Well, YESTERDAY was tough. After years of knowing that it would someday come to pass and after months of knowing the precise where/when/and how it would come to pass, it finally did come to pass: I had to go deploy.
By the time I awoke in the am Helen was already exercising in the basement and Maeve had made me breakfast in bed. She tried to awaken Fiona for it, but Fi was still sound asleep because she and I had stayed up late the night before talking about things. Maeve sat at the foot of the bed while I delighted in my pancakes, strawberries, and coffee. Scout sat there, too, and like a rascal tried to combat-crawl closer to the pancakes, but he was rebuffed.
I picked up Mom for 9:00 am mass; the priest gave a great homily but obviously he doesn’t have any kids of his own as we weren’t done until after 10:10 and the families in front of us and those behind us engaged in protracted wrestle-matches with their kids beginning about 9:35. Anyway it wasn’t our problem anymore, our kids were grown and didn’t fuss. After mass we all went to Mardie Anderson’s Juice Joint for coffee and smoothies. Mom had written letters to each of us, so she passed them out there. When we got home I sat and talked with Helen, did a final run-through of my bags and papers which had been slowly getting organized in the front room for several days now, went to Fiona’s basketball practice where the cuties presented me with a little goodbye poster, and walked the dog around the block one last time.
We all climbed in our van, “Sugarbelle,” and drove off to the airport. We huddled tightly on the sidewalk outside of the American Airlines terminal and for whatever reason shuffled about a little bit like Emperor Penguins in the Antarctic, we pledged tearfully our love and allegiance to one another, and reluctantly, ever so reluctantly, we said “goodbye.”
As the van pulled away we waived and cried, and a big, awful weight was lifted for all of us because at long last the deployment was begun and it could start getting shorter every day from here on out. And indeed this is my final deployment. For the first time ever the end of the Navy career is within the horizon line. It may only be a blip right now at that junction of Earth and sky, one about 18 months journey from today, but like a seaman in a crow’s nest after crossing an ocean and finally sighting his destination, “land-ho!” I cry, “land-ho!”