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Coming Home

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. Forever and ever.

 

“Amen,” I whispered while everyone around us said it out loud. I kept my head bowed, unable to pick my gaze up from the freshly mowed grass we stood on. I could feel the eyes of everyone behind us staring, but I kept my head down. I told myself that it all had been a dream and if I looked up, I’d realize it wasn’t. I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks when the bagpipes began to play. I had begun to believe it wasn’t a dream after all. My gaze shot toward my older brother, Junior, who stood beside me. His eyes were locked straight ahead at what I was too afraid to recognize. His face was emotionless. Streams of liquid pain began to pour down his cheeks as his eyes slowly shifted in the direction of our mother. I looked over to see her reaching out and taking the folded American flag from Lt. Colonel Reaves. She held the flag in both hands, then slowly brought it up to her chest and held it as though it was all she had left in this world. Her cries were all I could hear even with the trumpets now playing. I noticed my mother fall to her knees, and my brother running over to hold her up. I heard the guns go off when the fighter jets flew over-head, and finally, I looked at was in front of me. I watched them slowly lower my father’s casket in the hallow grounds of Arlington Cemetery. Reality woke me up.

Son receives folded flag at fathers funeral.

 

Ten years had come and gone since my father’s death. Junior graduated from the United States Naval Academy and joined the Navy, while I attempted to stay as far away from the military as possible. Unfortunately, going to college away from home never changed how I felt about Colby Reaves. He was my brother’s best friend when we were growing up and his father, LtCol. Reaves, had been a very close friend of our father’s. Colby was the same age as Junior, and also attended the USNA. However, Colby decided to follow in his father footsteps of becoming a Marine. This made it difficult to follow through on my promise to myself that I would never marry into the military. I saw how it affected my mother when she lost my father, and I never wanted to feel that kind of pain ever again.

Yet, Colby had always been there during the rough patches. He was a member of our high schools football team back in the day. Always considered to be one of the more popular of the guys. He was always on everyone’s radar, especially the girls because his eyes were to die for. I, on the other hand, did not draw the same attention. I kept to myself and had only a few selective friends. Being Junior’s younger sister gave me some street credit, but I was far from being considered “popular.” I had quit every club or team that I ever signed up for because they made promises that were never kept. This had become habit ever since my father died. I had been fed up with lies and false hopes of others that I pushed myself further away from everything a normal teenager would experience. However, Colby was never far when I’d realize what I was doing to myself. On those days, he would come over to our house after school and take me out for milkshakes or smoothies. This became a regular thing. Even on days where I was perfectly happy. These little dates turned into real dates, which then turned into an actual relationship. He never gave me a reason to regret it, either.

The night after my graduation, Colby took me out to celebrate. After dinner, we drove to the old smoothie place where we would go after school. We had been together for over four years and nothing had changed. I was still madly in love with him, and he wanted to prove that nothing would change how he felt about us.

“I have loved you since the day we met, Lace,” He said softly. “I never want to go a day without you knowing that I will never leave you. You are my everything, Lacy. Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” I said with a smile as the tears began to roll down my cheeks.

I had known from watching my mother that being a military wife wasn’t easy. It became even harder whenever Colby and I would watch “Coming Home” on TLC every Sunday night. The show was based on all the YouTube videos posted by military families of their loved ones surprising them at random places during the day. Colby always laughed at the ideas that soldiers came up with. I normally paid attention to the family and their reactions to seeing their dad, sibling, cousin, child or spouse, pop out of a box or show up at their school. The excitement and relief on their faces always brought me to tears, which eventually led to crying. I could only hope and pray that if Colby were to be deployed, that he would come home safe as well. A promise he and my father both made to me, but only one has yet to keep it.

Four months after our honeymoon, just as the Christmas season came around, Colby was assigned on a Special Forces mission to Iraq, where he would work and live in a secret location for several months. Junior had already been over seas for a little over a month, and my hopes were that they would keep in touch with one another. Before saying goodbye, Colby made the same promise my father had made to my mother when he was deployed.  He gently kissed my cheek, forehead, and my lips, one last time before getting on the plane.

