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28 August 2011

Duty Night

Greg is on duty tonight, which means I'll be spending the night without him for the first time since he came home from Afghanistan.

Really, we got unexpectedly lucky; this was supposed to have been a 24-hour duty shift, but they were a bit overstaffed or something, so after he reported this morning, he got to come home around lunchtime and stay until time to start the night shift, so we got to spend the afternoon together. We spent most of it either snuggling together on the futon watching Dead Like Me (which I got him hooked on a while back), or organizing and sorting most of the WoW Trading Card Game cards we've acquired since he left for Afghanistan (which is a larger collection than I think I want to admit to), but after pizza and a hurried game of Settlers of Catan, he had to go back to base.

I may be a fearless badass emergency responder type, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried when he left, even if I felt very silly about it.

A friend told me that when my husband's unit deployed last time (the trip to Iraq, which he was about halfway through when we first started talking online), her small child kept asking where her daddy (my husband's best friend) was. Not sure how to explain the concept of deployment to a four-year-old, she gave the best summary she could: "Daddy's at work." That was an acceptable answer, apparently, but after the guys got home, every time my husband's friend announced that he was leaving for work, the poor kid went into hysterics, presumably because she now defined "work" as the place her daddy disappeared to for months and months at a time without coming home, and that was not okay.

We grown-ups, of course, understand the difference between a deployment and a normal work day, but that doesn't stop the subconscious from reacting very strongly to certain cues- seeing him in uniform for the first time since the day he came home, driving him to post for Reintegration Training just like I drove him to post the day he deployed, watching him walk away to a formation again and having to leave him there. I know he's coming home at the end of the day- in this case I know I'll see him first thing in the morning and if I need to reassure myself of that at 0200 or so, I can drive myself over to post and collect a hug and a kiss and all the reassurance in the world. That somehow doesn't stop the feeling of near-panic, or the reflexive clinginess, or my current dread of turning out the lights and going to sleep without him here.

Oddly enough, this morning, even when I thought he was leaving for a whole 24-hour shift, I took it much more reasonably; partially it was because I had planned to go take him lunch and spent most of the afternoon hanging out in the CQ area with him as long as no one grumbled too much about it (and no one grumbles about much when you bring food; I've learned that about soldiers), while tonight I can't do that since it's after visiting hours in the barracks; mostly, though, I think it was because it was daylight, and I'm used to parting ways in the morning for our respective jobs, knowing we still have the evening together to look forward to and knowing I'll have him beside me to hold at bedtime. Now it's night, and being alone is much different than it is during the day with errands to run and the sun shining and an easy delusion of normalcy.

There's an odd sense of familiarity about this, though; I did manage to find a routine, albeit a lonely and anxious one at times, during his deployment, and tonight I seem to have slipped back into that. I took a nice hot bath and now here I sit at my kitchen table, blogging and chatting with a couple of friends on Facebook and texting back and forth with Greg, who is off doing Army things, and it's like we've backtracked a few months. I guess you do eventually learn to cope, and like most unpleasant things, familiarity brings a certain sense of dread because you know what's coming, followed by "Oh, this again, I have a protocol for this" and readjusting to a less-preferred but survivable routine.

The difference tonight- and it makes ALL the difference- is that in a few minutes I will go take him the pizza and tea he forgot, and collect a goodnight hug.

That makes me feel so much better.

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