The Countdown is ON!

Friday, it will be only two weeks until Ben comes home for his mid-tour “vacation” (they call it an HLTA). This is basically two weeks for him to unwind at home or at a destination of your choice, although most of that time is spent travelling or recuperating from travelling and the time change (an uncomfortable 8.5 hours ahead in Afghanistan…making those online chats even tougher to arrange!). I’ve seen all too often when a member is about to return home and his or her family is so full of anticipation and excitement, fully expecting to receive back the same person they knew four months ago. I am a little more wary. Regardless of your role in the war, the experience changes you. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting at your desk in Kandahar and writing emails all day or in the face of the action (although this is arguably much more mentally and physically arduous), but you will not come home the same person. Furthermore, you are just so tired. Tired from travel, time change, working ridiculously long hours, and tired from not having a day off in four months. It is nearly impossible to come home and instantly get back into that family groove. For many, it can be too difficult. This is why the option of meeting somewhere across the world seems so much more appealing; you can leave all the stress of the world behind but see the one your love. The tricky part about that is that Ben has two children from a previous marriage and so he of course doesn’t want to travel without the kids with him, so he will come all the way home. It will certainly be an adjustment for him as he will be physically and mentally exhausted. But in my own selfish way, I keep wondering how I  will manage. The harsh reality is this: In order to cope, I have had to create my own routine that does not include him. I do two loads of laundry every Sunday (because I hate to hear the dryer run during weeknights). I put my dishes in the dishwasher immediately and never put them on the counter on top of the dishwasher (oh Ben, you know that drives me crazy). I live in a house without the sound of Ben scraping the bottom of an ice cream bowl as though it is the last drop he will ever put in his mouth. I never, ever make the bed. But then Ben will be home and I will have to factor him into all my decisions. I will have to work around the dishes that will inevitably pile up on top of the counter above the dishwasher. I will have to have a fiance again. And I am scared I do not know how to do it. But then I realize that despite his minor “ticks”, Ben brings so much to our house. So much laughter. So much love. So much kindness. This is the big secret they manage to avoid telling you! When they finally do come home, a day you have counted down to for months, you will not know how to make them a part of your life again. At least not for a little while. And so I am prepared for this feeling. I have embraced it in advance. And so I know that when Ben comes home, I will have to quietly grit my teeth when he scrapes that ice cream bowl. And instead, I know it will be something I will come to love, just like the rest of him. Kelly

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