What matters most to me is family, but right now, one of my family members is not here.
Last March my dad told us that there was a chance he would be deployed overseas. My brother and I didn't think anything of it and forgot his warning. Two weeks later, Dad didn't come home on time. We didn't think it was serious since it wasn't the first time. We waited, and finally at midnight, we saw headlights in the driveway. When Dad came in, we asked where he'd been. He replied, "I am leaving tomorrow for Afghanistan."
When we heard that, we were in shock, thinking that this could not be happening to us. It seemed like a joke we wanted to go away, but when he started packing his desert uniforms we knew it was for real.
He sat us all down and Jeri (my dad's girlfriend), my brother Jarrod and I had a discussion about what we were going to do while he was away. And then we stayed up and helped him get ready. We ironed his uniforms and talked more about what I needed to do while he was gone, like maintain the vehicles and lots of other things. We didn't get to sleep until 4 a.m. Sleeping only four hours, my dad called school to explain we were not going to be there that day.
We put his gear in the car and took off for Madison and the military base where he would check in and get ready to depart. When we got there the commander told us that he wouldn't leave until 5 p.m. We had our last meal together and then headed to the airport.
It took an hour to check his bags and by the time he was done, the flight coordinator told us it was time to leave. We hugged him and said good-bye.
"Nothing is going to happen to me, and I love you," he said. Then he was gone. We left the airport not saying anything to each other.
My dad is still gone, and he won't be home for a while. He talks to us sometimes on the phone. I stay at my mom's house most of the time, but I also stay at my dad's house, too.
I hope that my story makes you think about your own family now and what matters to you.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.