Walk With Me: Our Story, Part IX

Welcome to Sunday Stories, hosted by The Annoyed Army Wife. If you haven’t seen her fabulous blog yet, please go check it out! While you’re there, link up and share a story of your own.   

T went to Fort Dix in early January of 2006 for two months training on his upcoming deployment to Iraq. In March, his unit was granted five days of leave before going overseas. T and I opted to spent that time in New York City.   

Read Our Story from the beginning.   

My friend K and I decided to drive down to Fort Dix together. We would pick up T, and her husband Joe, and head north again. K and Joe would drop T and me off in New York. Simple, right?   

Uh huh.   

It’s about a seven hour drive from where we are to Fort Dix. The boys were scheduled to be released sometime late afternoon, probably between three and five. We wanted to give ourselves plenty of time since we didn’t want to waste one precious second with our men. We decided to leave at seven a.m. sharp on Thursday morning.   

We watched the weather anxiously that week and with New England reliability, a storm hovered on the horizon. Snow was due on Thursday afternoon. Of course.   

7 a.m.  K picks me up at my apartment and we jump on the highway heading south. The sky is gray, but so far, no snow. In our excitement we are chatting nonstop, but this, at least, is normal.   

8:30 a.m.  We are on 495S in Massachusetts and this demon of a road has begun to work its black magic. Traffic is at a dead stop. Why? It’s not even snowing yet. We sit and fidget and watch idiots pass us in the breakdown lane.   

9:00 a.m.  In the last half hour, we’ve moved about a quarter of a mile. The sky is getting heavier, but still no snow. I pull out the atlas to see if I can find an alternate route. This is laughable since my sense of direction is horrendous. I can’t find my way out of a paper bag. But it gives me something to do.  

10:00 a.m.  We pass a minor accident – the apparent cause of the giant delay – and start moving again.   

10:30 a.m.  The first flakes start to fall. Traffic slows down and visibility gets worse.   

The snow stayed with us all the way into New York, crippling our progress. As soon as we hit the outskirts of the city it turned to rain. From there it was much easier…but by the time were navigating our way through Fort Dix it was 5 p.m. and the boys had been free for about three hours.   

So much for our big plan.   

Still, I couldn’t complain. By the time another couple of hours had passed, T and I were checked into our hotel in NYC and were snuggled up and cozy. K and Joe still had another five hours on the road. (Although, if memory serves, I believe they ended up finding a hotel that night was well. It would sure beat driving back in the snow!)   

By the next morning, T and I were rested and ready for our Big Apple adventure.   

Actually, to tell the truth, we didn’t do too many of the biggies. We didn’t go to the Statue of Liberty, we didn’t visit Ground Zero, we didn’t go to the Empire State Building or see a play on Broadway or eat bagels and lox.   

We did go to the wax museum.   

Wax Museum

T living the dream.

And we did go to FAO Schwartz and Bloomingdale’s.   

Bloomingdales

Me eating over-priced, sub-par chocolate.

And we did go to the Central Park Zoo.   

Sea lion

Central Park Zoo

But mostly we did a lot of looking around and adding to our “when we come back” list.   

On our last night in the city, we hit Little Italy with one of the other officers and his wife. I wanted so much to go to Little Italy. My family is Italian. I was dying to try the food.   

Unfortunately, I had a serious case of anxiety that night.   

It is rather difficult to enjoy yourself when you have to drop your boyfriend off for war the next day and you don’t know when you’ll see him again.   

I was sick to my stomach. I dragged myself through Little Italy trying not to ruin everyone else’s fun. I ended up ordering chicken soup. I ate half of it and could have cried into my bowl. I was in Little Italy eating chicken soup.   

Life can be so cruel.   

Little Italy

But at least we looked cute.

The next day we took the train to Secaucus where K and Joe picked us up again. The four of us made the trip back into Fort Dix, cracking surface jokes but clinging to each other and to these last few minutes.   

As it turned out, we had more than a few minutes left together. T and Joe checked in and discovered that leave had been extended until 11 p.m. Of course we wanted to spend that time together…but where?   

We drove around the dark, dreary and largely closed down base until we finally found an open bowling alley. Beer, pizza and the smell of feet. What a touching way to spend those last minutes.   

One thing I have learned over the last five years is that military good-byes – despite what they show you in Hollywood – are rarely romantic. You learn to say good-bye at home because, more likely than not, once the time comes to part, you are either stuck in line at security or your spouse is late for his flight or some other ridiculous thing is happening.   

I’ve gotten to the point now where I’ll drop T at the terminal and drive away. It’s just easier that way. And I can do it in my jammies.   

We did manage to have a few laughs, though, and we even bowled a few strings. Round about 10:30 p.m, we headed back over to the barracks.   

K parked the minivan and we all got out into the dark and bitterly cold parking lot. K and Joe were on one side of the vehicle and T and I were on the other, each trying to say a few last words in private.   

T and I hugged each other as if we would never let go. We said a million “I love yous”. It was the only time I’ve ever seen tears in my now-husband’s eyes.  

For the second time – but not the last – I watched T walk away from me.   

Once the boys disappeared into the building, there wasn’t anything left for K and I to do but get back in the van and drive home. So we did.   

Seven hours and five McDonald’s diet Cokes later (way, way better than coffee when you’re on the road), I was back at my apartment. It was six in the morning. Exhausted and emotionally worn out, I got undressed and crawled into bed. I slept until two o’clock the next afternoon.   

I wished I could sleep for the next twelve months.   

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5 responses to “Walk With Me: Our Story, Part IX

  1. I don’t know how you can keep writing these while he is away. Mr Mike is home and this still makes me cry remembering the day he left.

    I’ve been thinking about you all day today. Hope you had a good one!

  2. I keep reading this because I know there was a happy ending.

  3. I know EXACTLY what you mean! When Hubs left for his last deployment (our 4th as a couple, and 7th between the two of us), his flight didn’t leave until 10pm. That entire day he was upstairs and I was downstairs. We couldn’t talk to each other because we just got mopey and teary. We bought WaWa subs on the way to the airport that night and I sat with him waiting for boarding time. I really didn’t want to, but I couldn’t leave. When boarding finally came, I couldn’t stay any longer. We turned our backs on each other after one last hug and a very unromantic kiss; he walked across the tarmac and I went back through the terminal to my car. I was numb the whole drive home. When I crawled into bed and smelled his cologne on the pillows I cried myself to sleep. The next morning I was petrified he’d been abducted because he wasn’t next to me…. It was awful! And it doesn’t get any easier. Ever.

  4. I thought I was going to get through this “Our Story” without tears – but then I got to the chicken soup and it just worsened with every paragraph! I do love the photo of the two of you though, it’s adorable. I can imagine that the leaving day is probably worse than the days when he is physically away. The knowing that you’ll have to tear yourselves away from each other at an airport/base must be emotionally devastating.

  5. Oh you poor thing! You didn’t look anxious or upset in that picture. Those goodbyes are never easy…I agree with just dropping and driving away. Why prolong it??

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