This is the nature of his work, what he’s been given to do. His work isn’t here, it’s there in between the peaks I can see from the rooftops of this crowded valley. This was the second time he’s been away, it was longer than the first. This time though, he had more company. Maybe it was that fact and also the fact that I’d survived once before that made this time easier.
When he left my eyes stung. The first time he put on his pack and laced his boots to head out the door I had anticipated the moment for the entire week, trying to juice out every ooze of moments together we could. It made for a lot of pressure. It wasn’t nice to measure every moment by how much we could possibly get out of it before we were apart for some days. That’s all it is, I have to remind myself, days. But this time, I didn’t let the imminent departure threaten our remaining days. I saw it for what it was: a duty, a good thing, a calling, even, if you will. And when the moment came all the feelings that’d I’d forced a few weeks prior came rushing into my tear ducts authentically and suddenly. But it only lasted a moment, they didn’t even fall — just sat in a pool and were swallowed up again as the door shut behind him. Sweet baby girl was hardly even aware of it, though I felt she was a little more aware than last time. She kept on waving even when the door was closed, more concerned with practicing her new mobility than the fact that it’d be nine days before daddy laughed with her.
But this isn’t a sad story … It wasn’t a sad nine days.
I am full, so full to the brim with thankfulness for provision, for friendship and companionship. Our house was not minus one this week but Beti took his place. Not his place, perse. I get the best of both worlds, you see. A husband when he’s here and a roommate, a best friend when he’s not. She comes to stay, taking up our guest room as her very own when he’s away. She fits in quite nicely — right into the crevices of our lives; right in the sweet spot where we don’t have to tip toe in uncertainty, don’t have to whisper around our differences. Though at times, we think we do. We are learning to embrace. We embrace each other’s shortcomings, each other’s delights, each other’s quirks and long nights. Nine days and nights with someone is sacred. It’s coffee in the morning: sometimes hers and sometimes mine. But she always has her own because the bitter flavor of what I’d prefer doesn’t sit well. But sometimes I don’t have the patience, and would like something sweet. So some mornings I accept her offer when she holds up two packets of dissolvable Nescafe 3-in-1. It’s starting and stopping 3 different movies at night and deciding we’d rather sleep. It’s her sitting, just sitting next to me while I’m inconsolable and the baby sleepless … her reminding me it’s only been five minutes … that she’ll calm down if only I will.
I didn’t feel anxious the entire week, not like last time. On the days except for the one where I was inconsolable we went with the rhythm as usual, but a little off skew at the beginning. This is our rhythm, our normal, I’m realizing. And it makes me smile. Because we couldn’t live this life if it were not for something, someone stronger in our bones. I won’t follow the world and say that it was all on my own that we made it to today. No, my weakness was amplified and His strength was glorified.
I planned a whole nine days of meals while he was away. I made two of them. One sat a while too long and the other not quite long enough. Both ended up in the bin. We ate out nearly every day, Charlie slept in my bed some nights, we watched too much tv. And were it past the second time we’ve encountered this new normal I may have been a bit more rigid. But it was only the second time, and there was grace. There is always grace.
He comes home today. Beti took her things and her sheets. She’ll be back later this week for dinner. I am reminding myself in the in between while Charlie sleeps and while Dad makes his way through windy mountain roads on a bus racing back to this too crowded valley, to tell her I’m thankful. I can never stop being thankful for any of it: for the amount of family we have found, for the ways we’ve realized normal even in the abnormality of it all. This is our life and sometimes when I look just past discontentment I realize that I love it: I love it all. There is no certainty that I’ll love it tomorrow or the next day. But the day after that, probably. For now, I conjure up my strength in the waiting and embrace the opportunity to finish well when I’m mostly out of breath.