Actually, we can't really do the countdown thing with this deployment. This unit is so crazy. They change their minds a dozen times, and when we think we know for sure what the plan is, they change it up on us again. So I refuse to do a countdown, except maybe quietly in my head.
It was so hard to know what to do yesterday. Our last day with Husband, luckily, went slow. The clock ticked each minute slowly as if it knew we needed the extra time. But I found myself wondering what to do and what to say. How do I fit in enough "I love yous" before he leaves? How do I make sure he has enough hugs and kisses to last until we see him again?
Try as he might, Husband found the smiles a little difficult to form. His eyes were not happy. His mouth was turned down. Not enough for the kids to see, but wives see everything. He watched the kids play, and tried to be with them every second he was here. His heart was very heavy, though.
He checked his packing list about 15 times. He felt sure he was forgetting something. Besides trying to figure out how to fit the 4 of us in a side pocket on his already 120 pound rucksack, he had everything on his list.
When midnight came, and we pulled in to the parking lot near his office, we saw rucksacks and duffel bags stacked higher than you can imagine. Wives hanging out their car windows grasping for their husbands one last time. Kids with their arms wrapped tight around their daddy's legs. Strong soldiers who found that one thing that can make them weak; their wives' and kids' tearful good-byes.
I walked over to our friend Richard to tell him good-bye. He was sitting in his car with his 3 year old bouncing off the walls in the backseat. Newborn baby James was wrapped tight in his daddy's arms. Richard looked at Husband and said, "Don't worry, I'll take care of him for you!"
4000 men who would rather be home for Christmas, doing their duty, serving their country, and waving good-bye to their families. Families who can't do much more than clasp their hands and pray.
I wasn't sure how long to stay with him. A lot of wives were determined to sit in their cars until they saw their husbands load the buses at 5:20 in the morning. With three very tired kids, I couldn't wait that long. And anyway, Husband is high enough on the totem pole that he really shouldn't just sit around and visit with us. He has to attend to his soldiers, check and double check to make sure everyone has everything, and that the buildings (offices and barracks) are all cleared out. So we wouldn't have seen him much anyway.
The kids and I got home at 1:00 am. Hunter had already had a 3 hour nap prior to taking Daddy to work, so he was up and ready to play. Drew and Louisa grabbed their pillows and blankets and headed to my room. I tossed Hunter in bed, and was relieved when he fell asleep quickly. The other two kids were all snuggled in, so we read a story and tried to drift off to sleep.
Before Daddy left, Louisa wrote him a note to tuck in his pocket. The note said, "Daddy, I know God will protect you in Iraq because I asked him to."