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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Year Without Him

On February 24, 2010, my husband of 7 weeks deployed for a year. It was just a year, and we were going to try to do it just one time and then find another duty station that he wouldn't have to deploy from, or just get out of the Army altogether so that we could be together and live out our life and our dreams.

He did leave Torch Party, which meant that he was the first of his company to go. We tried to be positive. First one in, first one out. First to leave, first to come home. Ahh. How comforting that can be when you don't have a choice, and even moreso when you don't know what the future holds and that tragedy really can hit home hard. I didn't know that he would be the first to come "home" to the states the way he did in September. That was NOT in our plan.

Today is February 22. I have been without my husband for 363 days. I was told, when he left, that he would be fine. That he would come home. I wanted so, so badly to believe it. I needed him so much. I wanted him so much.

Through the first 7 months of the deployment, I taught myself (based on the previous lessons from my amazingly handy husband) how to do things around the house. I also had the help of my Daddy and April for some of the projects. I had a project board that I kept track of most of the projects I was doing around the house before our R&R. It was a good way to see my "accomplishments", keep my mind occupied, and to have pride in myself. It gave me wonderful things to talk to Matt about, and he was always so proud of me!

I had changed the panels on the fence, as the old ones were rotting out. I also had stained the fence to make it match. I had hung shelving, cleaned the garage numerous times, fixed clogged drains, landscaped the front yard. April cleaned up a holly tree that we have and really dislike, I moved so much dirt from the backyard to the front yard to fill in low spots, after digging out more of the driveway Matt built one year ago this week, to extend it. I have put tiles under the sink, pressure washed the house, sanded and painted a plant stand that Matt and I made together, built Lily a dog food stand, mulched gardens, and of course shampooed the carpets, kept up with the laundry and dishes and housework, and took care of my sick, sick puppy. I also kept up with the yard work for my house and a friend's house while they were away for the year. I have managed the money for our house to work to pay off bills, and not least importantly, our very anticipated and needed honeymoon. He was able to help me with that part. The list goes on and on.

Please note that I am NOT the only military wife that does this. I am not by any means complaining. Life would have been easier if he were here, yes, but in order to make him less stressed, and quite frankly, me less stressed, I worked through it with my projects. All military spouses have extra to do when they are here, alone, while their spouses are away, defending the country. I was one of the few that didn't also have children on top of the long, long list to take care of.

In my year without him, I accomplished a lot. In my first seven months without him, I accomplished a lot. I loved telling him about the different projects I had completed and hearing "good job, baby" or "that's awesome", or his pieces of advice on how to go about my next project. The last five months I haven't been so lucky to hear those words, or any words, come from his mouth. The phrases that I have been craving the most are "I love you" and "I am so glad that I am back home".

We didn't get our honeymoon. We didn't get our R&R. I have to say that the last time I saw him, the last time I looked at him face to face, the last time I hugged or kissed him, was around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24, 2010. He has been gone from this world for only five months, but gone from my reach for a year. The last picture I took of him was as he was geared up, walking out to the bus that took him away from me. That bus took him to the place where he had to prepare to die for his country, and where he had to start living in "war mode".

I hate thinking that we purposely pushed our R&R back to October. What if we had had it in July, August or even September? Would he have been more rested? Would he have been able to avoid this? And, if God's plan was for him to go on September 21, no matter what, then at the very minimum, we would have had more time together, had it been earlier. We would have had at least a little more time together as husband and wife. I wouldn't have to say, already, that I haven't seen him for a year.

I should have welcomed him home. I should have been there cheering, tearing up, smiling uncontrollably because he was coming home with me. I should have had the opportunity with my husband to help him heal from this last deployment, and help him realize that no matter what, I am here, and I can help to make it better. I know they see terrible, awful things over there. That is what war is. Terrible, awful, ugly, heartbreaking. I could not have taken that away from him or his mind, but I could have made him know that he is home, we are home together and Home is Safe. I am Safe. I am here, and I will love him forever. My job for my husband is to make sure that he knows that with me, he is safe.

Matt will always know that I will love him forever. I will always know that I will love him forever. I will always know that he will love me forever. But, I can't make him feel safe, and he can't make me feel safe. I had never known true safety and comfort and protection until him. Honestly, I am not sure that he had known it until me, either. I remember when we first started dating, and he would come to my house after he got off early from work, and would instantly fall asleep in my lap while I was working. He was comforted, and he was protected. I like to think that I helped him, as much as I could, get past the last deployment. I wanted that opportunity to do it again, only this time, knowing that I was protecting my husband, our future, and our family. And, I needed him to comfort me, and to make me feel safe again, to help me know that he wouldn't get hurt and leave me like this.

I just wish I had a do-over. I wish I could take it back, rework things, and have this be our welcome home. Our chance for our year to be up so we would not be stuck in this deployment forever. I wanted so badly to prove to him, our family, and myself that I could be a good wife- the best wife. I already knew he was a wonderful husband.

Someone, since Matt died, has told me that Matt always said "I need to get out of Campbell. I need to stop deploying. My wife needs me." You know what? I think he needed me just as much. I think that we need each other.

Both of us have proved that we can accomplish on our own, but we didn't get the chance to show how much we could accomplish together over a long lifetime. We fit together so well. Together, we could have accomplished everything that we wanted to.

Life. Is not. Fair. The reason that it is the absolutely most unfair is because we are not given any sort of understanding of why incidences like this happen. We are not given a clue as to the mastermind plan behind love, hate, war. I feel that we are dropped in to a maze and told to find our way out in two hours, but the maze is the length of infinity, and we are given no map. The only sense I can make of any of this is the cliche that if we did not hurt, we wouldn't know love.

I am so glad that I had my year with him, so that I could stand my year without him. I need more of him, though, because I am not done hurting.

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