Tuesday, February 15, 2011

10 Minutes Out

"They are 10 minutes out ma'am."

What? He will be here in 10 minutes? My heart began to beat and every emotion I should have already had, I had in about a span of...well, 10 minutes.

The weeks leading up to Patrick's return were some of the busiest, most intense weeks I have had since their leaving on July 6...and then again on July 7. My thoughts were constantly on the men returning home, getting messages out to the wives, and the logistics of my being there for each homecoming, not because I had to but truly because I wanted to. These women had come to mean so much to me. We had weathered this deployment together and I wanted to see the culminating end for each one of them. It is such a precious time and I was truly, unmistakeably happy for each one of them.

Knowing my husband was last to fly in, my thoughts and focus were on the string of jets from here to Japan. Once the jets depart from Japan, the easiest and fastest way of getting information is from them. In Hawaii, they are able to use their personal cell phones and that's when the information changes by the hour as jets break, jets take off, men walk, weather systems pass through, etc. I had asked each of the women to keep me posted on any information they got just to make sure no one missed a homecoming due to bad info on my part. I was getting text messages, emails, fb messages, and phone calls. As times and arrivals changed, my brain was in constant overdrive as to the logistics of my own family and trying to squeeze in multiple trips to the squadron to welcome them all home at any hour of a given day. I was constantly checking email between spelling tests, logging into fb to check messages while doing laundry, and returning phone calls in route to ballet classes. My brain was in constant motion and at the end of everyday, I was physically and emotionally drained. I knew Patrick was lagging behind in cell two and I didn't even have the time to contemplate his movement in our direction. For the better part of 10 days I was constantly thinking about main body, cell one, cell two, separate emails, text messages, phone calls, children, their activities, timelines, babysitters, etc.
The ready room was a buzz of activity. I can remember mentally checking off names as I saw faces in the ready room and when they arrived. I knew who was in cell two and I was worried that everyone would get there in time. When I first walked in, I saw a new wife's face that I didn't think would make it in time from NC and I was so relieved. I checked off another sitting opposite her. As they arrived, I checked them off mentally. I wanted to hug each one. I saw extra faces and I was so thankful. We had been such a tight group and this was just a testimony of that. They had their men. They didn't need to be there; but they were. We were a team. One for all and all for one. I was looking, hugging, checking.

I guess that is why when I asked the ready room desk if they had heard from cell two, I was stunned to hear them say, "They are 10 minutes out ma'am."

It all suddenly became still. With those six words, it suddenly all came into focus on my family. Those 10 minutes are frozen in my memory. I can almost remember every single second. I no longer was focused on faces in the ready room, but the face in my own mind of my sweet husband who was about to be physically in front of me. I remember my heart beginning to beat much faster and I was instantly nervous. All of a sudden, I no longer cared who was there, I was nervous. I was looking around to round up my crew. Searching the ready room crowd for the familiar faces of my children. It's funny what begins to go through my mind and how quickly the thoughts come and go. How will I look to him? Will he like my outfit? How do the girls look? What is that red stuff on Caley's cheeks? Lillie's hair needs to be smoothed. Where are the boys? Are the boys ready?

9 mins....People ask me all of the time what it is like, you know, seeing him for the first time, and I can not explain it nor fully put it into words. To be apart for so long, you get used to him not being physically there. Phone calls and emails do not replace the physical presence of anyone, especially not of your man. For 204 days, I slept alone, I held no one's hand, I never hugged a grown man in a romantic way, there were no playful pats, no sweet kisses, no looking into someone's eyes, and no sense of someone being right there. I wondered how my hair looked, did I still have lipstick on, and oh no! the wind is blowing so hard! What will my hair look like? Is my scarf straight? It won't matter! The wind is blowing so hard! It's going to be all up in my face! The girls will be cold. Cole doesn't have a jacket.

8 mins....As we began to mill outside, my thoughts began to switch to our home. Will he like the sign? Did I remember to pick up the magazines on the counter? Will dinner smell good? Will he like the new pillows on the couch? I should've gotten a new sheet set. I wonder if I should have bought that coffee table? Did the grass people come? I should have put flowers in those buckets by the front steps. Ugh. Did Logan remember to do poop patrol? I hope Lady Bug, just this once, stays out of her clean litter box!

