Katie has been gone a week now. We drove up the coast and I dropped her off at a hotel near a naval base in central California. Nice place actually. Little 450 square foot condos with kitchen, living room and bedroom all on the second floor overlooking a golf course. Kind of a tease given the accommodations she’ll have in Afghanistan. We needed to get some food for the week and found out there was a market in the hotel lobby. We walked over only to find the “market” was little more than a pair of vending machines and mostly junk food. We drove out to a real super market to stock up the kitchen for the week just like any other day.
It was strange, acting normally when in the back of our minds we both knew that we were a couple of hours away from not seeing each other for six months. Never mind the perilous nature of that separation. I don’t think either of us knew quite how to act. Doing the things we normally did was an act of defiance against a situation we couldn’t control and let’s be honest, a coping mechanism. But being fearful and emotional wasn’t how we were together. When we finally parted and I drove away it was other worldly. I’d never done anything like it. It felt like our whole life together was road trip and now I was just leaving her at a truck stop and driving away. It felt wrong. How do you just leave your wife at some hotel with little more than a backpack and two hundred dollars? Objectively I knew she wasn’t on her own. Everything was scripted in detail by the Navy but all of that was her experience. Mine was abandonment. It’s been over a week and I still feel that way. There has been more than one occasion when I almost drove back up there.
At this point, I need to say something about the people around me. My coworkers and more specifically, the women where I work, have demonstrated a level of kindness that I can never repay. They almost pushed me out of the building so that I could spend the last two weeks with Katie before she left. That time together was a gift to us and you are all, each of you, our angels. Then there are our friends who came from all over to see Katie before she left. We had a lunch or a dinner almost every day and sometimes both. I gained five pounds.
I don’t think it’s any kind of weakness to feel these emotions. Like so many hard things that happen to people everyday, you just have to take them as they come. What matters is how you act, how you go on and live your life. It’s the brave face military families put on when their loved ones are away at war. It’s not fake courage. It’s real and I know now where it comes from. It’s inspired in us from the bravery of our deployed loved ones. I see that bravery and commitment in Katie. I know wherever and with whoever she serves, they’ll be better off.
They, the people she serves with, will get the physical Katie and I will get the digital. I get the cell phone, the email, the Skype and the Google Chat window. I get the 160 character text message. She’s my 1.2 megapixel wife, in two dimensions, smearing slightly as she moves. I can’t think of another time when I treasured technology more.