Thursday, August 28, 2008

Life and Death and Everything Inbetween

The thoughts usually start brewing in my head at around this time at night after not hearing from Aaron by the time I thought I would have. My mind starts to go into overdrive, and I start creating the scene as I would imagine it would happen. I can’t help it either – I don’t know what I’m thinking about until I’m done thinking about it.

There are times, like right now, that I realize he could be gone and I wouldn’t even know it. Since the Army doesn’t have my correct address (as far as I know), I would get a phone call from one of Aaron’s fellow soldiers. It’s not protocol, but times like those are more important than protocol would ever be. So I would get a phone call, I would crumble to the floor, and I wouldn’t know what to do next. My mom would get on the next flight down here, and if there wasn’t one for a while she would jump in her car and drive like a maniac. I know she would. But then what? Over the past 8 plus months, this scenario has gone through my head many, many times, and the endings are always different. In one ending, I shut down and keep going through life as a robot, doing and saying what other people expect me to say, just trying to hold it all together. In another ending, I go to Austin, TX, to where Aaron’s ex-wife and son live, and I sit in their living room with Diego in my arms for hours. In yet another ending, I quit my job, bail on my lease, and make my mom come to a deserted island with me for a few months. But in every single scenario, however different the endings might be, one thing is always the same. I feel lost. And destroyed. And utterly helpless.

A lot of people cringe when I tell them I think about the possibility of Aaron not coming home. A lot of people look at me like I’m the ultimate pessimist and worse, like I’m a bad wife. But, the way I see it, the ultimate sacrifice is something that needs to be thought about and respected. Is it sad and terrifying to think about? Absolutely. But in a way, I feel like if I don’t think about it or don’t give it the respect it deserves, I’m only fooling myself.

Death is only a natural part of life when it occurs naturally. But when it comes before someone’s time is supposed to be up, it’s just not fair. So many young men and women have been taken from their loved ones because of this war we are in. I absolutely refuse to say that they died for nothing, though, and when I hear anyone say that I want to slap them across the face. The ones who have died for nothing are the ones that die in drug deals gone wrong, in gang related violence, in alcohol related car accidents. Those are the people that die for nothing. The ones that have died in combat or as a result of combat have died for EVERYTHING. They have died fighting for our freedom, our independence, and our quality of life. They have died with their honor intact.

I wonder if anyone other than a military spouse can know what this feeling is like. It’s like a pit at the bottom of my stomach that won’t go away until my husband is actually physically in my arms again. It’ll be there until I can smell his cologne, feel his breath when he whispers into my ear, and run my fingers across his scars, knowing he will never have to go back to that awful place. But for now, I am left waiting for that phone call that will put my fears to rest and that will let me sleep peacefully for at least one night.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I went to Baghdad!

A couple months ago, I had a dream. I’ve been meaning to write it down, since it’s mighty strange, and I really don’t want to forget it. Here it is:

I was lying in bed one day at my apartment in Riverside, and I decided it was time I give Aaron a visit in Iraq. I hadn’t seen him in so long, so I hopped into an open topped Humvee that was outside of my apartment, and started the drive to Baghdad. It was only about 45 minutes away (I guess that’s a subconscious testament to how I feel about Riverside), but I realized a couple things on the way. First, I realized I didn’t have any protection on – no Kevlar, no vest, no weapon, no roof, nothing. Secondly, as I drove by a mass of soldiers, some lined up in formation and others running along the side of the road doing PT, it crossed my mind that what I was doing might not be legal, especially since I wasn’t authorized to drive the Humvee I was in. Regardless of all that, I made it to Baghdad and found myself at the town bazaar. I parked the Humvee, looked in the back of it, and realized there was an M4 in the trunk. I debated whether or not I should take it with me for protection, but decided against it. Besides, it would be safe there, right?

