FIRST : From both Paul and me, THANK YOU for your outpouring of support on his homecoming and for these past seven months. I would have gotten through this deployment without the blog, but I would not have been nearly as happy. It has always been my goal to be positive and upbeat here, and what's awesome is that in return, my blog radiates back positivity. It would have been a very different 202 days without this space.
And quick note to the folks that hoped they wouldn't see me here blogging this week because I'd be spending time with Paul - I get it where you are coming from and I appreciate what you mean. But before anything else, this blog is my diary and writing when I have something to talk about is sort of the point. I'd be quite the hot mess if I didn't post for a week. So I promise, I am loving on Paul as much as possible, but carving some time for me as well. Plus, it's wonderful for him to have some space and time to play Gears of War III (ironic, no?) with his best guyfriends too.
SECOND : I want to talk about the homecoming while it's still fresh and raw.
I woke up at 6am on Friday like someone had lit a fire underneath my bed. I had clammy palms and butterflies in my stomach all day long. Many people I know in real life knew he was coming home (for security reasons I could not publish anything on social media sites) and I was entertained by texts and emails all day (thank goodness).
He called around 2:00PM to say they had landed safely in Minneapolis. It was pretty rad to see his cell phone number pop up on my phone (I haven't see that since August). Shortly after we spoke, the Careline (which is sort of the hotline we call for updates on the return) changed the ETA to 6:30pm.
Somehow I got through that day, but I really couldn't tell you how.
I started getting ready early and drove over to the base around 5:00 (he arrived at a different airfield than the one he's stationed out of and we live near). The drive over was a litttttle bit crazy. I may have been hyperventilating a bit. When I pulled on to base, the sweet lady who checked my ID said she liked my shirt. Like a nutcase, I started crying.
And then there were the signs.
Families of the deployed service members had made and put into the lawn signs that said everything from "Welcome home!" to "I've waited 8 months for my honeymoon!" to "I get to see my daddy!" to "We are so proud of you!" and on and on and on. I had to pull over to pull myself together. Seriously, picture me in my car, on the side of the road giving myself a pep-talk. (Actually, you don't need to picture it. It looked a lot like this minus the white dress.) I got it together, only to pull back on the road and read MORE signs.
My foot was shaking on the gas pedal. It was good times.
So I get there. And park and get out.
It was cold on the airfield, but not dark yet. I hung out by myself for about half an hour, emailing and texting and marveling over how I would see Paul so soon.
And then I heard my name and it was one of the sweet girls that had met right before Paul left. She introduced me to a few more women while we waited in the cold. The best part is that they are all the wives of the guys Paul became best friends with over there. So that's super rad. And chatter helped keep me calm.
It got dark. And crowded. And finally, finally, we could see the lights of a plane coming in.
Lots of cheers. Lots of flag waving.
It landed and ages, seriously ages, later it pulled up to the staircase that had been waiting for the deboarding.
All the enlisted men and women got off first. Suddenly there was a much higher level of excitement. I was towards the back with a few of the other wives who knew our guys would be some of the last to deplane. I couldn't see too much of what was going on.
But slowly the families and couples started trickling back through the crowd.
It was fantastic seeing all these people in camis and knowing they were finally home. It was awesome seeing all the hugs and love.
And then finally, after many, many people had passed by, it looked like there was no one else getting off the airplane and coming down the stairs.
Which meant Paul was off the plane.
I separated from the group and moved up towards the front looking everyone in the face hoping to see Paul. Nothing (though at one time I saw a mustached guy that looked a lot like P and thought for sure he'd left his mustache on to trick me). I returned back to my little group and they were all with their guys.
Another lady saw me looking a little lost and sort of pushed me forward. I was a bundle of energy. Not nervous energy, not anxious energy. Just like a current of exploding calories.
There was a break in the crowd and suddenly there he was!
I had anticipated this second, this moment of seeing him in the flesh, for so long. I pictured so many different things. Would I run? Would I jump on him? Would I collapse is a sobbing heap?
And when it was finally my moment, I didn't think at all.
I went from standing perfectly still to up in his arms.
I am sure I couldn't duplicate the jump again ever.
It was like a spring had been tightly coiled inside of me and then the second I saw Paul it exploded.
We hugged and kissed and sighed.
And I didn't cry one tear. Not one.
(Though I am tearing up as I write this now.)
How strange and perfect and fantastic.
It's ridiculous to be separated from the person who knows you best and loves you most. It's crazy to miss them so deeply and then suddenly have them. Have them right there next to you - in real life - without a two second delay.
Part of what comes with a stable relationship is a level of comfort where you take what you have for granted because it is so normal. I know that we'll be back to that place. And I welcome that. It will mean he's home and our lives have begun reshaping to include each other again.
But I love that now I have that moment etched in my mind. That moment where I couldn't contain myself. I get to recall it when things are hard or life is normal or challenges are issued.
That feeling of having him back.
I love him. I am so proud of him and proud of me and proud of us.
(I should mention he LOVES the new place. And he doesn't mind that it's a full on craft museum. And our first beach walk Saturday morning and then beach run Sunday did not disappoint.)
And one last time : thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your thoughts, prayers, emails and comments. Thank you for sharing in our excitement. Thank you for expecting me here. Thank you for showing up to read what I write. I am so grateful for the support.