+Friday, January 13, 2006+
With every new year that rolls by, I (like many others) have the tendency to write the wrong date out of force of habit. Usually it only lasts through January - I'd write 2003 instead of 2004, 2004 instead of 2005 and so on and so forth. 2006 is the first year ever in my 23 years (well, probably more like 18 or 19 - God knows I wasn't writing dates when I was 1) that I haven't mistakenly written "2005." Writing 2006 on all my paperwork at work, on all my correspondence, on all the checks I sign, etc has come so naturally. And I suppose it should - I've been waiting for it to be 2006 for, well, 365 days!

Yesterday in the mail I received a bulky priority mail package with the return address of the Nevada National Guard. It was a packet - "Preparing for Reunion." Flipping through the brochure that vehemently tells you to expect your soldier to have changed, to not expect too much from your first month or so back together lest ye be disappointed, and gives you "pointers" to assist through this "difficult time," I did a little jig right there in my kitchen - dancing in a circle and releasing all my bottled-up excitement in a loud squeal. My dog was jumping up and down with me and barking. Clenching in my hands a pile of brochures with bold fonts that boast the words, "HOMECOMING" and "REUNION" made the end seem that much more real. The past year of dealing with the army has taught me to never get my hopes up, to never fall in love with a plan, and basically, to always expect things to change - ALWAYS. It's a rare and joyous event when things happen when they're "supposed" to, and slowly but surely, I'm allowing myself to realize this really IS going to happen - 8 weeks at most, and Matt will be home.

I do think about how he might have changed. I know I've changed in the last 12 months. For 7 months, I've lived in our house alone, had no one's mess to pick up after except my own, had the bed and four magnificent pillows to myself, and it'll be weird to have Matt back, but certainly not a "bad" weird. The truth is, living alone has started to take its toll on me. Many military wives have children to take care of that keep them occupied and fill their homes with chatter and life, and I know many others who have moved in with their parents for part or all of the deployment to escape the lonely clutches of the house they share with their soldier: "Without you here, this house is not a home." We have our pets. I talk to them. I talk to myself. I wonder if I'm losing my mind. I miss the warm glow the house emitted when it was a house full of love; it really has felt barren without Matt, and regardless of what one might believe about feelings of loneliness, it was even worse when I had someone renting out a room in the house - I wasn't just lonely, I was lonely and living with a disrespectful stranger. I miss the little things - curling up to watch a movie, laughing with someone, crying with someone. When it snowed, we would open all the shades in the house and wrap up together in a huge blanket and watch the snow fall. Sometimes after the snow, we'd bundle up in jackets and hats and gloves and take our dog for a walk, our breath appearing in clouds and our feet softly crunching the fresh snow. I even miss things like doing his laundry.

It's funny because I didn't think it was possible, but I miss Matt more now than I did at the beginning or in the middle. In the beginning it was the pain of a sudden loss - I missed him because we'd never been apart longer than a couple weeks, I missed him because I still had memories fresh in my mind and because I knew no new memories would be formed for a long time (apart from R&R, but let's be honest, there's only so many memories one can make in 15 days), I missed him because I didn't know what to expect of the next year, and underlying everything was the awful, unspeakable question of "What if he doesn't come back?" In the beginning, I missed him because I was scared and I wasn't sure how I could live without such an important piece of my life. When something scary happens, you're supposed to be able to turn to your significant other - your best friend - for soothing and protection, but suddenly you're alone. You have to suck it up and be strong - you have to be supportive and rational because the only thing scarier than suddenly feeling alone, is feeling alone in a strange country where people want to kill you. I missed him the beginning because I missed that feeling of security, and despite if you have a million good friends or just a few really close ones, no one can be a substitute for your soldier.

In the middle I just missed him. I realized I was going to be okay, we were going to pull through this, but it didn't change the fact that every day after work and school I went home to an empty house. In the middle, I missed his presence. In the middle is when I stopped sleeping with his clothes because they stopped smelling like him (and because they were making me break out); I stopped spraying the pillows down with his cologne because in a way it felt like I was only fooling myself. Sudden whiffs of his cologne confused me into thinking he was there, and not much in this world is worse than the feeling of subconsciously reaching out for someone and having them not be there. I didn't miss him because I worried about how I'd go it alone - like I did in the beginning; I missed him simply because I missed having him around.

Now at the end it's like a culmination of both feelings - his absence and the anticipation of whether or not the end will come soon enough (or if my head will roll right off my shoulders before it even gets here): I miss him because I'm so close to having him back. The end of a deployment is like a mirage - the closer it feels like you're getting to it, the further away it seems. I feel like a donkey with a carrot on a stick dangling in front of my nose, just out of reach, but enough to tantalize me to keep moving forward. Information keeps changing, dates keep changing, each day feels slower than the last. All my memories with Matt are no longer fresh in my mind so instead of producing a pang for recent happiness, they're recollections of better times that I want back and am so close to having back. I try to trick myself into believing that I'm still in the middle of the deployment because as backwards as that may seem, the middle was when I was the most relaxed - the initial pain of him leaving had subsided and the end was so far away there was really nothing to look forward to - but the subconscious is not an easy thing to trick, and my more frequent moments of clarity cause feelings of excitement and anticipation to build up within me that I try to release with random screams and dances, but I'm incapable of fully satisfying. Sometimes I wonder if I won't lose my mind before the end ever finally gets here...So close, yet still so far away.....

wishing matt was here @ 10:46 AM+

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