It is ironic that at a time when I might have gained readers by increasing traffic to my site, I fell silent.
Reality has come home: my husband is leaving. He is going without his battle buddy; I can no longer help in any way the soldiers around him, many of whom I know by sight if not by name. Many with whom I have spent months in uncomfortable circumstances, with whom I have argued, brainstormed. Many I treated.
No longer. No longer their provider, or even their comrade. No longer his, with that same assurance that we’re together in the mess, shoulder by shoulder, back to back at need. Not here, not there. I chose to leave the uniform, and this is the result. We shall be separated, and this casual certainty of each other will change.
His photo hangs above my desk, an old one, from when he was a mere sergeant. It places the time firmly after we met, before his return from Iraq. If I am correct, it is his official deployment photo, created in case of his death overseas. My mother has our second set of deployment photos, when we both were newly-minted lieutenants. Soon I will have a third of his, likely with that same hint of a smile.
I know him, down to the shapes of his fingernails, the warped toe on his right foot, the moles on his back, the pattern of the hairs on his head, dark and thick, light and incorrigible on the very top. We have never been separated for longer than 3 months, in over a decade of marriage–rather than allow it, we traveled to each other, through military schools and civilian medical rotations, hours of flight, poor road conditions, lack of sleep, or privacy. Few have been the times when we could not find a way to be together for a night, for a day, for a handful of hours, eked out between weeks of absence. But this distance is too far for that. Our love must live in the lines, on paper, in our heads.
Love, they say, is largely a matter of proximity at its start. But love does not die through separation conversely. It can be poisoned, it can warp, it can become uncoordinated and awkward and out of synch between those it binds, but only love’s tenacity explains the power of heartbreak in our lives. Recovery is less a matter of forgetting than learning to love differently; learning to let go.
I fear the changes coming, as much as I try to be stable, rational, peaceful. I feel the number of days dwindle with each night, and see the signs. I have a smartphone now; every bit as distracting as I expected, but necessary if we are to text or chat while he is gone. (In itself, this is a minor miracle of possibility, but we won’t know if it works for months yet.) My malpractice insurance must be changed, for my employment contract with my primary position will be terminated in 10 days. I am working the last of my call weekends for them in 3 days. I have an address for my husband once he is overseas.
Each of these things has weight, and I am well aware of my distress in bearing them. The usual coping mechanisms of refusing sleep, immersion in fiction, and loss of focus effect everything else, and I’m struggling to maintain routine, or find joy in my schedule. I’m also plagued with headaches, as Spring brings in drastic weather fronts with vicious rapidity, and March will never be an innocuous month regardless, with Zach’s birthday at its center. I am tired, in pain, and overwhelmed with love for the one who will leave, for my children who will mourn, for the brother who left and the brother who avoids.
Joy comes gently. The beauty and hilarity of a well-written show (“Goblin”–watch it) and new music from its soundtrack that both hurts and eases my mind. A scene that haunted me until it emerged, already living, from my fingers. Sunlight and wind, and my littles cuddled with me in the hammock. The warmth of my husband’s back in our bed. Hearing my littles sing “곰새마리” to themselves, or understanding pieces of dialogue even when I haven’t properly studied Korean for days.
These days of waiting creep through the seconds, fly through the hours, and I watch. I am still here, as I will be when the tension adjusts again.