Stories in my Pocket: The Halting of Spring (Part 5)

To read from the beginning: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Yellow daffodils edged through the Virginian soil that March, assuming their traditional spring post in the shadow of the cherry blossoms. They hadn't imagined, let alone prepared for the cold flakes now falling, ending beginnings.

I waited in the car watching the snow water the windshield. It fell soft in the sky, laid heavy on the ground. The weight of what was happening hadn't hit me. It was surreal, still floating softly in the air.

He came back to the car with his "just one last time before I go" bag of Five Guys.
He had 24 hours to report in for active duty. There would be paperwork, briefings, orders and deployment. They told us he'd be gone by next week.

I helped with the details of putting life on hold--applying for a deferment for medical school and canceling the USMLE Step I that he was scheduled to take in just three days.

Hello, Limbo. It looks like you'll be staying a while.

People told him he could claim "hardship" to avoid deployment--to argue that he was halfway through med school and couldn't afford to take a break. But he was no stranger to hardship, and he welcomed his old companion as an inspiring guest rather than an intruding obstacle.

The war shifted rapidly in those first few months, and so did the plans for his deployment. I went to work each day not knowing if it would be the "any day" that he would board a plane to the desert. When the day finally came, I was almost relieved. I wanted it to start so it could be over. Like a child waiting for a shot, the dread of how much it might hurt was almost as traumatic as the shot itself. Almost.

Summer came, and he left.
And I wilted under the heaviness and cold.

Left behind to simulate life without my husband, I crashed into the emptiness of his absence. Everything was on hold. Med school, starting a family, our relationship. It took losing him for six months--and possibly forever--to reveal how horribly wrong my priorities had been. I had invested heavily in my work at the expense of my marriage. And now, I couldn't even move forward with an attempt to salvage the relationship I had squandered.

I remember those lonely months of limbo in surprising detail. Two dear friends were both expecting, due just days apart, and we gathered each week together as their babies and heartburn grew. My sweet neighbors fed me, invited me to share in their moving forward, scolded me for coming home too late from work.

I went to a service, remembering 9/11. I stood up, tears streaming, when they honored those still alive to serve and the ones who missed them.

A hurricane hit. A one hundred year old tree fell next door and rang the doorbell (a polite tree with good upbringing, indeed), and my basement flooded after a week without sunshine or electricity. My pregnant sister visited, her husband deployed as well, and we mulled cider to share with the neighborhood grown-ups on Halloween, then sat on the stoop polishing off cheesecake.

December finally came, bringing the war veteran home to little fanfare, his wife alone waiting at 3 a.m. in an empty airport.

Just hours before his plane touched down, a son was placed in the arms of his best friend. And just hours after, a fragile hope was born to the both of us. Life could begin again. Or so we hoped.

Click here to continue reading Part 6.

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