My husband has been traveling extensively for work since October. He’s always done some traveling for work. But this amount of travel was more than ever before and would have him away more than he’d be home. This amount of travel made his trips home "visits" and his hotel on the road "home." The fact that it was going to be temporary was the only thing that prevented me from losing my mind.
In the beginning, the heavy travel was supposed to end in February. Back in December, the kids and I went and hung out with him on the road during school vacation. I remember thinking that trip would get us through the New Year and that it would all be downhill from there. Just remembering conversations on that topic makes me smirk knowingly at my naivete. Because February came and went and there was no end in sight.
From there, we didn't even get a worst case scenario end date. I told my husband at one point that I’d prefer someone just come right out and say it would last a full year. Yeah, a full year would suck. But at least I’d be able to mark a calendar and count down to the end. At least I could make plans for when our normal life could resume. But even more than that, at least I’d know what to tell my children when they asked why he always had to leave again.
But there was no new end date. So I mentally doubled the first end date and started secretly hoping for June. Hope is a dangerous thing though. It leads to ideas. It also leads to disappointment. By mid April, I’d begun thinking about summer. Thinking about what I’d set up for the kids for summer and what would work with my work schedule. Not our work schedules. Just my work schedule. I was frustrated that there were things I wanted to sign them up for but knowing that with only me to drop off and pick up and see to all the details, some things were going to fall by the wayside. I only get so many days off per year. How many did I want to burn taking them to this and that? Plus, we’d probably want to go see him on the road again.
I started pondering things like maybe they should go stay with him where he is for a couple weeks in the summer. I’d miss them terribly and it’s not something I’d ever thought I’d agree to or even contemplate but fathers are important. Time with them is important. And not just fun trips to tourist attractions. They need quiet silly time doing mundane everyday stuff like brushing teeth or folding laundry. My husband didn't like the idea of them coming to stay with him. I’m sure it made him feel crappy to think it might be necessary. It definitely made me feel crappy. But in the months since October, I've learned that sometimes wearing your big girl panties feels crappy but you do it anyway.
|Trying not to smile while her crazy father sticks his crazy nuzzling nose in her face.|
Frustration with the travel was ongoing. My husband and I would periodically bicker over it. There’s a an ebb and flow to it. In some ways, absence makes the heart grow fonder. It makes his arrival an event and his time at home a celebration. It makes his smile more endearing and the warmth of his embrace more sweet. But there were plenty of rough days hearing him tell me about dinner out with coworkers while I’m knee deep in homework, dirty dishes and the grind of everyone needing stuff all day every day. I’d feel pulled in every direction and frustrated beyond belief that it was entirely outside my control and there was no end in sight.
My husband likes to say I’d take it out on him and that it was outside his control. I like to say I needed an outlet for very understandable feelings of frustration and that I didn't even have the opportunity to complain to his boss or ask when it would be over. He was frustrated, too, though. He missed home. He felt like a bad father and a bad husband. And I’m sure hearing the hustle and bustle of our household on the phone could make him feel even further away and lonely. I think it must be a tiny little bit like being on bed rest. Laying in bed all day everyday sounds like heaven until the second or third day. And then you’d just like to go back to being normal. Traveling a little can be fun. Stuck traveling endlessly against your will gets old.
|I like how happy he looks just to be hanging out with his kids.|
At the end of April, while minding my own beeswax using the restroom at work, he texted me to tell me his last day would be May 6. I was zipping my pants and turned sort of sideways in the stall having just flushed. And I stood right in that exact spot stunned. I also stood right in that exact spot and texted him back to find out if that was for real and who said it and if that information could be trusted. I also attempted to let him know that he should not joke with me about something like that under any circumstances and that I’d kill him if it was a belated April Fool’s type thing.
|Part of the series of texts that consisted of me repeatedly asking my joke loving husband to swear he wasn't messing with me.|
When he confirmed it really was an end date and it really wasn't that far away, I literally exhaled. I hadn't even realized I’d been holding my breath. Holding it for essentially 7 months. But I had. And as I felt the relief pour through me I moved right on from exhaling to crying. All while toilets in other stalls flushed, water ran, and doors opened and closed all around me. All while facing the crappy industrial grey side wall of the stall I was in. I stood there for a couple minutes in silence just acclimating. I wasn't even sure where to go with my day from there. Best trip to the bathroom ever.
I can’t believe I resisted the urge to tell the kids that night. But part of me didn't really trust the information. I worried something would happen to delay the end date. I worried that someone somewhere would think of something else that had to be done first. My husband didn't mention it to the kids either. We realized a day or two later that we'd both separately had the same concerns and held off.
The last 3 weeks passed and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sure the plans would get changed. Sure he'd somehow misunderstood the plans. Sure my life would get flushed down the toilet for a few more months.
But then one day he was home. Arriving late at night. Suitcases everywhere. Toiletries again cluttering up his side of the bathroom. And I exhaled again. And I cried again. And then some more the next day. And then some more the next day after that. And, even a week later, I still tear up just thinking about it sometimes.
|Suitcases and the "We love you" sign he'd kept in his hotel room all those months.|
I'm beyond grateful it's over. Ridiculously over the top spring in my step exclamation points at the end of everything grateful. But my cold black heart is still learning to trust that it's really over and that it won't start up again next week. Some days I feel like I've spent 7 months as one giant clenched fist trying to hold everything tight and not drop anything. And then I remember, it's okay to let go because it's not just me anymore. I don't have to be responsible for holding the down the fort by myself anymore.
And it feels good every time. It'll feel better to not ever feel that way again. But for now, I'm grateful enough to not even care as long as I get to keep exhaling.
I could say something trite about how much I missed him and how he completes me. And it would be sappy but completely true. But I'm a big girl. And he can complete me from another state. Far more important than me, he completes this family. And he does that a hell of a lot better right here. Our life is all the better for having him. Our life is all the better for having him home. With us. For good.