*(Boys, don’t read.)
It was the day after Easter, April 13th, 2009. I remember standing in my bedroom which was ground-level, an old garage made into a den that we used for our master bedroom when the boys kept being born over and over again and we needed more rooms. The rest of the house was on a crawlspace. That den was actually the selling point of the house on Shamrock Drive. One whole wall was covered in a wallpaper mural of an autumn scene just like that in Massachusetts where Roger and I were each born and raised. We paid $68,501 for the house in 2002, and we so loved it.
That Monday after Easter in 2009 came fast. I felt short and weak, lonely and terrified. We heard a horn beep and I felt like I would be sick. It was time.
I’m not quite sure how my arms and legs were functioning. I heard him walk, desert tan boots meeting the oak floors in the skinny hallway, and go to Tyler’s room. There was quiet talking, but not much of it. This second, I don’t remember him saying goodbye to Sammy, Max, and Baylee, but I know he did. I just can’t remember it.
Some parts of that morning are gray, dark and blocking the figurative sun and the cheerful light, but we almost didn’t even have that time.
A week or two before, he called me.
“I just don’t want to say goodbye again. We already did it once,” I said, wondering if that was the right decision. We thought our goodbye a few months ago was it until after he came home from Iraq. He had been training in Georgia.
“I know,” he said.
“But I would like to see you before you go.”
“It would only be Easter weekend,” he warned.
“I know,” I said. “Let’s just do it.” I almost said no.
“Ok, let’s,” he said. There was excitement in his voice, relief. I instantly realized he wanted to come home, that it was me who was hesitant. What if I had said no.
He came home on that Friday, watched me pass my EMT test, then we spent the weekend together. Saturday was for friends, fire, and drinks in the backyard of our house. I remember seeing my friend, Laura wearing a brown strapless dress. She was pregnant and so radiant. I also remember seeing her husband, Rob. He had a new iPhone and was showing Roger his level app. He placed it on the railing to the back steps and the virtual liquid went to one side.
Sunday, Easter, was for just us. We had a big breakfast, the boys were excited about their Easter baskets, and we watched the clock.
It’s a blurry weekend in my mind, but the goodbye, my own goodbye to him, is something I can’t write about yet, maybe never. Maybe it’s the one thing I won’t share. It’s something we almost didn’t get to have, because I didn’t want to say goodbye again, because I didn’t want the boys to have to say it. Also, I didn’t want to see him walk away from us again, head down, feet shuffling, alone carrying a sea bag bigger than he was. He would be away for a year. One year. I was sad about that, angry, but now I would love to have had to be apart for one year. He would be home by the next spring, the following Easter.
It’s a sweet, chocolatey holiday with bright pinks and blues, multi-colored bubbles and whiffle bats. It’s for toddlers and babies and cheap Walmart toys like giant chalk, Matchbox cars, and 99-cent kites. But in my mind, Easter is dark and sharp, almost sickening.
I remember leaving his coffee mug in the sink for days, not wanting to wash his lip marks off of it. I remember deciding to move on from the goodbye and live our days until he came back. I remember washing his cup, and I remember secretly fantasizing about our reunion. What would I wear? What would I cook for him?
I didn’t even know the date until a couple months ago when I became stupidly curious, so I Googled it. Day after Easter 2009. April 13th. For some reason, I put it in my phone calendar because I thought it was an important date. This week, I had a notification.
Last day you saw Roger. We almost didn’t have it.