"I'm heading out," popped up in the window on my computer.
"Out?" I typed.
" 'Out' ," he replied.
For a moment I forget how to breathe.
This day had already been a difficult one. Difficult in the normal way for the mother of a 6-month-old who is proving to be a difficult teether and difficult in the not so normal way for a mother of a child who seems to have just figured out that his daddy is not here.
The laptop wobbles on the bed as Logan struggles to climb up onto the mattress. I move Eli into a one arm grip as I help Logan's little legs make it to the top. I see why it had been so difficult for him to make it up on his own; the webcam is in his tiny hands.
"See daddy, please," he asks.
Skype has only worked once for us so far this deployment and not very well. The best thing about it was that Logan got to talk to him - even if for a brief period of time and with many, many delays.
"Please," he asks again in a way that makes his little voice even higher pitched - truly pleading. "See daddy, pleeeeaaaase!" My body begins to fall to pieces. I feel the joints loosening and my lips shaking. My entire body is beginning to quiver. It seems as though my body may crumble. He keeps trying to put the camera in my hands, "Please, see daddy, please."
I point to the picture of the two of them above the bed hoping that image will suffice. "Daddy!!" he exclaims and points to another picture and does the same. I hide the camera under the pillow while he points to every picture of him. I say a quick prayer that this will work. It doesn't.
"Please," he continues now pointing to the computer screen. "Cheese!" he says to tell me he wants a picture, "Cheese, Daddy."
I had been relieved when Logan did not fight so hard when C left. The relationship the two of them have is amazing. I could not ask for a better father for my children. We both were expecting to have to pry Logan from him, removing his fingers from whatever material on C he could grip onto. We were blessed that that did not need to happen. There was too much going on for his two-year-old mind to really understand what was taking place. I truly am thankful that C did not have to go through that. But I thought today would come later. I thought it would take more time for him to come to that realization. But today, everytime someone opened the door to the house, he thought it was his daddy. His face would light up, the way it always does when C gets home from work, and then his smile would go.
"Daddy go?" he kept asking with his hands raised, shrugging his shoulders.
"He'll come back. He misses you," was all I could muster repeatedly as this continued throughout the day.
He threw the tantrum of his life tonight, ending with him breaking the childlock on his doorknob off. And when he did that, he calmed down. He needed to get it out. He was confused and angry and he needed to show those emotions, to process them as best as he could. He needed to do what we all need to do at some (or many) point(s) in this process.
To see your child hurt is the worst pain in the world. To know that there is one thing that they want so badly, that they are right to want, and that it cannot be given to them burns in the deepest way. I hated it. I hated today.
But through all of that, I never broke. My body weakened as my heart ached but I never cried. I never felt worry. I know my son and I know he will get through this. I know me and I know that I will get through this. As much as it pained me to see his frustration and sadness, it was not until I saw that one short, three letter word on my computer screen that I finally cried.
I have not cried since he left. In front of him, I cried barely, for a brief moment only when he kissed my forehead. When I hit the car, I let it go. I allowed the sadness and the fear to come forth with the greatest force and when it was done I did not cry again.
"Out." he had typed - with the period. Definitively.
With that word, this year had begun.
"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown
"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.