But you are wrong, dear one. You are always here.
When my pet was old and ill and quaking, and I had to let her go-- it was your arms I felt around me as I held her one final time.
When we rushed to the ER after Little G fell to the concrete with a concussion, it was your voice that steadied me.
When Big G's pet was failing, we both felt you with us.
During what Big G termed "a conga line of doctors" recently, it was your messages and voice that kept us going, helped us to remain hopeful.
We ate M&Ms with you in spirit, even if you weren't the one who poured them for us.
We celebrate good news and bad news with you at all times. When you can't be here physically, it is harder-- but you are here.
You are always here.
When I make the drive home, I feel you in the seat beside me. It is "our" music I listen to, and our jokes that the kids and I repeat. It is your voice I hear in my head as we decide when to stop, and what is safe.
There are things that you would usually do, that are now my responsibility. I try to do them as you would, or ask for help, so your presence is still felt and still strong. When I am tired and the day is long and it is tempting to do a half-baked job, I remember how tired you must be, how your spirit aches-- and I finish the task.
I never want you to come back home and feel like you have to fix what I have done, or spend your precious time here making up for any time you feel you've lost.
I just want to see your smile, and feel your hug, and hear your laughter unsullied by the hesitation of phone lines.
Part of the Army life is knowing that hard times, and good times, will come. Kids don't hold off on emergencies because of training or deployments; if anything, they seem more prone to disaster as soon as we receive those orders. Concerts, parent-teacher meetings, graduations and school dances -- time is the truly unfailing Soldier, marching forward without pause.
But you are always with me. The seat next to me at a concert may be empty, the teacher may not see you, but your strength and your love and your influence are always with me and always with our girls. We have lived this life for 22 years now, and while sometimes I have felt lonely for your touch and your smile-- I am never alone. I have learned to gather close our moments together so they are stored within me, the memories strong enough to hold me close when you cannot. This can be a lonely life, true, but I don't want you to think that we do anything truly alone.
I want you here with me for all the big things, too. Physically here, and holding our hands. I am not so strong that I could really do this alone. You are here, and you are supporting us, no matter where the Army tells you to lay your head.
You are always with me.