Monday, February 14, 2011

Saying Goodbye Is The Hardest Part Of This Job

I remember that night like it was yesterday and it still hurts just as bad today as it did 6 months ago. There are a handful of experiences that I know will forever be in my memory, August 22, 2010 is one of them.

The weekend was a busy one for the both of us; we were packing up the house and moving everything into storage. I was making travel arrangements for me and trying to make the most out of the last few days I had with him. He was getting all his gear packed and stocking his computer and ipod with enough songs, movies, and games to last him the next year. Needless to say, it was hectic. The days were flying by much more quickly than I had wanted to, but as I have learned before, I can’t control time. Before I knew it, it was the 22nd of August, the day I had been dreading since I first found out he would be leaving me.

It was a Monday and the weather was hot and muggy as usual, typical weather for summertime in Tennessee. My suitcases were in the bed of the truck along with all of his gear he would be taking with him. We had taken the last load to the storage unit which included the bed and some pillows and blankets, basically the only stuff we needed for one more night in the house. His big house that was always messy now seemed so empty and sad. I did a final walk through to make sure that we weren’t forgetting anything. All that was left was some beer and pizza in the fridge and a box of stuff next to the stairs that I would be taking to Goodwill before I left Tennessee. There were a couple hours left to kill before he had to check in and we were running out of thing to clean, it was nearing time to face the inevitable.

I was trying my best not to cry or at least not to let him see me cry, so I kept myself busy. I must have walked through that house 50 times to make sure everything was turned off and there was nothing we were forgetting. I took out trash, scrubbed bathroom sinks, and emptied the fridge out. I knew that there was nothing left to do but I think subconsciously I was trying to stop time, or slow it down. Finally, I gave up fighting it. I grabbed a beer and sat next to him on the floor of our empty bedroom. I rested my head on his shoulder as I watched him play Plants vs. Zombies on his laptop. I wanted our last little bit of time together to feel as normal as possible and I knew that if I tried pushing him to talk about this next year, our upcoming R & R wedding, or pretty much anything else would just feel too forced. I was perfectly content with just being as close to him as possible and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t actually enjoy watching him play that silly game.

I don’t remember much about the drive other than it was dark outside and muggier than usual. I asked him small questions about where he would be going first and how often he would be able to call me on his way to Afghanistan. I knew most of the answers already but I was trying to make small talk so the ride wouldn’t be so quiet. I text my good friend to let her know I would be on my way to her house shortly and to see if she had already dropped her husband off. I was fighting off tears the whole drive but of course as soon as we parked the truck in front of his building, I lost it. I cried as he held me in his arms and told me it would be ok and that he would be back before I knew it. He told me how much he loved me and reminded me to stay safe while he is gone. I didn’t beg him to stay or ask him if he really had to go, I just held him and told him that I loved him too and that I would wait for him. I knew that no matter what I said he was going to have to leave and there was nothing I could do about it. I have learned to distinguish the difference between the things I have control over and the things that I do not. This situation was one that I had zero control over, so I just had to embrace it. Alex had to go inside for a few minutes before coming back out to say his final goodbye to me. I felt like he was inside forever. Once he came back we hugged one more time and I got in the drivers seat of the truck before giving him a final kiss. I told him how much I loved him and to call me before the plane took off the next day. Yep, you are reading that correctly, they weren’t even going to fly out until the next day but he had to check in the night before. It was torture knowing that he was still in the same area as me but I couldn’t see him or hug him or kiss him again. And with that final goodbye, I drove off.

I hadn’t even gotten to the main road before my phone started ringing. It was Alex. He had left a bag of stuff in the truck and needed me to bring it back. It was like pouring salt in an open wound. I had already said goodbye once, I didn’t want to have to do it again but of course I turned the truck around. I guess I looked at it as an opportunity to get one more kiss from him. He met me in front of the building and told me to not even get out of the truck. I got one more kiss as he grabbed the bag of stuff from me and he was off, it was short and sweet. I knew he didn’t want to make it any harder on me than it already was.

After driving away that second time, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do, whether or not I wanted to call someone or drive in silence. I knew I should call his parents and let them know I had dropped him off, and that I should call my best friends and tell them the same but I couldn’t even breathe. The pain I was feeling is indescribable; my whole body went numb except my heart. I felt like my heart had just been ripped out of my chest. I made a few phone calls but all I can really remember from them is just crying. The drive to Nicole’s house seemed unusually long probably because I couldn’t wait to get there. I found comfort in knowing that I was going to be with someone who was going through the exact same thing as me and that I wasn’t going to have be alone. When I got there it was pretty quiet, there wasn’t much to say, just small talk really. We just sat in silence and watched TV together until it was time to go to bed.

As expected, I didn’t sleep well that night. On top of the sleep problems I already have, I tossed and turned and woke up every hour or so to make sure that I didn’t miss his call. He called me in the middle of the night to let me know that they still hadn’t taken off yet and to see how was I was doing. It was the longest night of my life, but I made it through it. The nights seemed to get a little bit easier after that first one, although there are still times where I toss and turn and check my phone a million times to make sure I am not going to miss him.

It’s been 6 months now and I still miss him just as much as I did that first night but I fight through it. I have learned that I don’t always have to be tough and strong. I cry when I feel like crying, I scream when I want to scream, and I smile when that’s all I have left in me. Although I will never forget how it felt to say goodbye to him that night, I also know how it feels to have him back in my arms again and that feeling is worth every lonely night I have.


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