Sunday, January 16, 2011

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 104

Military wives, and their sacrifices, crossed my mind last week. A lot. Saturday evening, Jason boarded a plane for London. He arrived home Friday night around eleven to the pile of us tumbled onto the couch and family room floor in various states of sleep. Jason began traveling for work shortly after our wedding. We are not new to Jason traveling. We are new to being separated by a five-hour time difference. The waters were a bit rough to navigate. When he was free to talk, we were trying to get out the door in time for preschool or evening activities. When we were free to talk, he was asleep. A few five-minute conversations over the span of the week are not our usual (or preferred) fare. Within three days, I was in awe of military wives. I kept reminding myself of our cushy circumstances. I knew where my husband was. I knew he was safe. I knew how to reach him, regardless of if I was able. I hadn't wished him farewell watching him walk off in fatigues to go clear landmines. He was safe in a warm hotel, eating Yorkshire pudding and trying lamb stew for the first time. Military wives are women of steel. Last week, I discovered I am a woman of aluminum, and I was right to not marry any of the brave boys I dated who chose to serve (not that any of them asked).

I experienced the power of words - of receiving the right ones when you need them and of their staying power, regardless of if they are the right words or not. Monday, as we pulled into a gas station, Audrey said, "You remember when Daddy said if I said something one more time, he was going to throw me in the trash? He was kidding. That was a joke, right?"

I sent a message to Jason relaying the story. Meanwhile, I informed Audrey that her father had been kidding, that he would never throw her in the trash. For the thousandth time, I envisioned parent-teacher conference day at school, of the stories Audrey's teachers could tell if they ever wrote a book.

Jason responded later to my message. He recalled the incident - that as a consequence for misbehaving, Jason had thrown something of hers away. Audrey began crying and yelling over the lost toy. After several minutes, Jason told her, "If you keep crying, I'm going to throw you in the trash." Ahem.

By Wednesday evening, my daily thoughts shifted to include parents of terminally ill children. Nathan had begun running a temperature on Monday, one that would spike in the middle of the night, leaving the two of us in an uncomfortable sleepless state. After a couple restless nights ended by Audrey bounding into my bed in the early morning, I began to marvel at the strength of those parents, always tired and in a constant state of attempting to manage sickness, to be one step ahead of the next symptom, whatever that dark lurking symptom may be. Managing worry as much as anything. Sleep was not mine to take comfort in, but I had the luxury of knowing that in a few days it would be, because Nathan would be just fine. Just not last week. Apparently, Audrey was not so sure.

On Thursday, she informed me that there was a new girl at school. "Because Oliver wasn't there today and he's never coming back."

"Oh, do you know why he's not coming back?"

"I don't know. Maybe he's sick. Maybe he's going to be sick every day till he dies. Like Nate."

Our poor boy has had that kind of a winter. Luckily, Audrey is not his diagnosing physician.

Some weeks are typical. They wear like all the others. Other weeks test your wardrobe, leaving you barefoot in the snow, without the comforts (or iPads) to which you've grown accustomed. As a reward for finishing her service (what we call chores) or doing a good job listening, Audrey likes to play puzzle games on Jason's iPad. Last week, she was following typical protocol. Wednesday afternoon, after cleaning something up, she asked if she could play a game on the iPad.

"Mom, can I play the iPad?"

"Daddy took the iPad with him."


Some weeks are lessons in letting go of the images in our heads, of including "uncle" in our vocabulary when it is warranted, and shifting our perspective. There is more than one purpose to a week, more than one definition of a word.

On Wednesday, Audrey kept using the word "butt" in a sing-song way to tease her brother. I asked her to stop. I told her that if she needed to say that, she should say "bottom" or "bum," instead. "You should never have to say 'butt,'" I said.

"Yes I do. What if I want to say 'but, I love you.'"

There you have it, the nutshell version of an unglamorous week. One that was not our best, but one, when looked at through the right lens, was a week worth keeping. Several days felt like "to-do list" days, but there were moments: dances in the kitchen; an evening with friends; and an afternoon tea with Blueberry Streusel Scones, a stack of books on England, and a set of two Alice in Wonderland teacups purchased just for the occasion (and one evening meal of Toad-in-the-Hole, just for good measure). And, there is wisdom. The wisdom that someone else would gladly take this week with its tired, but present, laughter, its warm house and blanketed beds, and husband sweet enough to miss. We should all be so lucky.

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