"All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee to me."
--Shakespeare, Sonnet 43
I will miss Private Ryan terribly. We had three goodbyes ... when I dropped him off at the Army recruiting office for him to be weighed and measured before reporting to his hotel for the night. Again when he called to tell me he forgot to pack his phone charger and he asked me to bring it to him at the hotel. And again, the final time when he had his final swearing in and we went to the airport to hang out before headed off to be made into a soldier.
The first time? It was hard. We went outside the office so that he could say goodbye to Teenybop who had decided to go to school today and say her goodbyes last night before he went to the hotel. She held tight, her skinny little arms and legs wrapped so tight around him that he could have let go completely and she wouldn't have fallen. She told him she would miss him, that she loves him, and that she will wait for him to come get her when he is done learning how to do his job. He promised to write and call when he could, promised to come back and get her as soon as possible. I struggled to hide my watery eyes as I buckled Piglet into her carseat. I did it. He knew ... he saw me discreetly wipe my cheek and he knew, but my daughter didn't notice, and she was able to pull herself together. We talked on the way home about how it will not be easy to have him gone and that we will surely miss him terribly, but that he will be back someday soon and that this is for the good of our family. I was thankful to be alone in the front seat with Teenybop sitting directly behind me ... she couldn't see my wet face while I struggled to keep my voice from trembling and letting her know how hard it was for me. But I did good.
Until he called to tell me he needed us to come to the hotel with his phone charger. His tone was hurried, rushed ... I could tell he was having a hard time. He kept telling me he loved me ... not repeating it over and over, but just a lot more often than usual for such a short call. By the end I was crying and Teenybop came around the table to hug me and give me back my own pep talk from earlier. But I got it together pretty quick and we moved on. Headed to the hotel which was lovely, and hung out together for thirty minutes or so before leaving. The whole time Teenybop was glued to Private Ryan, curled into a little ball in his lap ... soaking him in before he was gone. She did good when it was time to go though. She didn't cry, and neither did I. Until I got home and got the girls to bed. Alone, I remembered the picture she had made at school, the little bit she had written above the picture ... And that was it. Tears flowed because there was no one to see, and because I couldn't stop them anymore.
"What shall I do with all the days and hours
That must be counted ere I see thy face?
How shall I charm the interval that lowers
Between this time and that sweet time of grace?"
~Frances Anne Kemble
The third time we left him was harder than either of the first two. The whole day was a wreck for me, it just seemed like everything was going wrong. Piglet was sick and I was thinking she had an ear infection, so I made an appointment for her to be seen later in the day. We got Teenybop off to school and headed home so that I could get ready ... the first mistake. I am learning how very hard it is to do things with a sick baby ... she won't be put down to play, she can't be distracted even long enough for me to get dressed. Finally I had to just throw something on, and the idea of make-up and trying to look really pretty for the day was out the window.
"But," I thought. "At least I'm clean, and I'm feeling confident right now." See how long that lasted ... About twenty seconds. I picked up Piglet who was wailing for me to hold her, and she had cried snot everywhere and drooled about a gallon on her shirt. She immediately plastered her face to my shoulder and when I put her up away from my shirt, she flung herself across my body and snotted up the other shoulder. So now instead of being lovely and put together so that my soldier could leave feeling that his family would be okay ... He would see a frazzled, frustrated woman with a crying, sick baby; a woman whose hair was frizzed a bit because there was no time to put the smoothing stuff in it. A woman who wore not a lick of make-up ...
But, I digress ... He maintains that however I looked, he was thrilled to see me. So anyway, Piglet and I get to the MEPS office about fifteen minutes later than I had planned because all the whining and clinging made it take me about three times as long to get dressed and ready to go. We get there, get inside, and sign in. We find our Private Ryan and I started to feel a little panic when I saw him. His face, his posture ... He was ready to go. I was terrified. He was sworn in, and we were informed that we could choose to go with him to the airport and wait for his flight. I left to get Teenybop from school so that we could rush back to the office to follow his transport van to the airport. We made it in the nick of time ...
Private Ryan's mom was there too, but she left on a quick run to give her son one last gift before he left, some extra pocket money ... They called his group to leave, and I called his mom to hurry. I had been informed that if we weren't at the ticket counter when Private Ryan checked in, we would not be allowed through security to sit with him at the gate. At that point I was terrified. What if we didn't make it in time? I had already told Teenybop that she could have one last goodbye and she was excited about the chance to spend a little more time with her daddy before he was gone. We barely made it. As I was parking, he called me to let me know he was there and that he would wait for me at the ticket counter so that we could be together as a family one more time before we would move into this next chapter of our life together ... the chapter apart.
We rushed into the airport, found him and spend a little while together again. We made it through security, found a bathroom where I mopped the snot off Piglet's little face, marveled at the way my frizz had grown, and stood fascinated at the many snot streaks on my shirt. I was a real beauty on this, the last day we had together. I hope he was too busy soaking it up to notice.
We didn't manage to stay all the way until his flight left because Piglet was getting really exhausted and couldn't seem to get comfortable with me and Teenybop's nerves had gotten the best of her. She was totally out of control in spite of her afternoon booster medication. We left Private Ryan about thirty to forty-five minutes before he was due to fly out, and headed to Piglet's doctor appointment, which was actually the most peaceful part of the whole day.
It was the first few moments when I was alone ... I had instructed Teenybop to ride quietly so Piglet could nap, so it was just me and my thoughts in the front seat of the car. I was fine walking out to the parking lot, fine while I buckled my children in the car and began to leave the parking lot. But when I was on the road and I could see the airport passing me on the left ... I felt like my car was suddenly a thousand degrees and completely airless. I felt like I couldn't breathe, I felt like I'd left something so vital ... I felt like I'd carelessly left my lungs lying on a bench, past the security line and out of reach. The tears started flowing and had I been alone I'd have pulled over and just let it go. But my daughters need me to be strong and see them through this, so I cried silent tears as I left the man I love behind, I drove on, got us to the doctor, and made sure my face was dry before the girls saw it.
Now I'm home and I'm alone. My girls are sleeping and I am sitting here. I still haven't read the letter he gave me (he had one for each of the girls and one for me, and he received ones from my, Teenybop, and his mom) ... I haven't read Piglet's letter yet, and I haven't seen Teenybop's, though she has read it many times already. I am afraid to read them, afraid that the romantic guy he hides from the world has made another appearance and I will finally break down and lose it. But I will read them, I will let the emotions flow so that they are out of my system by morning, and I will "soldier on" ... Supporting my Army man and keeping his home intact.
"Missing someone gets easier every day because even though it's one day further from the last time you saw each other, it's one day closer to the next time you will." ~Author Unknown