I’ve decided that I hate R&R, but more about that in a bit. I drove up to Atlanta on 12/26 to pick him up rather than have him spend overnight in a hotel because his connecting flight wouldn’t be until the following afternoon. Upon arrival, I found that his flight got cancelled and he was in Germany. Talk about deflating my happy balloon! I found a hotel room and spent the night, planning on being back at the airport by 1100 the next morning. We traded emails to keep each other updated, and I resigned myself to having to wait one more day for him to arrive.
My phone rang the next morning at 0715. His plane had arrived and he was in the USO lounge. So much for me getting to meet him at the head of the Transportation Mall to greet him. So far, nothing was going as planned. Omen, perhaps? I told him I’d have to pack up, wash up, and get dressed. I think all he heard was, “My hotel is about 10 minutes from the airport”. I got to the USO lounge about an hour later, so excited to see him. All I wanted to do was hug him. He looked at me, looked pointedly at the clock, then took his time packing up his laptop and other stuff he had out. After shouldering his bags, he just walked past me out of the lounge towards the escalator. I will say that he looked awfully hot – all that PT paid off nicely. 😉
I seriously considered driving him to Camden, SC at that point and telling him to find a ride back to Atlanta when it was time for him to return to Iraq. No “hello”, no hug, nothing. I might as well have picked up a stranger. Fine. I can play the game. The drive back was strained with polite questions. “Do you need to stop?” “Are you hungry?” “I have to stop for gas. Can I bring you anything from the store?” One word answers usually were given back. We stopped in Macon to get him some lunch and so I could put gas in the truck. When I got back in, he tossed – yes, tossed – a package into my lap and mumbled, “Happy Anniversary”. He bought me a necklace while he was in Germany and it is lovely! I was surprised that he got anything at all, and while I was touched at his choice of a gift, I felt a pang of disappointment that it was literally tossed to me. Oh well. Since I wasn’t expecting anything at all, it was a nice surprise.
After he had a couple of days to decompress, I suggested we go down to Jekyll Island and sit on the beach. I took my “Journal of Tears”, intending to write in it while he did whatever he felt like doing, even if that meant sitting in the truck sleeping. We walked the beach for a bit, then sat down to listen to the sound of the ocean. On a whim, I handed him the journal and suggested he read it carefully. After about 20 minutes, he said, “I had no idea. I never meant for things to get this bad between us.” For the first time since he got home, he wrapped his arms around me and let me cry. We talked about everything, and while it’ll take awhile for us to get back to where we were before October and November, at least he had a better understanding of my side of things. Things were more relaxed after that day. We visited his cousins in SC. We did a whole lot of nothing at home, and I went on job interviews. He was happy to hear that I got hired and would start work shortly after he returned to work.
All too soon, it was time to take him back to Atlanta. The drive, which normally feels like forever on the way to the airport, went much too fast. I felt like I couldn’t let go of his hand, and I think that was irritating him a bit ’cause it was time for his head to get back in the Iraq game. The USO said I could go with him to check in for his flight, and that I could get a pass to go to his gate. When it came time to check in for his flight, the USO volunteer had me line up next to Tony. As we walked with the rest of the soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen, I was moved to tears by the response of the folks in the airport. Not only did they applaud us as we walked past, they wished the guys and gals Godspeed and good luck, admonished them to come home safely, and a few women walked next to me saying that they were thankful for men like my husband. That was probably the most emotional walk through an airport that I’ve ever had.
We got to his gate and I found myself hoping that his flight would be cancelled. No such luck, but he was delayed by a few hours. Because Atlanta had had a bad snow and ice storm the day before he was due to leave, he was worried about me driving home after dark on the sure-to-be-icy roads. He walked me back to the concourse food court, hugged me for what seemed like too short of a time, even though it wasn’t, and told me to drive safely. I watched him walk off to get something to eat. I knew he wouldn’t look back…he never looks back, says it’s easier to say goodbye that way. But I watched him until I couldn’t see him in the crowd any longer, then made my way back to the main terminal and out to the truck.
Why do I hate R&R? Because it’s like sending him off on a deployment all over again. I know he – and the rest of our military – need the time away from theater, need the time home. But for me, and for other wives I’ve talked with, it’s incredibly hard. I was used to having him home, sleeping beside and waking up next to him…having him reach for my hand or slide his arm around me as we walked through the mall, the Commissary, or while out with his cousins. I got used to his laugh, to doing his laundry, to making – and serving – him dinner again. By the time I was used to him being home, I had to take him back. Nothing in the world sucks more than that…not even sending him off in July, and trust me, that sucked!
I’ve started my job today, so that distracts me somewhat. I still come home to an empty house (sorry, kitties, but you’re not Tony). I make dinner for myself. I wait for him to email me or call and let me know he arrived back at Camp Ramadi safely.
I wait for him to come home to me, only this time, I won’t have to send him back after 15 days.