While my sanity teetered too close to the edge of landing myself in a padded room, my saving grace were two strangers. It’s wondrous how many tiny choices had to lead them straight to me, it’s almost like they were sent …
Snow had begun to frost the tips of the branches and blanket the ground in Virginia Beach. A whopping 630 miles away from the comfort of home and family. It had only been six months since I said goodbye to my husband aboard the Dwight D. Eisenhower in his shop with 10 sets of looming eyes, all sailors who had partook in the same sad ritual with their own loved ones. It would be nine and a half months before I would feel Matt’s embrace and somehow, managed to hold it together in front of his peers. It would be the second deployment we both lived through in our own ways, this one for me would be ineradicable.
Peppermint, hot coca and gingerbread danced through November’s crip air. Thanksgiving had passed for another year and was instantly replaced by the general public a-buzz with holiday cheer. As I’d hand out Country Fried Steak and Chicken Dumplings, rosy red cheeked kids proudly announced Santa was coming! “He’s gunna bring me a ….” Their excitement brought on waves of nausea. Matt wouldn’t be home this year and because of work, traveling to see family was out of the question. Plus, I felt an awful lot like Scrooge, without a doubt good ol’ St. Nick would pass over his stop at my house.
During those six months everything and anything that could break or go missing, did. I got locked out of my house three times, spent $300 to re-chip a new set of car keys and spent numerous hours wasting time at an auto-shop waiting for my car to be fixed—dead battery a couple times, power steering pump, new tires.
The air conditioner shorted out during the summer more than a few times and when the seasons changed to winter, the heater broke. For two days and nights I wore Matt’s heavy coat to fight off winer’s frosty bite. And on top of all that, it wasn’t irregular to come home to something chewed to pieces. My wonderful husband had thought a new puppy made for the best pre-deployment gift …
This series of unfortunate events was expected with seasoned military wives. A military addendum to Newton’s law. A whole year could pass while your husband was home with no incidents. The moment he left all bets were off.
In between fixing the garbage disposal and working shifts as a waitress, time passed with new hobbies and self-made busy work. A Pinterest DIY master (and failure), baked good goddess extrondaire and the conquerer of eating holiday, birthday and anniversary meals alone, made up my deployment resume.
Wasted time was of no concern because there was nothing else to do or anyone waiting for me to do something. I stopped keeping track of it, merely going through the days and weeks based off shifts at the restaurant. If I was working a double, it was probably the weekend. If it felt like Hell, it was defiantly a Sunday.
Friends from home asked all the wrong questions while complaining they hadn’t see their boo in two days and coworkers thought it was appropriate to inquire about Matt’s faithfulness. Eventually phone calls ceased, old friendships felt foreign and the only form of communication I could tolerate was with Matt through email. The obsessive need to refresh my inbox was maddening. Loneliness felt permanent and the silence at home was deafening.
Not to mention the guilt ate me alive. Matt was the one suffering leagues away without the comfort of his own bed.
When did I become such a wuss?
It was the first week of December when I was pulling a closer at the restaurant. An hour left before the doors were locked for the night, a couple wandered in looking for a late dinner. The two would easily fade into a sea of people, nothing striking would draw attention to their features. A typical couple, tall man with thick black frames and a shorter woman who knew her way around a curling iron.
I brought out their food and sequentially asked them if they needed anything else.
“My wife and I are about to pray. Is there anything we can add to the list, for you?”
After almost a decade in the service industry this wasn’t the first time I had been asked. Typically I’d give a smile and say “no thanks.” Religion made me uncomfortable because I wasn’t scriptural nor brought up in church. Wouldn’t God know I wasn’t a regular on Sundays, so what business would I have asking for prayers?
“Actually,” I squeaked out, “please.”
“Can you ask for my husband to come home? I think I’m at my breaking point,” I said with an apprehensive laugh, my attempt to fight off brimming tears and embarrass myself.
The strangers extended out their hands and I grabbed ahold of them and bowed my head, no internal inhibitions talking me out of it.
A week had passed since my intimate moment with the devout couple. The memory had all ready began to fade, and I was back at work serving a 4-top when my phone buzzed deep inside my apron pocket.An abnormally long number with symbols caused an abrupt sprint from my table to the back of the restaurant.
“Matt!?” I shrilled.
“Hey babe, can you talk or are you at work?”
“No, no, I can talk, I can talk. What’s up? Are you okay? I miss you!” I said in one breath.
“Miss you too, but I have some news and I wanted to be the first one to tell you.” He said with a long pause. “Have you heard any of the rumors?”
Another pause and I held my breath, afraid if I sucked in any more air this moment would deflate.
“We’re coming home in two weeks. There’s a problem with the flight deck and it needs to be repaired.”
In the same moment my manager came out of the break room, eyeing me, “Shannon get off your …”
“MATT’S COMING HOME! HE’S COMING HOME!” I screamed jumping up and down.
Christmas would come that year after all and it was wrapped with the answered prayers from a faceless, nameless couple. Chalk it up to coincidence if you must, it might’ve happened regardless. I mulled over the chance phenomena until it was left semi-tasteless and decided some of the best things in life are better left unsaid.