sit here—hoping, praying, wishing—for the day you’ll be back in my arms…and knowing that day will come soon. And that we will, we have to, get through these rough times. Although the house is too quiet, and the bed too big and empty, and my heart is aching from missing you so much, I’m happy and at peace—because I know that as I write this, somewhere, on the other side of the world, in a tent in the middle of the dessert, you are lying down…the sun is just starting to kiss the horizon…and you, too, are glancing at your screen, thinking about me, and wishing you were here. And soon, you will stretch, wipe your eyes, sit up, and call me. And when I answer, I will say…hello, my love…I was just writing to you…

Good night, my love. I will see you soon.
Loving you with all my heart and soul.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Truly a Day of Remembrance

Today is Veterans' Day, a day to honor all of our heroes who have served and sacrificed. While the following blog was actually written on, and about, Memorial Day, I think it is still an important reminder today. May we all remember.

I have always celebrated Memorial Day, although I didn’t always know what we were celebrating, or why. As a child, Veterans and Memorial Day meant loading up the station wagon with plastic flowers and spending the afternoon at the National Cemetery. I would watch my otherwise hard-shelled Polish grandmother gently kneel before the graves of unknown soldiers and place flowers by the headstones. I didn’t understand why, but I knew there must be something important that made this tough woman turn to mush, each and every year. Now, I’m starting to understand.

My great grandfather was taken from his home by Nazis in 1935. My grandmother was 9 years old. She never saw her father again. Years later, after her family had fled to Germany, she met a soldier, fell in love, and later accompanied him to the US. My grandfather was a war vet. He served his country in Vietnam, and was later killed, not in action, but rather by the alcohol which took over his life after he returned. When I was five years old, I watched my grandfather turn yellow and fade away, lying in a dirty, lonely bed in the VA Hospital. I remember thinking that he deserved more. At his funeral, my grandmother told me to open my mouth so that my ears wouldn’t pop from the 21 gun salute. She looked so sad, but proud. And when the other soldiers carefully folded an American flag and presented it to my Mother, my grandmother actually cried. I didn’t know why the flag was such a big deal. Now, I’m starting to understand.

So, each year, I would kneel beside my grandfather’s grave and place the obligatory wreath. I would then follow my grandmother to the countless rows of unknown soldiers. She would tell me that they deserved flowers, too, even if no one knew who they were. She hoped that somewhere, someone was placing flowers on her father’s grave as well. I loved those moments, because they were rare glimpses into my grandmother’s past—a childhood that was too painful for her to share. I watched her storing up plastic flowers throughout the year—from garage sales and clearance racks. I didn’t understand why it was so important to have all of those flowers. Now, I’m starting to understand.

Yes, this year, I am beginning to understand. As my husband sits in his storage container in the middle of the desert, although I miss him terribly, I am so very grateful that he is safe. I am grateful that I get to answer the phone and hear his voice. I am grateful for the butterflies I feel every time we speak. And this Memorial Day, I am reminded of all of the spouses who will never have that feeling again.

All military spouses know the fear of a “commo blackout” (no communication allowed), because it means that someone was killed, and the Army needs to notify the family. We all know the nervous waiting--hoping to get a phone call from our loved ones, not a knock on the door from men in uniform. We know the mix of emotions we feel when we hear that someone was killed--the gratitude that your soldier is safe, and the guilt because someone's is not. Someone’s husband, father, brother, mother, wife, sister, or child is not coming home. So, on this Memorial Day, I am thankful for these soldiers’ courage and sacrifice. And I will remember the families who are left here to grieve, the families who got that horrendous knock on the door. I may not know your pain, but I understand how much you deserve to be honored.
For me, Memorial Day is a day of gratitude. It’s a day that I am thankful for my husband’s safety, for the soldiers who have not returned, and for the families who loved them. I am grateful for people who still watch the news (on the rare occasions that the media still covers the war) and are saddened, for the people who still say “thank you for your service” (which means a lot, by the way), and for those people who, like my grandmother, still place flowers on soldiers’ graves. And I am grateful that, finally, I understand.

For those who have sacrificed, those who have left us, and those they have left behind—thank you.

And to my amazing husband--thank you. And please, hurry home