“I’m looking past our faults from those scattered days. And fancying redemption.”
I sat in the In n Out drive-through, letting the music roll over me. *
He would be home in a few hours. Him piloting an airplane across the ocean and planning to touch down right in front of us, the first time we would see each other in four months. He had been in Europe, eating croissants and serving our country. I had been at home with all the kids, just trying to keep it together.
And I had. I had more than kept it together. Thriving in the silence of my own soul, my sons and daughter and I had been everything to each other.
We had missed the man of the house, but God had carried us, and now he was coming back. The months had turned to hours. All I had to do was wait and the clock would whirl away the last few minutes until he stood before me. I wasn’t sure what I would see.
Waiting for cheeseburgers and fries, I let out a prayer like pent up breath, a question, “God can we be good together? I just don’t know if him and I can be good together.”
Years pile up the missteps, and resentment blankets everything til you can’t see the one you promised to love and honor, til you can’t even feel yourself.
We had come far, treading patterns the best we knew how until they scraped rough hewn paths through each other’s hearts. We didn’t need to hear where the fight would go anymore, frustrated words rolled like water down the path of least resistance.
I know well the feeling of his work hardened skin against my hand. We are no longer strangers, remembering instead each angry word and quick injustice we have done each other.
I was “fancying redemption”, but even for all the love we held I didn’t know if it was possible. Maybe we were just the sum of all our years. Maybe I could only ever find easy happiness in oblivion, the swallowing up of a stranger’s arms.
We had pledged to have and to hold, so I would walk bound to this man, and he to me for as long as life held its lease. But could the scattered days be gathered up and the patterns rearranged? Could we be good together beyond the easy days? Was fancying redemption just a silly dream?
The clock unwound. I curled my hair, and put on lipstick. And then we marched – dresses pressed, the boys combed and buttoned, holding signs to welcome their Dad. We marched right out on that tarmac, flat as a plate, a cement-stretching aisle. And we stood while jets raced overhead and stood sentry all around us. We stood faces lifted to the clouds until his headlights pricked the sky, two bright eyes drawing close until the wait was no more. He broke space with the weight of his presence and slid down the air with the heavy propeller whir drumming in our ears until wheels rolled to a stop. Landed safe.
Men in green motioned to us, and we walked quick, expectant, and shy around the side of the plane. Then there he was, green flight suit reaching up to the smile I had first fallen in love with.
There he was, that stranger I had talked long with after our college workdays and fantasized of his arms round me. The stranger to whom I had made ridiculous promises I could never keep in a tiny white church before we knew how easily we could break and be broken. The stranger I lay down trembling before on our wedding night, becoming naked before him for the rest of our lives.
As he half jumped down the little ladder from his cockpit to wrap arms around his sons, scoop his daughter up, and kiss me, I knew I didn’t know a fraction of the depths of him.
There with the sky our chapel, and his smile breaking open all I wanted to forget and was afraid to hope for – there I knew I loved him and that we could be good.
Because why not? He had flown an ocean back to me, and our days lay ahead. Why not believe the best, forget the rest and slip my dress off in the dark of our room, naked with him a stranger once again?
We held each other as if it was the first night, because four months coming home will remind you that nothing beats life’s whisper that “There is still time.”
And each time since then we have stepped into the embrace of the only one we will know, into the arms of another that we cannot presume to ever fully know.
Because it takes seeing each other like you haven’t every day for the past fifteen years, to know what you have.
And because grace forgets well-worn paths of hurt and fear. Grace breathes the life of mystery and possibility. Grace says I know you have hurt me and I you, but have we even really met the deepest parts of us? Grace lies down naked before my husband like me never met and invites him to be my closest friend.
. . .
*the song Illuminate by the Hunts – it’s so worth three minutes of your day
– Images were created by the amazing Dorka Hegedus. I cannot express what a treasure these images are to us, capturing so much of what we have lived and felt in this military lifestyle. She is a true professional and artist, shooting in a documentary style that let us experience the precious moments of this homecoming without interruption while also capturing portraits that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. As a photographer I have had many experiences in the photography world, and I can emphatically say that if you never experience Dorka creating images of you then you are missing out on something very special.