Come Home

October 28, 2009
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“I love you.” Typically every girl wishes to hear those words said to her. In my case I hate them. I love you in reality means good-bye, and I hope to see you soon. “I love you” were the last words that I heard from my father before he left for Iraq this spring. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken my father away from me for the second time. Before this latest deployment to Iraq, my father served in several other locations.
I wake up every morning wondering, where is he? Is he okay? Is he even alive? These questions run through my head all day long. Whether its walking through the halls at school, hanging out with my friends, or eating dinner, I am constantly praying that he is all right. I am always walking on eggshells when talking to my mother because I know how strong she is trying to be even though she is ready to fall apart. If I say the wrong thing she will break down completely, feeling as if she has failed. Often when I see her crying she tells me, “Chelsea, I am so sorry. I am trying my best to keep this house running. Please bear with me.” Since I know that she is trying her best instead of complaining when things aren’t going right, I try accepting that he is gone and hope things will get better. The computer crashed; ants are invading the house, and the bathroom ceiling is falling apart. Nothing seems to be going smoothly and she is having a difficult time doing it all on her own. To try to help, I keep all my feelings inside of me trying to stay strong for her just as she is trying to be strong for me.
It just isn’t fair. My dad missed his daughters’ first year of life because he was away serving in Korea. When he served in Egypt he missed my first experiences in high school. He has served in Kuwait yet again protecting this nation. He served a year in Afghanistan serving in the “Operation Enduring Freedom” which was over 15 months long. Now he has to serve in Iraq for a year? It just isn’t fair.
Growing up physically and mentally occurs even though my dad is gone. The last time that my dad came back from Afghanistan my sister and I were children that he barely knew. We struggled as a family because my dad did not understand how to relate with us anymore. Physically I had long hair and glasses while the last time he had seen me I had short hair without glasses. But mentally was a much tougher transition. I was no longer a kid and didn’t enjoy the things I did when I was younger. The silly jokes weren’t funny, and the “tickle bugs” were just annoying. This caused an uncomfortable barrier in our relationship because I had grown up; he was not use to it. Eventually my father and I began to know how to relate with each other through sports and other activities which brought our bond just as strong and tight as before.
No one knows how to empathize with my family. Since everyone knows how many times the National Guard has called upon his duty to serve, they think that saying good-bye gets easier each time. How does that make any sense? It is just as difficult each time. My mother and I go on pretending that what these well meaning neighbors and friends say is all right, but they don’t understand. We just politely answer, “Yes, we are fine,” when deep down we aren’t. The good-byes are never easy, and the welcome homes are never soon enough.
Winning shoreline champions and making it to the state finals in volleyball was an immense achievement for me, and my dad was not able to share it with me. He was away training in Pennsylvania for their upcoming tour in Iraq. Although he was not overseas, he was still not here, home, with my family. Screaming, yelling, cheering, all the girls jumped up and down after our shoreline champion victory, but I was in my mother’s arms in tears because I was upset my father had missed this accomplishment. At that moment, I had finally realized that my father would not only miss this event, but also many others.
Banging forks at the dinner table, music quizzes in the car, playing golf in front of the television were all annoying four months ago. But today, I miss all my dad’s little quirks.
At four o’clock in the morning, my mom in her robe, my sister and I in our pajamas, stand with my father in his uniform. This is the last memory I have of my entire family together. Dad held us all in close wishing that he could stay and protect us, but he knew our country needed his protection. After these few minutes when we were all together, it was time for my dad to let us go, walk towards the door, and leave. While in his arms surrounded by my mom and sister I starred at my feet because I couldn’t tolerate looking at his face. I looked up noticing that his usual crisp blue eyes had turned pink and filled with water. He never cries, never. But saying good-bye had brought tears to his eyes streaming down his face. I felt as if watching him go was playing in slow motion, as if I couldn’t get the image of him leaving out of my mind. Before he left us and walked out the door, he made sure he turned around to say, “I love you.”





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