I ask myself this every time Andrew leaves. He is currently on his 11th (I think) 10-day trip. The first few were certainly the hardest in terms of saying good-bye. We would hug for the last time, and then I would watch him walk out the door. Inevitably, I would have tears streaming down my face as I watched him get in the car and drive off. Immediately, I started the adventure with a prayer. I begged for strength to sustain me until my other half got home. And inevitably, I would get the strength I needed. Of course, there have been hard moments - or days - but I have felt undeniably strengthened during my single-mom sojourns.
Last trip just may have been the hardest for me. We were coming off a long period (almost 4 weeks) of Andrew being home, and I think I had gotten used to having him around again. The whole time he was gone, I just kept thinking about the upcoming deployment, and it loomed over my head like a thundercloud. I thought, "If I am having a hard time with a 10-day trip, how in the world am I ever going to survive 120 days?" The weather was gloomy and gray, and I found myself depressed. I cried multiple times every day. I felt weak and helpless.
When he finally got home, all was well again. It was to be his last trip for the deployment, and I had my heart set on having him home for the next month. We planned a trip to celebrate his birthday. Then, on Tuesday, he came home with bad news. He told me over the phone while driving home.
"Honey," he said, and then paused for an abnormally long time. Finally, "I'm going on a trip."
I laughed, certain he was joking. "Yeah, a trip with me. Of course you are."
More silence. "No, I'm serious. I'm going on a trip."
Of course, I broke down crying. Oh, the injustice! How could they do this to us? My life is horrible, it's so unfair. Etc., etc. I mentally cancelled our weekend trip with a heart full of anger. He had only been home 6 days. Would we ever live a normal life?
The night before he left, on Thursday, I decided to go on our weekend trip after all. I would - once again - celebrate his birthday without him. I had a place to stay and nothing holding me back at home, so off we went, just a few hours after Andrew left.
The trip was fun. It wasn't the awesomest thing I've ever done, as it was my first time travelling with both kids alone. But we had a good time, and we survived. But the turning point in my heart was when we got back home yesterday afternoon. I walked in the door and instantly felt overwhelmingly happy to be back home. Even without Andrew, this is my HOME. And I love it. I love everything about my home. I felt strong for having taken on a trip by myself. And I felt...normal.
Andrew being gone is getting more normal to me. And you know what? That's okay. Of course there is not an hour that goes by that I don't wish he was home. Crawling into bed, wishing he was there to talk to. Seeing the kids do hilarious things and feeling sad he is missing it. But it's normal. This is what we have chosen to do, and slowly but surely, I am getting used to it. I know there will still be hard days, and I know this deployment won't be easy by a long shot. But I can do it. I will never stop missing him. But I think I will get used to this after all.