I never took Roger’s Estwing hammer to his leg, but we did talk about it.
The days before his deployments were torture. Knowing he would be away from our little family for seven months or more seemed impossible to get through. His trips came to our family when the kids were newborns, tots, and in high school. He would spend seven months on a ship, half a year in Okinawa, or too much time in Iraq. A week or two before he left, tension in the house was quite strong.
“You don’t even care about leaving. How are you not sad?” I would ask him many, many times.
“I am sad,” he replied every time. I knew he was, but his outsides didn’t look like my insides.
There was a sense of relief when he finally took off on a deployment, because you can’t count down the days until they begin. I would always come home, clean the house (except for his coffee mug and laundry), and write him the first letter. Before he left, though, there was an audible quiet that weighed us down.
“What if you took a hammer to my leg?” He would begin the conversation this way before each deployment.
“Ok,” was my traditional reply.
For the record, the hammer talk was fantastical chatter on our part, mostly when my tears began after the boys went to sleep. We would have our time to talk in bed and sometimes it made us feel better because of the absurdity of it. Our conversations were in jest because he would never leave his fellow marines, and well, other obvious reasons.
It was our lottery talk, our pillow talk. We fantasized about spending regular days together as one would talk about what kind of car they would buy. Instead of buying mansions and Rolex watches, we talked about Christmas together and Sunday mornings with Peanuts and pancakes.
During our fantasies, we skipped past the actual hammering his leg because all I could do was shake my head to make the vision go away faster. When we got to the part of him staying home and me taking care of him with his broken leg while the rest of the marines went on deployment, that’s where I rested and lingered.
“Do you think you would have actually done this if you knew Dad would die?” Sammy said this when I told him we used to have these conversations.
“Someone else would have died,” I said. I’m not sure what to think about that one. Either way, I’m glad I didn’t know.
That takes me to the day we hugged for the last time in our bedroom at Shamrock Drive. It’s difficult to have this fantasy alone, because he’s the only one who understood, the only one who would understand.