I live in the shadow of an international airport. I see its tower every day. When I drive to soccer, it's on my left; to ballet, it's on the right. When I drive to the grocery store or daily Mass, it's right in front of me. Taunting. Reminding.
How many days until he leaves? How many days until he comes home? How many hours until I make the 17 minute drive, pulling to a stop at the very end of the upper deck, my heart leaping as I get that first glimpse of him?
This airport is woven into our life. We chose our neighborhood because of its proximity to the airport. We went into this lifestyle with our eyes wide open. I don't have a substantial paying job in this two-income economy. But we do have two incomes. For as long as my children can remember, my husband has worked two jobs.
One job takes him an hour from our home into the heart of Washington, DC every day. He commutes without complaint in a town known for complaining commuters. The other job takes him out of town nearly every weekend to produce live sporting events all over the country. Sometimes, there is a perfect storm and the weekday job requires travel, too. All those sportscasters don't just magically appear on location on South Beach for the Super Bowl. Someone goes there well in advance to make television magic happen. I know him well. He left today. I hear it's going to snow. And snow...
And, so, the missing begins. I remind myself that he is not deployed. He's producing television shows about a football game in Miami.He will work long days, but he will be safe. Two weeks hence, he will come home.
This is our life. There is a constant cycle of coming and going. I don't often write about it because it's probably unwise to publicize it too often in public spaces. [Note to the bad guys: Dad might be gone, but there are three man-boys in this family. They are all six feet tall. Two of them are more man than boy and the third is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. And we have a very big dog.] Despite the lack of print it receives here, travel is big part of our family culture. And it very much plays into this. "I can't do that" because my husband works very long hours and travels frequently. Conversely, I don't have to do that because my husband works two jobs in order to give me the freedom to focus intensely on hearth and home and family. It is a lifestyle that is not without considerable sacrifice on both our parts, but it is the lifestyle that works for our family right now.
So, we each endeavor to make the best of what we do. We work hard at those survival strategies. Still, sometimes, at the end of the day--quite literally--all there is is the missing. I sleep on his side of his bed when he's gone. At least for the first couple of nights, the pillows still smell like him. I'm sitting there now, wrapped in a ginormous bathrobe with DAD monogrammed on it.
For the next two weeks, I will endeavor to make life run as smoothly as possible, though there will surely be too much on my plate. I will make sure that every child gets picked up and dropped off and, as much as possible, every game will be watched. I will try hard to stay up later than my teenagers and make sure no one is online, on the phone, or watching television because I fell asleep nursing. I will put dinner on the table every night, despite the temptation to serve cereal in paper bowls. Lessons will be learned, books will be read, tutors will be paid. Children will be tucked into bed and kissed goodnight after prayers are said.
With God as my helper, I will do it with grace and good cheer. I will do it with gratitude. Because to do so honors the man who works so hard to bring to life his vision for home. But with every breath and every moment, I will miss him. I will miss flirty text messages throughout the day that hint at evening's homecoming. I will miss squeals of glee from tiny girls when they hear his footsteps in the foyer. I will miss the careful dance we do to meet the daily needs of our children together. I will miss meeting his eyes with twinkling appreciation above the melee of our family life. I will miss tracing my finger along his cheek at night before I fall asleep with his strong arms around me. And I will miss slipping out of bed in the morning , knowing that he will gather our baby girl in those arms and sing her back to sleep.
I will be grateful for my extraordinarily generous husband. I will be grateful for these children, this home, this life. And if I find myself in the chaos of my life wishing instead that I were in a hotel on Biscayne Bay, it's only because he is there.