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Dad’s story: The decision

Submitted by on Monday, 20 April 2009 2 Comments

basic_training_seriesA 41-year-old takes on Army Basic Combat Training. First in a four-part series.

I tried not to let my irritation show as he strode toward the front door that late summer afternoon.

I’d asked him countless times since we’d separated in April to call first instead of just showing up. He took that as a sign that there was “someone else.” I only wanted to cut down on the chaos that at times left us hissing at each other and the guys in tears.

He waved his hands as he approached. “I know, I know,” he said. “But it’s important. I made a decision. A big one.”

I tried not to react, because I’d sworn off reacting after a loud argument had drawn a nosy neighbor to charge over a few months earlier. I mentally rolled my eyes, though. I’d endured seven years of “big decisions.” They usually involved some outrageous “I’ll never” promise or ridiculous new plan that led to big fights.

I yawned. “OK, but make it quick. I have some unemployment stuff I need to take care of.” My newspaper career had ended the previous week.

“I’m joining the Army.”

OK, that one got me.  My 41-year-old out-of-shape soon-to-be-ex-husband who hated guns and chafed at any form of an order, even if it were as simple as “could you put your dirty socks in the hamper,” was going into the military?

Amusement battled irritation. Irritation won.

“Aw, come on. I’m out of work and you’re joking about joining the Army.”

“I’m serious,” he said. “Here, look at this. I went to see a recruiter today. The physical’s next week.”

Dang. Maybe he was serious.

The scene repeated the following week. He’d done well enough on the initial screening that the recruiter had scheduled a follow-up and given him a sheath of papers to fill out.

“Can you help me? You know I never can remember this stuff.”

His next words cut off the curt, “do it yourself” I was ready to bite out. “Please. I’m doing this to help. You’ve carried us long enough.”

He got me with that one. I’d always been the main – at times the sole – income as he bounced from bartending to cooking and tried to find somewhere he fit. The bouncing long had been a source of tension in the marriage. Ironic that as the marriage neared the end he might have found his way.

The routine repeated over the next several weeks, as we sat at the kitchen table and shuffled papers and he shuttled from appointment to appointment. Screenings, testing. Tracking down documents.

The odds remained against him, I thought. He’d take weight loss seriously for a few days then skip a run and binge. With the exception of bar-tending school, he’d never had the patience for tests. And he was notorious for starting something, making the grand proclamation and then taking off in another direction.

He admitted all of that but swore this time would be different if I’d just help him one more time.

One Monday, Big Guy invited him to stay for dinner. It was pizza, something Dad had always complained about so I expected a “no.”

“I’d love to,” he said. “If it’s OK with Mommy.”

Big Guy sat an extra place before I could say “no.”

By the end of the month it was jack-o-lantern time – the guys believe in getting a head start. Dad had always been the family’s designated carver, and Big Guy asked if Daddy could please, please, please do it this year.

All right,  I said.

“He’s staying for dinner too, you know,” Big Guy insisted.

Soccer season was well under way at that point, and the four of us were sitting together at games without major rioting. “Why are we taking two cars?” Big Guy asked. “Aren’t we wasting gas?” The convoy ended.

He’d take the guys out afterward so I could work, but as soon as I sat down at the computer, I found myself missing them. All three of them.

I still resisted, though, when he asked me to go out. “I’ll go with you and the guys, but I’m not interested in dating,” I said. As much as I was enjoying spending time with the guy I’d married, not his morose evil twin who brought out the worst in me, I still didn’t trust the transformation.

Was it all an elaborate ruse to worm his way back into the house? He was saying and doing all the things I’d always wanted him to say and do, but could it possibly last? He claimed he was joining the Army, but he hadn’t done anything yet that he couldn’t back out of.

In late October, he raised his right hand and swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

He came home on Halloween, the ninth anniversary of our first date.

Just as we mentally prepared ourselves for him to ship out around Thanksgiving, we found out he’d be delayed until the beginning of the year. It was the first of many delays, but at least we’d have the holidays together.

Next: Leaving and adjusting

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Kathi said:

    Well? What’s next? I wanna know!

  • Leslie K. said:

    this is better than anything on TV….