Something that very seldom gets mentioned, among the "Coming Home" episodes and news clips of sobbing little girls surprised by Daddy Soldiers, is that the week before they get home and the week after they are actually home can be among the roughest in the entire deployment. These days leading up to the homecoming are among the most stress-filled, sleepless, anxiety- and giddiness-filled moments you could imagine.
It's truly an emotional roller coaster.
Don't get me wrong-- in a healthy family, the over-arching feeling is one of happiness that it's all going to be over and the Soldier will return home soon. In a healthy family, we are SO glad to be together again.
But "together", after great tumult, comes at a cost. There is so much that has been missed, and so much that can change in even a shorter deployment. It's gotten better now that we have such vast digital communication resources available to us, but Skype and email and Facebook chats can't make up for simply being with the other person. Sharing the couch with them and discussing a TV show. Riding next to them in the car, "Oh, I love this song!" Or simply doing chores together. Raising our girls together.
The days before a homecoming are like those moments when you are all dressed up for a big, important, life-changing date. Giddy, happy, full of nerves... Dressing up and wanting to put your best self forward. Not only are we still the amazing person that the Solder left, but we have conquered a lot and look how strong we are! Every homecoming feels like a turning point.
Homecoming is the date, of course, but the days and even weeks (and sometimes months) after that are an adjustment period similar to having a brand-new relationship. We are both used to having our own space and making our own decisions, independent of the other. Over the years, we have gotten better at these adjustments but they still stink.
And every deployment, even every "away," is different. Every adjustment is unique. Which really explains why this last week is such a roller coaster. We've done this often enough to know that some adjustments are easy. And some are decidedly not. Some of this depends on what we have individually been through during the deployment, and some of it feels like some fateful, star-aligning, algorithmic mess. In other words, it feels totally random.
I don't like random, unless it pertains to acts of kindness.
So, we are finding ways to relax and unwind while we wait. We clear our minds, we pray, we use cleaning as some sort of ritualized dumping out.
And we make room for joy.