+Thursday, December 15, 2005+
It's strange to be in December. I can remember so vividly what last December was like - the stress, the anxiety, the fights, the worry, the fear - and time hasn't necessarily gone by fast, but it is introspective to sit down and think of the past year of my life. We've come almost full circle from the day Matt left (January 5), and I can still recall the morning of January 5, 2005 so well, it really does seem "like it was yesterday."

December was an awful month last year. I made the mistake of letting the girl who would be my roommate for the first part of the deployment move in on December 1, instead of making her wait till January 1 like I should have. The result was additional undue strain on a situation that was already stressful enough. We had no privacy our last month together; we were constantly in the company of a complete stranger living under our roof. We spent a lot of time in hotels during December to get away from her. Matt wasn't even able to spend his last night in his own bed, and I feel terrible for it, but at least we got to spend the last night alone, which was what was most important to both of us.

As we near the end of the deployment - as we get to the point where I can count double digit days or even say there's only 10 and a half weeks left of this (God forbid I had counted weeks in the beginning!!) - my memory has become less selective. To help cope with the hardest times and the pain that comes from missing someone so much, there were many things I had to "forget" about mine and Matt's relationship. I pushed his loveable idiosyncracies away from my foremost thoughts, and I know for a fact that I won't fully know just how much I missed him till I'm back in his arms again; I've worked hard this past year to live my life and make the pain as numb as possible, and doing so required letting myself forget a lot of things. I had pushed them so deeply into the recesses of my mind that I couldn't even bring these memories up when I sought them.

Now they're starting to come back on their own accord - like a turtle that was scared into recession reemerging from its shell when it's sure it's safe to do so. I remember the smallest, seemingly insignificant things, and they make my heart ache for Matt, but they don't make me sad like they did in the beginning. Instead they make me happy; they make me realize that it's okay to let my heart ache because in 10 and a half weeks, Matt will be home. This will be over.

With Christmas nearing, things have been particularly...different (I'm not really sure what the right word is for the way things have been). It just doesn't feel like Christmas without Matt. I haven't put up any of our decorations this year save for a snowman candle which could be considered more seasonal than Christmas-y; I've only bought gifts for my family and his, and told all my friends to spend the money they'd use to buy me a gift to buy something nice for themselves instead. I'm just not feeling the spirit this year - we don't even have snow yet, as if Mother Nature is putting a white Christmas on hold for Matt's return (this time last year, we were so overwhelmed with snowstorms, everyone's cars were either stuck or buried). Sometimes I'll drive by a beautifully decorated house, and think to myself, Oh, right, it's Christmastime like the thought had escaped my mind, which it often does. It doesn't necessarily make me feel sad or dismal - I just don't care this year. In the Christmas package I sent Matt last week, I drew a Christmas tree on the inside of the card I sent him and wrote, "This way we can at least say we shared a tree." And that is our Christmas celebration this year.

This week has been awful. Last weekend Matt's grandma fell and broke her hip and one of my cousins succumbed to a cancer that had been malignant for years and suddenly reappeared out of nowhere and spread so fast there was nothing to be done. I didn't know my cousin very well (she was much older than me), but my aunt - her mother - had also lost her husband to cancer and another daughter to an accident, and watching family suffer so horribly, especially during a time that is supposed to be so joyous, is very painful.

On Tuesday as I got into my car after work, the damn thing wouldn't start. I had one of my coworkers try to jump start it, but I had a feeling that wasn't the problem as all the console and interior lights were still fully functional, and as suspected, the jump start didn't work. A friend of mine and Matt's picked me up from the office, I had my car towed to the shop yesterday morning, and have been driving Matt's truck - lovingly dubbed The Jalopy, it shakes so hard when it idles that coffee spurts on me from the cupholder in an interesting fountain of spills and it was broken into a long time ago so where the radio should be is just a big gaping hole. The interior smells like Kodiak - it reminds me of how happy I am that Matt quit chewing and that I've finally quit smoking - and there's clumps of consolidated cat hair on the driver's seat from Ashes crawling in the window and sleeping (I think he misses Matt more than anyone). In a weird way driving his truck makes me feel closer to him, but damn do I miss my quiet little luxury sedan - it's been in the shop too much in the last 6 months, and I reiterate my earlier point - don't ever buy a Jetta!

In the passenger seat of the truck are some army issued gloves, black boots (the ones he didn't need in Afghanistan since they're not a part of the desert camo) and an old styrofoam cup. The cup is from January 5 - it's from standing outside the armory in the freezing cold sipping coffee on our last morning together. I haven't forgotten about it - it wasn't a surprise to find it there in the place I left nearly a year ago. It's sentimental in a way I can't even explain, and I haven't been able to bring myself to throw it away let alone move it from its spot in the truck. It's reminiscent of one of the hardest days of my life, of cold weather and bittersweet tears, of the hardest goodbye I've ever had to utter, and of chasing a busload of soldiers down a freeway until, nearly blinded with tears, I had to take my exit and watch the bus grow smaller and smaller, taking my Matt away from me. I see it now and it makes me chuckle to think that I've held on to it for this long - that I've even been able to find sentiment in something as simple as a styrofoam cup - and it reminds me that we're almost there. Soon I'll see the bus coming back, growing larger and larger as it nears the base, and this time I'll be blinded with tears of joy instead of those of sadness, and instead of goodbye, I'll be able to utter what I've been waiting what feels like ages to say: "Welcome back."

wishing matt was here @ 1:04 PM+

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