On the outside looking in

It’s a fact of life that we all have sad moments. Nothing is sadder than seeing my husband come to the constant realization that he isn’t in our kids lives. I can see the expression on his face when he realizes how big the kids have gotten since the last time he saw them, how much more articulate they become, how much they’ve learned in school and at the gymnastics studio.

He would say that I am doing a great job, that I’m doing it all by myself, and that he doesn’t have any hand in their upbringing as if he’s on the outside looking in.

When really, he’s present in everything we do.

Our kids constantly bring up their favorite memories of Daddy and often schedule what they’re going to do with him weeks before his leave.

When time is not on our side to consult R about decisions, every parenting decision I make is based on what we would decide. If that were not the case, our house would be full of disco balls and stilettos.

I think our kids look like him and it cracks me up when our oldest gets mad. M’s eyebrows furrow and sulks just like my husband when Taco Bell fails to give him fire sauce packets with his meal. You can see the determination on their faces at gymnastics when they’re given a new skill to learn and they literally do not quit until they master it, practicing over and over like little robots in leotards and gym shorts.

Last time I watched our 6 year old A practice, their coach had a contest to see who could do the most pull-ups. Not only did A make sure she was the first one on the bar, she kept going long before the last competitor hopped down. Kind of like when R stood up for the first time at the VA in Palo Alto and accurately predicted that he’d go from walker, to two canes, to one cane within weeks.

Our youngest is so kindhearted that her “I LOVE YOU”s exit her mouth so frequently and with so much feeling that you can’t help but smile and slow down to savor it. Kind of like R’s “I LOVE YOU”s. No, EXACTLY like his.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard “I’m Already There” by Lonestar on the radio whenever he was deployed. To me it represented a little nudge from up above to hold on a little longer.

“I’m Already There”
By Richie McDonald, Frank Myers, and Gary Baker

He called her on the road
From a lonely cold hotel room
Just to hear her say I love you one more time
And when he heard the sound
Of the kids laughing in the background
He had to wipe away a tear from his eye
A little voice came on the phone
And said, “Daddy, when you coming home?”
He said the first thing that came to his mind

I’m already there
Take a look around
I’m the sunshine in your hair
I’m the shadow on the ground
I’m the whisper in the wind
I’m your imaginary friend
And I know I’m in your prayers
Oh I’m already there

She got back on the phone
Said, “I really miss you, darling.
Don’t worry about the kids, they’ll be alright.”
Wish I was in your arms.
Lying right there beside you
But I know that I’ll be in your dreams tonight
And I’ll gently kiss you lips
Touch you with my fingertips
So turn out the light and close your eyes

I’m already there
Don’t make a sound
I’m the beat in your heart
I’m the moonlight shining down
I’m the whisper in the wind
And I’ll be there until the end
Can you feel the love that we share?
Oh I’m already there

When I first heard the song, I naturally thought of how R spent half the year deployed and the other half while he was “home” but really out at trainings for weeks at a time. But now the song has a whole new meaning to me. It’s about injuries and rehabilitation, life and death, presence and absence, the soldiers who deploy and the spouses who pick up the pieces of broken hearts after they leave. It’s about DC, Walter Reed, National Naval Medical Center, the dreaded phrase “SAFE HARBOR”, and Navy Lodging. It’s about the dozens of patients, family members, and volunteers I’ve met along this tumultuous journey.

Thank you for your kind words and prayers throughout OUR journey.

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