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Afghanistan

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“It’s raining kisses, Daddy!”

It was my daughter’s fourth birthday party, and she was throwing Hershey Kisses to my husband, who was sitting next to me on the grass. He grinned and pulled her into a bear hug, that playful smile on his face never faltering.

As she ran off to go play with her friends, he turned to me. “My, my, my,” he said, shaking his head. “Our little Sophie is growing up so fast.”

I would have smiled at him, laughed about all of the good times we’d had with our daughter, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Though it was my daughter’s birthday, today was one of the saddest days of my life.

The threat of Afghanistan had been looming closer every day, and now it was upon us. Tonight my husband would be leaving for weeks, months, years, however long it took. Sophie didn’t know yet; she wouldn’t understand. And honestly, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she might never see her father again.

Once the party guests had all left, I called to her. “Sophie,” I said. “Come inside please. Me and Daddy have to tell you something.”

I took a deep breath and tried to swallow the lump in my throat. I had tried to put off this moment, the final goodbye. It was all I could do to keep from crying.

We all sat down at the kitchen table, my husband and I holding hands. “Sophie,” he began, “I have to go away.”

“Away?” she inquired.

“For a while,” he replied.

“How long?”

“I…I don’t know.” As he tried to explain the situation while downplaying the intensity of it, all three of us began to cry. He stood up and gathered us in a hug, not at all like the bear hug he had given Sophie earlier. This hug was frantic, as if we were sand, falling through his fingers. We stood there together and cried until the car came to take him to the airport.

_________________________



Two years later, the letter came. I picked it up from the mailbox after I finished weeding the flower patch. When I saw who it was from, I dropped my gardening gloves on the sidewalk and ran inside. I sat down on the sofa, forcing myself not to panic. Slowly, with a trembling hand, I opened the envelope and unfolded the letter. ‘Dear Mrs. Robinson,’ it began. I slowly read the letter, absorbing each and every word. Tears came to my eyes, threatening to spill over. “Sophie!” I cried. “Come here!”

“What is it, Mom?” asked Sophie, running down the stairs. She sat down next to me and I pulled her into a hug.

“Daddy’s coming home.”

_________________________



We drove to the airport a week later, late at night. I had tried to take a nap earlier, but I couldn’t possibly think about sleep.

We stood at the gate together, counting down the minutes until his plane got in, unable to wait.

At last, a figure emerged from the plane. He saw me and stopped. He stood there a moment, and then ran to me, lifting up Sophie and pulling me into his arms. We stood there like that for quite a while, none of us wanting to leave. Then finally, Sophie leaned in and kissed her father on the cheek. “Daddy,” she whispered. “It’s raining kisses.”





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