My husband has gone off to war.
Preparing for his deployment was surreal. We took advantage of some great classes and pre-deployment workshops, yet nothing could completely prepare me for the day he left. His last night at home was heart-wrenching. I cannot describe the sadness of watching him say goodnight to our boys.
Our children are usually able to articulate their emotions. On this occasion, they could not -- and I felt helpless watching them flounder. We all knew Daddy was going to be gone for a while, but I wonder what that really means to a child.
To hear my 9-year-old sobbing and saying, "I would get rid of every single one of my toys if I could just have Daddy back for 10 minutes" -- oh, the heartache. I've made a point to spend quality and quantity time with them in order for them to have some semblance of security, but I cannot replace Daddy.
Daddy is ridiculously funny, tickles them mercilessly and wrestles until someone gets mildly hurt (but always "makes it better"). He has incredible patience for pushing the boys on the swings at the park -- for hours; a depth to his voice when he means business, and a gentleness that makes my heart melt. Our boys flock to him the moment he gets home and rarely leave his side. And I do not blame them.
Now he is gone. I asked my 3-year-old what he will miss most about Daddy, and his simple reply was, "Getting hugs." My 9-year-old at first said, "Wrestling," then softened his response to, "Snuggling."
We prepared our boys for this transition -- letting them pick out stationery to use when they write to Daddy; placing family pictures around their room and in various parts of the house; bestowing on our 17-year-old Dad's convertible; planning activities for them so that they have "things" to look forward to in the immediate future.
I've also offered to take our 9-year-old with me to my counselor and given him the opportunity to chat on his own or with me present.
But I cannot fulfill their simple request for a hug or snuggle from Daddy.
While I speak of the ache, there are also some positive things that can come from this -- things that my boys and I try to remember: that Mommy gets to go to school on scholarships from the military; that each of the boys gets a stipend over the course of a year in order to take part in extracurricular activities; that Daddy will be helping other people who are in need, and that we have the honor of being a military family that has chosen to place sacrifice before fear.
Skype and text messaging have enabled us to communicate much more frequently than we otherwise could. (I can't imagine such a long separation prior to these advances in technology.)
Another benefit is that my husband and I have started to recognize the ways in which we have taken each other for granted ... and I can't tell you what a good feeling it is to have my spouse verbally appreciate me.
Yet, here we are. Just us. A mom, three boys, a dog and a cat who miss Daddy's startlingly loud laugh (even though it actually embarrasses me sometimes) and the breakfasts he conjures up.
I'd like to spend a little time feeling sorry for myself. But that would be counterproductive.
Lisa Kruse-Robles is a mother, wife, makeup artist and lapsed graphic designer.