This Holiday Together; the Next, Apart

An installment in the New York Times Deployment Diary


As I watch my babies sleep sweetly, one curled up on my lap, the other snuggled next to me, I am in awe. First, I am amazed that they are actually sleeping, at the same time, on an airplane, allowing me to write and start (and finish) a cup of coffee. And second, in that lasting Thanksgiving spirit, I am overwhelmed with my love for these two. I know this quiet moment is fleeting, and I yearn for the power to slow down time. “The nights are long, the years are short,” I constantly remind myself. For someone who ascribes so much value to being present, living in constant countdown mode while waiting for my husband’s returns feels ironic at best, overwhelming at worst.

It’s in these tiny occurrences when I miss my husband the most, as I know the magnitude of what he is missing. Our daughter’s first ballet recital, our son’s new sentences. The quiet cuddles, the powerful hugs. It is also during these times when I find my heart fraught with conflict; the calm that comes with the silence and the anxiety I experience as I worry about their well-being. With every goodbye, every day at sea without a phone call, every week that passes without any physical interaction with their daddy, I worry about the long-term fallout and the implications for each member of our family.

Will he resent the cries for me, the inevitable “No, Daddy, I want Mommy!” when he returns? Will he begrudge my allowing them to climb into our bed in the middle of the night, because I am lonely and exhausted, and I know it won’t last forever? Will the bond that the three of us are forming without him, the strength that will hold us together through the next two years, flex and allow for him to reintegrate seamlessly somehow when all this is done? Will I have the grace to let him do things “his way” after it’s been a one-woman show for so long? Can I keep those “home fires burning” when instead of sending him a thoughtful email after bedtimes, I just want to melt into the couch and binge-watch my TiVo’d episodes of “Ellen” and “Scandal”? And for my two angels, so young, so malleable, in these formative years where they will learn right from wrong, how to love, how to grow and so many lifelong lessons, I worry, am I enough?

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