Happy Halloween! Today was bananas at school. (Friday + a dance + kids in costumes + Halloween = oh my!) Somehow I kept my sanity, and managed to string together a few coherent thoughts about all that I’ve been wanting to share in regards to Stephen’s homecoming. That’s what you’re getting today, a big ol’ deployment dump. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
For MONTHS Stephen had a certain date that he had been tracking would be the day he’d leave Afghanistan. Somewhere around a month out the date started getting kicked around. Sooner! Later! Way later! The original date! Sooner! Later! Ack! It was giving me heartburn and stress and anxiety (especially since a few days difference meant he’d either be here for my 30th birthday or not). In the end, he left Afghanistan 3 days after the original date; it was accurate after all!
As he stated in his post, the first stop was Romania. Once he got there, I knew the countdown for me was on. All the things that I had been putting off that were time sensitive (getting my hair done, waxing, picking up the dog poop out of the yard, grocery shopping), went into hyper drive. In the midst of running around, I was also worried about how we’d be in touch. I knew that the FRG would e-mail (and call and text) when he was in route, but I was fixated on not knowing exactly how his arrival would coincide with my work schedule. There were a few days of me really stewing. The apex of craziness was when I got a flat tire on the highway two days before he was due home. Sigh. Thankfully, some very kind people helped me, but there were definitely ugly, ugly tears.
Stephen was on track to arrive on a Monday. Very early that morning he left Romania and was en route! Meanwhile, I decided to work a half day. I considered taking the entire day off, but I kept thinking about his return from Afghanistan after his last deployment (I literally walked in circles all morning) and knew the distraction would be good for me. Plus, it was a crazy week at school and I had a ton to do, of course.
Stephen was able to call me from Maine and we spoke briefly. It was still early in the school day here (the start of 2nd period). Hearing him got me excited and also really freaked me out- I was worried that he’d arrive earlier than I expected. I ended up using flight tracker to watch him travel from Maine to Texas. That calmed me down a lot!
When my substitute showed up after 4th period, I bolted. I had to go to Discount Tire to swap cars. (The car with the flat had gotten fixed while I was at work thanks to the help of some friends, and that was the car that I wanted to pick him up in.) From there, I headed back home for a quick lunch and lots of primping.
I had plenty of time even though Flight Tracker indicated that he was due to land early. I pulled up to the ADAG about an hour early. It wasn’t a huge group since it was only 1 company arriving, but the energy was buzzing. I went to the bathroom 3 times. I was anxious! The FRG leader suddenly ushered all of us outside – the plane was fixing to arrive. We stood in the El Paso sunshine and watched the sky waiting for the plane to appear. Eventually it wooshed into view but then took forever to taxi, and even longer for them to deplane. Eventually a line of green-clad soldiers began to stream by. I saw Stephen immediately, but he didn’t see me. I’m a shorty and a few people were in front of me. Even with my sign and screaming his name, his eyes passed over me without recognition. I scurried back inside the building. The soldiers were routed into a different room, but I knew that once they were all off the plane, it wouldn’t be long until they marched in. I wanted to stake my claim on a good spot, which I managed to do.
Less than an hour later, the music blared and the fog fogged as the guys marched in. Stephen was easy to spot, and I had my eyes on him immediately. Being the good soldier that he is, he kept his eyes straight forward and didn’t see me. Someone spoke briefly and the men were at last released.
I shouted Stephen’s name and held my sign up while charging toward him. He didn’t realize I was there until I was practically on top of him and we had the longest, sweetest hug ever. We snapped a few pictures and then headed outside to get his bags. Unfortunately, it ended up being a two hour wait. There were also some National Guard soldiers from another state on the plane with them, and for some reason, all of their bags got unloaded first. Only to be immediately reloaded. Meanwhile, the sun was setting and we were getting antsy. Eventually his bags materialized. The long day was over!
I’m hesitant to say too much because he hasn’t even been home for two weeks, but it has been better than I had hoped so far. I wouldn’t say we’ve fallen back into our old rhythm. It’s more like, we are rebuilding our family, finding a new routine. I’m sleeping better and eating worse. Haha! I guess that’s too be expected.
The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how last time felt so unsteady. It was almost like a dream. He came home, we went to Australia, we spent a few weeks together, he went back to Germany, I moved, we got orders to move to Fort Bliss. It was constant motion. Now, I feel like we are side by side, standing still. I get all mushy and doe-eyed when he does things like take out the trash. We tagteam taking care of the dog. He’s been a real sport about doing things I want to do (going to a school basketball game, trying yoga, watching my shows with me), and that means a lot.
Hopefully there is a lot of time ahead of us before we face any more major changes – my job is stable, we are set to stay in EP for a while, there are no field problems or deployments in the foreseeable future. This is it. This is our life now. Which is a good thing because I like it.
I know that’s a lot, but I can’t wrap-up a post about the end of Stephen’s deployment without saying that my heart is with those whose loved ones are still deployed/preparing to deploy. In the midst of our everyday lives, it’s easy to feel far-removed. I don’t feel that way; I keep y’all in my prayers.