I made my way down to the town bazaar, and immediately saw Gallagher, Demo, and Smith standing in a group having a conversation. I subtly walked up to them, and nonchalantly joined into their conversation. They turned, surprised to hear a girl’s voice, and said “Sarah??? What the f—k are you doing here???” I spent a minute saying hi, and asked them if they had seen my husband. They pointed me in the right direction, and I went off to find him. I wandered through the dusty streets, weaving in and out of the booths selling colorful fabrics, shiny trinkets, and strange-looking food, and then I saw him. It was like he had never left – there was a long, tight hug and a deep kiss, but other than that we fell into normal conversation like we had never been separated. We walked, not holding hands, because any public display of affection is against the rules of the Army. All of a sudden, as happens only in dreams, my mom was walking next to us, fluidly joining into the conversation. We continued to walk and talk, talk and walk, and when I looked down I realized I was wearing ACU’s. Aaron was nervous because he didn’t want me to get in trouble for impersonating a soldier, so we all walked over to an American resort, where there wouldn’t be any higher-ups to yell at me. As we approached the resort, I saw three people lounging on beach chairs in the front in the middle of a dusty expanse of land. We got closer, and I realized who it was. It was Mimi (my mom’s mom), Amy (my godmother), and Linda (Amy’s sister, and also my brother’s godmother). I was pretty shocked to see them on vacation in Baghdad of all places, but we sat and talked for a while before Aaron, my mom and I made our way back to the Humvee I drove there in. We got to where it was parked, I checked on the M4, and could tell there was something different about it. I picked it up, and there was a spear stuck down the barrel. Aaron then told me that whenever the Iraqis saw an American weapon lying around, they would jam a spear down the barrel so that it was annoying for the soldier to use it again. It made perfect sense in the dream, I swear.

My mom disappeared as fast as she had appeared, and Aaron and I knew our time together was coming to an end. There was another tight hug and deep kiss, and I hopped back into the Humvee and off I went. And then I woke up. Hmmmm… I wonder what it all means…

Monday, August 4, 2008

The World Goes 'Round and 'Round and 'Round...

My 25th birthday is on Friday. That’s right, it’s on 08/08/08. It’s got to be the coolest birthday ever. But aside from the coolness factor, I’ve been thinking a lot about the significance of it. 25 years old. A quarter of a century. Like I have said before, I have never been the one to dread a birthday or cry about how I’m getting so old. It’s quite the contrary, actually. I have always looked forward to my future, and love my birthday every year. It signifies the passage of time, yes, but it also inspires me to make the best of my future years as well.

That’s definitely the case this year, but I have been thinking about the past a little bit more than I usually do. I have been thinking about how life can change so drastically in a short period of time, but inevitably it comes full circle. When I was 7, my sister was born. In an instant, my world had been turned on its head, but that’s really when my life seemed to start. Sure, I had 7 years before Abbie came into the world, but once I got to hold her in the hospital and look into those blue eyes, those 7 years seemed to disappear. I know I was young, but I think I understood that the little baby I was holding was going to bring so much happiness into my life and into the lives of the people around her that I didn’t really care if I wasn’t going to be the youngest in the family anymore. About 6 years later, when I was 13, I met my best friend, Bonnie. I didn’t know it at the time, but the first day we met at a soccer practice was going to be the day that I look back on with the most gratitude and love anyone could ever have for another person (who isn’t her husband…). Bonnie and I spent the following ten years going through everything two best friends can go through – divorcing parents, high school drama, crying over pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, older brother issues, summer birthday trips to Seattle, Oregon, and San Francisco, 4 (or 4 ½ in my case) college years spent in different parts of the state, lazy days by the pool at Sveadal, and riding down the bike path in Pacific Grove on surries. Everything felt like it was rolling along smoothly, then June of last year hit. Bonnie was engaged to be married in September, I had moved to Hawaii to “find myself,” and had just met the man that would later become my husband. In a flurry of 14 months, I got engaged, Bonnie got married, I got married, Aaron was deployed, Bonnie got pregnant, and I moved to the boonies to go to school. More has happened in the last year than has happened in the last 10 years combined…

The main reason I have been thinking so much about the years past is not because my birthday is coming up, but because a much more important day of birth is right around the corner – that of Bonnie and Travis’ new baby girl, Liberty. She will be coming into this crazy world sometime around August 15th, and a month after that, my own baby sister will be off to college. Life keeps going even if you don’t want it to, but it is in that continuous spinning on its axes that you get the most wonderful times and people you will ever experience. Change can be hard, but in the end it’s inevitable, so you might as well welcome it with open arms. I can’t wait until this weekend when I will be home with my family, but there will be one huge thing missing – there has been and will continue to be a hole in my heart that only one person in this entire world can fill – my husband. I would love nothing more than for him to be with me to share my special day, but really I just want him here to share any day with, because every day with him is special. Well, I need to go practice guitar, or else my teacher might kill me on Wednesday. Have a good night!

Why we wait.