The first day of February started off with a 10 mile run at marathon pace. To be honest I thought I’d take it a whole lot easier out there considering tomorrow will start with 20 miles. Yet as I took off and I breathed in the cold morning air. I thought about how lucky I am to be feeling the cold air on my skin. I remembered the same date 11 years ago.
It was the day before my one year anniversary. This story though is not about that anniversary because I didn’t kiss my wife good morning. I didn’t get a chance to thank her for an amazing year. I didn’t wine her or dine her. When I finally fell asleep that night I couldn’t help but think if I’d ever get another chance at an anniversary. You see on February 1st, 2003 I said good bye to my family and with my fellow Marines began our trek to Kuwait where we’d stage and train and eventually head north to Iraq.
I didn’t run that day and other than the early morning (I slept at my parents place) to drive down to Camp Pendleton. It was a fairly easy day. Most of the planning and packing had been done and we were just waiting now. My family would meet me on base later than evening. My dad would drive my car back home for me (I now know it was just so he could be alone). That good bye was the hardest thing I’d ever done. They seemed to take forever. My parents, a few other family members and of course my wife. As scared or excited as I was (I went from one to other a lot that night and for months after that) I maintained my composure until it was time to say good bye to my dad yet again. After he let the rest of my family go he came back to really say good bye.
I had never seen my father cry until that night. I was 20 years old but I too cried as I really allowed him to carry some of the heavy load I’d been carrying on my shoulders all night. He told me everything would be OK and even if I knew that there was no way my dad could guarantee that it helped me deal with my own pain that night. I waited on the sidewalk for some time until I could no longer see his car and then I headed back into the barracks. The buses took quite a bit longer but I was glad that I saw them drive away and not the other way around. I sat on my rack for a while and waited. One by one my brothers came back into the room after taking care of their own good byes. Each quietly dealing with a very personal moment.
Since you’re reading this you know that it all worked out and my dad was right. When I got back I hugged my wife first then my siblings and mother. Then and only then did my dad embrace me and he again cried, this time tears of joy of course. I always tease him about the relief he must have felt that everything did indeed work out. As I now look back on these memories I realize that I no longer cried with him that night. (I’ll nip these thoughts right there) another post perhaps.
Now here we are back to February 1st, 2014. Only crying I heard today was my daughters, when the teether she was playing with fell out of her hands. I picked it up and after cleaning it heard myself saying “it’s OK baby girl, it’s going to be OK”. I felt my heart tighten up in my chest and my stomach jump to my throat. In that instant I felt my fathers arms around me and wondered yet again what all those months were like for my father. I wondered what all those months away were like for my wife. The hard part is getting them to tell me about their time while I was away when I don’t like talking to them about my TIME AWAY.