“I will come home to you,” He whispered, “No matter what. I promise.” He boarded the plane and left me with a promise I hoped would stay true.

“Mom, can you hand me that string of lights please?” I wrapped the strand around my little Christmas tree in our living room. I asked my mom to come help me decorate Colby and mines empty house. It was lonely and I could use the company. I hadn’t heard from Colby in 3 weeks and I was getting anxious. “Have you gotten any letters recently from the boys?”

“Not since you got your last one, Lace. Don’t worry so much, they are probably fine.” I was used to hearing this from my mother. It was a rehearsed line from my childhood when I would ask about my father. “They have a lot to do over there. And it’s only 2 o’clock; the mail doesn’t come for another couple of hours, plus the roads are icy so it might be a little longer. Just concentrate on making this houses a home.” But she knew as well as I did that this house wouldn’t be a home until Colby was here with me.

Nothing arrived in the mail that day, or for the next three. I was getting worried because it had been almost a month since Colby or Junior had written to my mom and I. I anxiously awaited the mailman’s arrival. He slipped a few things in my box and I ran out in the snow in my robe and slippers to get them. Shifting through the useless junk, I saw what I had been waiting for. The two letters I had been so worried over. I wasn’t sure who’s was who’s and I ended up open Junior’s first.

Hey Lacy!

Hope you are doing great at home. I bet the house is spotless and decorated to the max since you don’t know what else to do with your time. You are probably just like Mom was during the holidays, always baking and decorating….

 

The letter continued on with Junior telling me how I was becoming a military housewife and how I’m most likely bored with worry all the time. He even guessed that I sit on the couch watching for the mailman everyday. And he was right.  The letter was light and humorous, just what I expected from him. The next letter was the one I was most excited for, and it started out just as he starts all his letters.

My loving Lacy, Mrs. Reaves,

I miss you so much. I can’t wait until I get to come home and be with you. It’ll be like our very own “Coming Home” episode. I’ll laugh at how cheesy the whole thing is while you cry in my arms. I’ll dry your tears and kiss your forehead. Once I am back there with you Lace, I’ll be home and all yours. We are moving check points again so I might not be able to write for a while, but Lace, don’t worry. I made you a promise that I would come home to you and I will. I love you so much and I can’t wait to hold you.  

Your husband, Colby.

Knowing that Colby and Junior were doing all right allowed me to relax for a little bit. I had tears coming down my cheeks when the doorbell rang. I looked out the window at the car in the driveway and my heart stopped. I had seen this car ten years ago and I prayed every night that I would never see it again. It had delivered the letter that told my mother that my father would never be coming home.  I moved toward the door. My body stiff, I opened the door.

“Mrs. Reaves?” The man in uniform asked. All I could do was nod. He handed me a letter. I looked at the white envelope. This was what every military family fears the most. The day the dispatch driver parks in front of you house, is the day you know that your soldier will no longer be calling.

“I’m so sorry for your loss.” The soldier said. My eyes began to fill with tears and my heart began to race. It was happening all over again. I shut the door and walked into the kitchen, dropping the letter on the counter and taking a deep breath.

Not sure of what I was supposed to do next, I began to clean. My mind went numb and I felt as thought I was in a dream world. The phone range a couple times but I didn’t answer. My mothers voice came up on the answering machine. “Lacy. I got a letter from your brother. He says he’s doing well. Call me back.” I picked up the letter from Colby that I had just read before the car pulled up. It was mailed five days ago. Three hours later the phone rang again, “Hey Lace it’s mom. Where are you? Call me please.” I had cleaned the kitchen, the living room, dining room, the upstairs and all three bedrooms. Finally I went back and sat at the table. “Lacy Anne. Why are you not answering the phone? I’m coming over.”

