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Deployment and disasters, domestic and otherwise

Submitted by on Thursday, 7 January 2010 No Comment
There are days, and then there are days when your husband deploys, the kitchen floods and the refrigerator dies - all before daylight.

There are days when your 4-year-old wails in the corner like a caged animal and your 6-year-old weeps at the last lingering scent of his dad's cologne - and there's nothing you can do to make it better.

There are days when the breakfast dishes aren't washed until the next morning and sandwiches pass for dinner - and you can't summon the energy to care.

Yesterday was just such a day. I'm glad it's over.

***

"Have you seen my beret? Where's my beret?" Dad asked. He was ready to leave to pick up a friend who was coming over for dinner. Or, at least, he would have been except he couldn't find his beret.

"Didn't you pack it already? I thought you put it in you duffel bag when you packed your cap," I said.

"No, I didn't pack it. It's downstairs. Somewhere."

It had been a day of random ricochets, as Dad bounced between gathering gear, reading the news and hugging the guys as often as he could.

"My little M&M," he said, calling Boots by the name he and only he calls him. It dates back to the long-gone days when Boots' face was as round as the candy. "Give me a hug."

"No," Boots responded, wagging his finger as he squirmed away. "No huggy for Daddy. Only Mommy."

I cringed. Dad laughed, because that's Boots' customary response. At least some things were normal.

The guys ate just enough dinner that night to get dessert - that's normal, too. We had pumpkin pie, because it's Dad's favorite and because Boots was disturbed that we had whipped cream in the fridge and nothing to eat it on.

The excitement of a dinner guest, particularly one who would play a "Batman" video game with them, was too much. An hour past their normal bedtime, the guys finally settled. Dad finally found his beret, too - in the duffel bag.

***

The guys didn't growl much when I woke them in the middle of what Big Guy calls "morning night" so we could take Dad to meet the bus that would take him to the airport from which he would fly to post back east. He's to spend a few weeks there before continuing to Afghanistan.

"Is it time?" Big Guy asked as I put his shoes on him.

"Yes, babes. It's time."

Just as we pulled in to the dark parking lot, a soldier jumped out of his car with a big smile and a bigger whoop. "Yow-EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" I was too tired to glare. Anyone with that much energy at 2 a.m. has not been to bed, I thought. Even the NCOs couldn't will their eyes to more than half mast, despite the steaming travel mugs in their hands.

We'd talked about not taking the guys for humanitarian reasons- a friend had offered to let them stay the night at her house. In the end, though, Dad wanted  - and the guys agreed - us to be together for as long as possible. It made sense, given what he's facing.

The guys stayed in the car, huddled under blankets while Dad and I embraced. He walked toward the bus, then turned around and we repeated it. Several times. It was almost matter-of-fact, because we've been doing the goodbye drill for a year.

The guys stumbled upstairs when the three of us got back home, turning toward my room without even asking. The Axe Dad had sprayed on at the last minute - I still haven't figured out why he needed cologne to ride two hours on a bus with a bunch of sleepy soldiers - remained in the air.

"Oooooh," Big Guy moaned, tears welling. "It still smells like Daddy in here."

The last thing I remembered hearing were his soft sobs as the three of us fell asleep huddled together.

***

"Mommy, what's that noise? It sounds like it's raining real hard," Big Guy asked a few hours later, just before my alarm was to go off for the second time that morning.

"I don't know. Go back to sleep," I mumbled.

But then I listened. It sounded more like a rushing stream than a hard rain. Oh, crap.

My socks were soaked the second they hit the floor. I stumbled to the bathroom sink, where water gushed from a pipe. Call the property manager in the morning, I thought absently. It couldn't have leaked for more than a few hours. How bad could it be?

That question was answered when we got downstairs to an inch of standing water.  I rushed the guys to the kitchen, one of the few dry spots in the house and well away from the leak, in case the ceiling decided to cave.

I got Big Guy's water bottle from the freezer to fill for the day, except it wasn't frozen. Oh, crap. I set a record for most emergency repair calls from one person prior to 6:30 a.m.

And then the real flood hit.

***

"I don't wanna go to school. School is stoopit. I hate school. I don't need no school," Boots stomped.

I've heard this a few times before on days when he's been a little tired, so I launched into the pre-programmed spiel. "You like your teachers and your friends. You have a nice school. You'll be fine once you get there."

He was not fine once he got there.

He clung to my knees, nearly pulling down my pants. He covered his face and crawled into a corner. I coaxed him out for "one last hug" and he shrieked more loudly.

"Don't wanna stay. Miss Daddy. School is stoopit. Wanna. Go. Home."

I was afraid that if I let him go home, he'd never go back to school. He crawled back into the corner and wouldn't talk to anyone for a half hour after I left. He eventually fell asleep there,  waking up a bit later with a slightly improved outlook.

By the time I picked him up, school no longer was stoopit and he liked his friends again. The teachers told him he could bring pictures of Daddy the next day so they could make a poster Boots could look at whenever he needed to.

***

Dad called from his temporary post shortly after lunch our time. "It's freezing here. And the drive from the airport reminded me of West Virginia."

The person who was supposed to give them keys to their rooms wasn't around, so they were assigned space in a big barracks for the night, a room that reminded him of the temporary holding company he'd spent agonizing weeks in a year ago before the official start of basic training. "It even smells the same. It makes me want to puke."

He called several times through out the evening, getting recaps of the guys' days and my progress with the flood-induced laundry.

Boots fell asleep in an arm chair about 7, just after our grilled-cheese dinner. When Big Guy started nodding, we went upstairs without finishing his homework. They turned toward my room without even asking.

The breakfast dishes still were on the kitchen counter. I didn't care.

Thank God the day had ended.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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