I sat in the sunshine staring at my future, wrapping my mind into equations that lead to my ability to move on someday towards stability, possibly, maybe even an enjoyable purpose. He walked up, I didn’t notice him coming towards me until he was already at my right side, so close in proximity. He stood over me, bending in my direction to interrupt. I looked up at him as he said, ”Have you ever considered joining the service or the National Guard or Reserves to help pay for college?” All that was really in my line of sight was the pattern of his DCU's, his unit badge and name….
I just said, “I’m a caregiver to a veteran, actually, who served in Iraq in 2003”
He says “uh, wow” straightening up a bit, “thank you for doing that, wow, um, I didn’t expect you to say that at all.”
…And still distracted by his uniform, I found I wasn’t sitting in Austin anymore, since he began talking really. I was standing in Ft. Campbell, dropping off by husband the last time I saw him in his DCU's, saying goodbye before he boarded his flight to Iraq, and all I could see was the 101st badge and all I wanted to do was reach my hand back into 2003 and hold my husband in his strength, and hold on forever and never let him go…not to war, not to Iraq, not out of my arms.
That exam I was preparing for in 10 minutes, that future goal I was trying to work on, melted in my lap as the Sgt. walked away. “Well, here’s my card in case you have a friend you can give it to.” Really? I tried to put my mind back on what I was doing, but all I could do was hope for something impossible, a changed past.
Now I have a test to take as tears flow from my eyes and I wish so much for the stronger days. The numbers I attempted to put on that paper came out as confused and disorganized as my emotions were, and had been for the previous 8 days. Ability escaped me, my mind and heart were flooded.
Later I had the opportunity to be alone with my husband in our kitchen, explaining the story of the recruiter. This magical place, the kitchen, the same place we danced our goodbye dance on his way to war to U2’s “In a Little While," and he replies to me sweetly: “I’m home now.”
I melt in his arms, crying, releasing so much fear and heartbreak from that event in 2003 where he departed and I knew he’d come back different. Except after 11 years, I experienced what that “different” was in more ways than I wanted to, and he’d been so far away all this time. Though his body returned his “everything else” wasn’t back,.. and then I realized that barely today, he did just get home. He was right, he’s home now. And I’m so happy he finally got here. I was lost without him…