7 mins. ... The kids began to wave their flags and play with the others. I watched my own. My Logan stood off to my side, very quiet and waiting. He looks tall to me today. And so much like Patrick. My young man was a rock. He was invaluable this deployment and was such a huge help. I love him. Cole was running around with the girls. He looked so sweet and innocent. His joy was evident. Still so much a boy. He worried about me so much during the last 7 months, almost too much at times, and missed his Daddy. His tears would come and he just needed to be hugged. He had the best hugs and he never pulls away first. My girls were waving flags and playing chase. They were chatting with the other kids. Their smiles pasted on their faces. So many tears over missing their Daddy. Caley learned to ride a bike and Lillie had lost two front teeth. He had missed it. Would he notice? They had a list of things they wanted to show him. It had been a long 204 days. I knew God had walked me gently through this deployment, but it had been a particularly emotional one for me. The missed holidays, the extra worry of the squadron wives and all of their personal trials, middle school for Logan, and being without family for longer stretches of time. My children wouldn't necessarily remember my struggle this time because it wasn't until the quiet of my nights that the tears would come. I thought of the things I had had to walk through alone. Things that by the time he and I talked or chatted, were already a thing of the past. I hated to bother him and I knew he worried about me. I am good about keeping my daily woes to myself. He has a job to do and he can do it better when he knows I am ok. I was ok. My God was so good. My moments were just that, my moments. He didn't need details, he just needed to know we were good. I needed him to know that; in the big picture of each of our weeks, we were good. Sometimes bearing that load without my husband to talk to nightly can take it's toll. But God provided ears and shoulders for me; He always does. I had wonderful friends from church who I knew were praying for me, I received two anonymous cards with such encouraging words, I had those special neighbors that knew when I needed something and were there, and I had "my person" in the squadron who allowed me to release and bounce ideas off of her and meet me to keep me company when I needed it the most. Yes, God had provided. But it's still not the same. I still remember this moment in time right before the jets came. Someone took a picture and I am crying. It's the only one. I wasn't sad, just remembering the past 204 days without him.

4 mins....Someone yelled, "I can hear them!" Sure enough, faintly in the distance, the unmistakeable sound of jets. I can still remember getting chill bumps. It was cold that day, but those weren't from the weather. The sound of jets coming in when you are waiting after such a long separation are the sweetest sounds. The kids are jumping and shouting, flags were waving, "my person" gave me a hug. I teared up again, but that time because her hug reminded me how thankful I was God crossed my path with her.

There they were!! 5 jets in perfect formation! Awesome! Wait, there were supposed to be 6?! Did one have to go back? Where was that jet?? I overheard someone say, the one jet had to go ahead and land. So they were all here. Oh thank goodness. They each peeled off to land. Such an amazing moment. The excitement is overwhleming.

3 mins....As you are waiting for the jets to come around, it is some of the longest moments. I remember gathering up my children and the nervousness came back. It's almost the feeling of those first dates. It's the first touch. It's that weak in the knees feeling. I get those emotional feelings all back again and it is so wonderful. The anticipation is so exciting!

1 min...The first jets round the bend and I begin to count. He is jet 4 and number 13. Why didn't I wear my glasses? That's jet number four. Is it number 13 though?? I should have gotten my glasses. In the last moments of me thinking it was jet number13, that pilot in that jet didn't respond like mine would have. Frantic, I began looking around and just then, as quick as I realized my error. I saw him. Shear joy! We did it! #6 was over! All of those months of being alone, doing it all alone, were done! I could see him pumping his fists in the air and in that moment in time, I did it too! Someone caught a picture of this too. Only one.

As my children ran out to the jet, as I got closer, it was him. His smile, his mannerisms, his quirky way. As he climbed out of the jet and our family hugged, I could see him look at me. He caught my eye. It was him. As I patiently watched my kids all hug him, I stared at him. His laugh, his voice, his quirky way. It was him. I was in love. At that moment, it wasn't the daily choice kind of love, it was the feeling kind of love. The butterflies in your stomach kind of love. It is the first kiss kind of love, the dancing in his arms kind of love, the quiet conversations late at night kind of love. I was in his arms. I was his wife. I was done shouldering the load without him. The relief was overwhelming. The love I had for this man was overwhelming. The joy was overwhelming.

All of this, in just 10 minutes out.


  1. LOVED your countdown. And from the one deployment Grant and I have experienced, I understand that FEELING you are talking about after having not seen your husband in so long. It's the most wonderful moment in the world! I'm so glad that you are experiencing it NOW! Think about y'all all the time when I drive near your house! Talk to you soon!

  2. Hey big sister! I just read this and it's safe to say I didn't make it through without tears. You still continue to amaze me with your faith and your strength. It's so wonderful to know your man is home with you again and I bet your four little ones are thankful too! I love you so much and love learning from you, especially when you don't even realizing you're teaching. LOVE YOU!!!