Thirty minutes later I heard the door open, “Lacy? Lacy, where are you? Wow it’s clean in here.” She would notice that kind of thing. I watched her clean when I was younger. Right after my father died, the house reeked of Pin Sol and Pledge. I had learned from the best. “Hey, why didn’t you—“ her eyes went to where mine were glued. She saw the letter and instantly tensed up. I hadn’t touched it since I put it there. “The military dispatch dropped by today,” I said slowly, trying to steady my voice. “Is this how you felt when you got your letter about daddy?”

My mother quickly moved across the room just in time to catch me. As soon as her arms were around my body, the numbness went away and reality set it. I sat on the white, icy cold floor, crying, and sobbing in my mother’s embrace. We stayed like that all night. I woke up the next morning on the couch.

“Hey, Lacy,” my mother said from the kitchen. “Would you like something to eat?”

I wasn’t sure if I could actually speak, but I went ahead and tried, “No thanks,” my throat was dry and scratchy, “I think I’ll just go get in bed and sleep a little more.”

“Okay, I’ll be down here making some phone calls and breakfast. Let me know if you need anything.” I nodded. I took a glance at the letters on the table before reaching the staircase. One had been from Colby saying not to worry. The next was from the Government stating that my husband died in combat the night before.

Two weeks went by until everyone arrived for the funeral. Colby’s mother stood to my right, while my mother was on my left. Junior was still deployed on a ship, but had called a few days earlier. I could feel everyone’s eyes burning into my back. Everything was too familiar. The only difference this time, was that I could not keep my eyes off Colby’s casket. Through my tear, blurred eyes I kept my gaze on him. My soul mate, my best friend, the only man I had known to keep his promises lied lifeless in front of me. My heart ached as though someone was slowly squeezing it. The pain grew and my cries were too strong to keep in any longer.

My own father-in-law handed me the folded flag that had been placed over Colby’s casket. He looked me in the eyes and I saw the pain stream down his cheeks. He led me over to Colby for one last good-bye. I placed my head gently on top of the casket where his head would be and just listened. I wished with everything I had that inside the box I would hear movement, or any sound at all, but nothing came from it. The only thing I heard was silence of un-kept promises and heartbreak. I kissed the casket and whispered to Colby my last good-bye as they slowly placed him under the same ground where we lied my father years before. Just like in high school, I was alone again.

A few days went by when I woke up one morning having to rush to the bathroom. After I was finished, I looked around and decided to clean up some. My cleaning streak was still going strong. I had to occupy my mind with distractions. I opened the cabinet under the sink to get my cleaning supplies when I noticed the unopened box of tampons. Suddenly I realized that I hadn’t had my period since before Colby was deployed.

I threw on some sweats and a jacket, grabbed my keys and went to the drug store down the street. An hour and three pregnancy tests later, I sat on the toilet of the bathroom in tears. All three tests came out positive. My thoughts were running wild. Who do I call? What do I do? Will it hurt? When will it be here? Then suddenly it stopped. Colby’s face passed through my mind. I slowly slid down from the toilet seat, onto the floor and began to cry. “How can I do this without you?” I said, hoping he would some how answer. One thing is certain; I couldn’t do this alone.

Winter turned into summer when I found myself screaming every time the doctor told me to push.

“Come on Lacy, one more big one,” Dr. Rigsby yelled. “There we go!”

Over the clinking and paper moving sounds around me made by the nurses cleaning up, I heard crying.

“Eight pounds, three ounces!” Dr. Rigsby shouted, “Congrats, Lacy! That’s a healthy baby boy you got there!”

Dr. Rigsby gently picked him up and carried him over. He placed the infant in my arms and all I could do was stare at him. Tears began to roll down my cheeks, but this time I smiled when I noticed them. My baby boy lied calmly in my arms and I could feel his heart beat against my chest. His eyes opened when I said hello. My heart felt as though it skipped a beat, because when he opened his eyes, I couldn’t believe my own. It was in the moment that very moment that I realized Colby had kept his promise. No matter what, he would come home to me. In my son’s eyes, I saw his father. Colby had come home to me after all.

 

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