I remember I felt vulnerable, awkward. Like someone had torn my clothes off and shoved me naked onto a precarious stage where not only was I supposed to stand, but where I was supposed to look good while doing it. Look Happy. Confident. I was supposed to make it look easy.
Richard had just left.
And we were on our second or third Sunday alone at Mass. We’d made it through another week, but we were also starting another. I felt the small victory of a Sunday, of a week, but also sensed the pressure of another looming week. We were surviving. Barely. Adjusting. Still.
“Hey! How are you?” I looked over to where the conversation was unfolding.
“Good–hanging in there.”
“How long has he been gone now?”
“About six months.”
I was struck for a moment. All I could do was stare at her. I noticed the resiliency mixed with weariness that appeared for a few moments on her face. I remember thinking, “Wow, she’s halfway there.” I had a long road before I could claim that victory, I thought. But, she had made it. And she was still standing.
And now, I find myself staying the same: “About six months.” And the fatigue from the last half appears on my face, mixed with the victory of still standing. And we still have another six months.
Six months ago I saw a hero, an inspiration, though she had no idea. Today, I see myself in her. We are a week shy of Half Way Day, which is scrawled on all of my calendars in huge letters. Six months. I survived six months. And feel a sense of victory…and I feel a little tired. I have walked through fire, as I stood in doctor’s offices alone scared that my daughter had cancer. I’ve spent nights terrified to fall asleep because I haven’t heard from my husband and I’m praying those uniformed officers don’t show up at my door. I’ve gotten that dreaded message: “in the hospital, and bleeding… [rest of message cut off]” and waited, sobbing for the rest of that sentence to come through. I’ve been dragged to my knees in cold sweat and hard tears, simply from loneliness. I’ve sat up, covered in vomit with a sick toddler. I’ve nearly made it through a pregnancy alone, despite that dark moment that I thought I was losing another child.
I’ve stood on that stage naked and, despite the darkness, I made it look good.
I’ve held it together, put on a joyful face even when that was the last thing I wanted to do. I’ve made it through winter, sweated through a summer, and am gearing up for Fall. I’ve survived six months without my best friend, and our relationship has grown. I’ve been through fire–Hell–and I’m still standing.
Yes, I’ve got six months under my belt. Yes, I’ve made it to Half Time and survived. But, I’ve got another six long months ahead of us. I still have to deliver a child by myself, adjust a household to a new member, survive six weeks of no sleep. And I have to do it alone. I have to juggle that, while lovingly raising a toddler. And there is, I’m sure Crosses facing me that I cannot yet see. We still have time left to get through.
But, despite that I will celebrate. I will dance. I have survived the first half of my First Deployment, and am truly a better person for it. Because, despite the distance, the heartache, the fear, I have grown, my marriage has grown. My daughter smiles, laughs. We have built beautiful memories together that I cherish. We’ve overcome obstacles, big and small. And we are still standing.
So, next week, I will take a moment to stop. Thank God. We four in this family are still here, thank God. Though separated by half a world, we are still here. Elizabeth still plays and laughs. I still survive and hold down the homefront. Our unborn child still kicks and moves. Richard still stands and fights. Thank God.
We will survive the last part of this deployment. By God. Nothing has beat me now. And, sure as my word, nothing will beat me–beat us– in the next six months.
Charlie Mike, baby.