It was the morning of May 18th. My husband, on his way home for two weeks of leave, had left Afghanistan six days ago. He had yet to reach home.
The wait had been grueling for both of us, filled with delays and frustrations. Okay, so his wait had been more grueling than mine. I, at least, had been able to shower, eat regularly, change my clothes and sleep in a horizontal position.
But still, I had suffered!
Sometimes, as military families know, the waiting, the worrying and the unknown can be more difficult to deal with than the reality of being in the situation.
I’m not sure this was one of those times, but in my mind, it was. It’s all a matter of perspective.
I had not seen my husband since January. For days, I had been reveling in dreams of simplicity: watching a movie together, talking to him over dinner, holding his hand, having him take the dog out for once. Then, last night, another delay and a missed flight. I went to sleep alone…again.
Mercifully, the next morning went by quickly. Each of the 86 times I checked the Delta flight schedule, T’s was listed as “On Time”. A call from T just before 10:00 a.m. confirmed it. They were getting ready to board.
Actually, in my impatient state, I may have called him. Not that it’s relevant. What a luxury, though, to be able to call him instead of having to wait for him to call me! Bliss!
I left for the airport a bit early, in hopes that his flight would arrive ahead of schedule. The Eternal Optimist, that’s me. If my friends could stop laughing long enough, they’d tell you it was true. They might even be able to keep a straight face while saying it.
I’ve put my husband on so many planes during the last year, that the airport now ranks second only to the doctor’s office in terms of places I’d rather not be. Okay, nursing homes suck, too. But airports are right up there on the list. I walked through the doors with my heart pounding. My armpits were already beginning to prickle with nervous heat.
I made my way over to the Arrivals board, teetering only slightly on my just-for-the-occasion heels. T’s flight was still listed as “On Time” but was not due for another quarter of an hour. Now what? I was too anxious and excited to sit still, but I took a seat anyway. I didn’t have a book and there were no newspapers in the waiting area. The only things I had with me were my keys and my cell phone, both clutched tightly in my sweaty hand.
I couldn’t help it. Fifteen minutes more to wait and every second felt like an hour. I was going to be one of those people, but it was out of necessity, I swear. I flipped open my phone and started texting people: At the airport, sweating.
I got replies. I replied back. I was having three conversations at once and it was the only way that I could not shriek and pull my hair and start frothing at the mouth. Thank you, people that texted me back! Thank you! You saved what was left of my sanity.
People began filtering out of the terminal. I looked at the clock. No announcement, but this had to be it. My stomach turned over several times. I stood up. I walked few steps towards the escalators, but my heart was beating so hard that I had to stop and rest.
I moved closer. Some people around me were holding up signs, others were waiting with complete New England stoicism. I’m sure my face was blank too, but my armpits were working overtime and I could barely breathe. Did anyone else feel this way? Funny that we can walk through life hiding so much, knowing so little about our fellow travelers. The contrast struck me, but the thought came from far away, as if at the end of a tunnel.
Suddenly, a uniform at the top of the stairs. I had forgotten. Forgotten everything about him until that moment, when it came rushing back with the force of a tsunami. My throat closed and I blinked hard.
He looked down and saw me. The smile that sprang so quickly to his face was only for me. He bypassed the escalator and trotted down the stairs. I clutched my cell phone tighter and tried to breathe.
And then, I was in his arms. Finally, finally…
I was home.