By the beginning of year 2, I was deployed to the Persian Gulf and my bride was 3 months pregnant when I left. That’s right, I got her pregnant, got her settled in a new apartment with a new(er) car, boarded a ship and left. Some would call that unfortunate. Me, I called it “Doing it the right way” (and have been summarily smacked for saying so).
Now, I don’t remember the exact date we left, I don’t even remember if I was home for our first anniversary (I could check, but that would require work on my part, and who has time for that?). But, what I do remember is that during that deployment, we fell back into a routine that was key and fundamental to our relationship prior to getting married.
See, way back in 1991, they didn’t have Facebook, instant messenger, or even cell phones (to speak of). Email was even in its infant stages. No, we had something much more archaic than that. It was called ‘Pen and Paper’, and you would use this ‘Pen and Paper’ to write words down on, then fold up the paper, stuff it in an envelope, lick the envelope (and hopefully not cut your tongue), stick a stamp on it, then shove it in the mail. These days, I believe you refer to it as ‘snail mail’.
What had been the best thing about our marriage at the start, ended up being our biggest fight (to some degree, it still is). Sex. Money was a really close second, or rather, the lack of money was a real close second. And we had a large lack of both (again, can you see why we might have had such huge issues in our first few years (by the way, I’m totally pointing at myself as the problem, if you haven’t picked up on that).
But, being deployed, all we had was communication. Calling was something we couldn’t afford (very often), so we resorted to writing letters. There is something about writing a letter that is just so personal. Sure, hearing a voice allows people to understand tone and meaning, but writing a letter is like connecting directly to someone’s heart. And, if there is one thing I was good at, it was writing (ok, maybe I’m still good at it).
The thing about a letter is, you can’t be interrupted. I could share with her my heart, my thoughts, my fears, my love, and there was nothing she could say to stop my train of thought. And she could do the same. Back and forth we would write, often taking two weeks for either of us to get a letter (being deployed on a ship in a war zone has that tendency).
So, I would pull out one of her letters and read it several times. Yep, just like the Bates’ do in Downton Abbey. Over and over, with a stupid grin on my face. And smelling them. Now, don’t look at me weird, her letters always smelled good. Whether she sprayed perfume on them, or it was the other mail that had that smell that rubbed off, there was just something about them that made me feel closer to her then I did when we were laying in bed together.
Don’t judge… I already told you, I’m a romantic…
I watched her pregnancy through photos, watched as our son stretched my petite little wife into a woman who looked like she swallowed a planet (I said I was a romantic, not that I was nice). Watched as she made our apartment into a home. And counted down the days till I would be back with her.
Rome to Home
Two weeks before our ship was due to be in home port, I flew out of Rome, Italy back to Jacksonville. And because our son is partly me, he decided to wait until my last day of leave (and the same day the ship was pulling in) to be born. Figures…
For a month after he was born, things were pretty cool. New, exciting, and smelly. Oh my word, that boy was just… and that green stuff that comes out of them… and the spit-up that get’s on everything… and, awww, look how cute he is when he sleeps. Shh, you wake him, I’ll kill you. Yeah, that first month is something.
I will say this. For as excited as I was to be someone’s dad, I was not even remotely close to being ready for the change that he was about to bring into our lives. I got jealous of him. I got angry at her. I got distant. I became the world’s worst dad. And husband. Again.
Anyone noticing a pattern yet?