The Hardest Goodbye...

It was an early July morning. The day we had both been dreading for the last 6 weeks. Deployment day was here and there was nothing we could do to stop it. With nothing ahead but the unknown, we quietly drove to the base in the dark hours of the morning. Past the farms, past the tiny Korean restaurant that I learned to love and finally to the base gates where I showed my ID to the gate guard before handing over my husband on his way to a war zone. I couldn't even bring myself to go to the gathering space for the formal goodbyes. We wrapped our arms around each other in the parking lot for as long as we possibly could until he absolutely had to go. I sat in the car for awhile, praying for his safety and the safety of all those traveling with him. I was scared for what the months would bring, wondering how often we would be able to talk. He told me before he left that he hoped I would be ok. He wished for me to make new friends and enjoy my new job. But that's just like him, to put others first. I didn't want him to worry. HE was the one going thousands of miles overseas. HE was the one fighting for this country. So I couldn't add any more burden on him of telling him over and over JUST HOW MUCH my heart truly hurt that he was leaving.

I drove home silent, the sun was barely coming up over the horizon and I had no idea what to do next. When I got back to my apartment, I was greeted by my two new bunnies. Eugene thought it would be a good idea to get a pet while he was gone. A dog was too much work, we are allergic to cats so he suggested bunnies. I remember thinking, I don't know they first thing about rabbits...but now's as good a time as any to learn! Even seeing their sweet little faces wasn't enough to fill the hole that morning. So I decided to clean. At 7am. Our landlord lived below us and she must have heard me scrubbing the floors like a madwoman because she called and said "C'mon. We're going out for the day". We went to her family's camp with her sister and her kids. It was the best kind of distraction. Her nieces (who are now grown and beautiful with lives of their own) and I played and I had some great adult conversations. We cooked dinner over a grill and enjoyed the fresh air of the outdoors. Maybe she doesn't realize it, but she saved my soul that day. I didn't know what to do with myself , feeling sad and unsure but it sure felt good not to be alone. They invited me into their lives, not just for the day but for the entire time that we lived in the area. That day could have ended so many different ways but through the kindness of others, I was able to start to pick up the pieces and start the next part of this journey.

Over the next few weeks, I poured myself into finding a routine which included work (lots of work), volunteering for various things for a group of military spouses called the Family Readiness Group and waiting for phone calls home from Eugene. My "day job" was an administrative position for a company that provided in home care to people that needed cleaning, groceries, rides to appointments etc. The man who founded and owned the company was the sweetest man. He and his wife took me in and treated me like a family member. He was a military man himself, so he understood how challenging it was. He hired me to replace his current administrative assistant who was a military spouse too and she and her husband were being relocated to Alaska. I had big shoes to fill. She was organized and efficient and I knew nothing about scheduling, bookkeeping or handling employees or clients. She trained me to do her job even though I had no experience in this area. They took a chance on me and I am so grateful for that. Not only did it give me a job (remember, I had a degree that I basically couldn't use unless I got a MS) but also, I made friends. I believe things happen for a reason and I strongly believe that God placed these people strategically in my life at the right time.

The owner and the admin showed me so much kindness and grace as I learned my new position. I really enjoyed certain aspects of the job once I learned them. I even signed on to care for an elderly couple who needed overnight assistance in their home. The man had dementia and would get up several times at night. The woman was in her 90's and had a broken shoulder from a fall so she needed help with her husband at night. I would show up twice a week at 7pm and stay until 7am. We would watch "Emeril" on tv and then have wonderful conversations about life and family before helping them get into bed. I stayed up writing letters and cards to Eugene and making plans for his next care package. I liked working with the clients because it gave me a sense of purpose. I felt like I was doing something important for people that needed it.

In the evenings and on Saturdays, I taught aerobics. read that right!! I became a certified group fitness instructor as well as a certified personal trainer before we left Pittsburgh. I was lucky to get a job a the YMCA working with people who were new to fitness and teaching them proper technique as well as teaching step, kickboxing, strength classes and the occasional water aerobics. If you know me, you know that I am pretty introverted. Teaching was intimidating at first but it was something I had to do for myself. I put on that Brittney Spears microphone and stood in front of those classes and had a blast!! I met more people and loved watching my class sizes grow! It was the building block for wanting to keep myself healthy and strong and having fun was just an added bonus!

I certainly wasn't happy about Eugene leaving but I learned to adapt. At the time, I went through so many emotions. Some days were happy (mostly because I got a phone call!) extreme sadness, anger, anxiety , etc. But looking back, this time helped shape me into who I am today. I consider myself to be pretty laid back. It takes a lot to really rattle me. It has taught me that worrying about little things is no longer important in life. Even now, years later, when a tough situation comes up, I compare it to my past and everything we have been through as a young married couple and I look at things with a brand new perspective.

Next installment..."Pieces of the Puzzle" coming soon!!