It’s hard to describe what it’s like to place the fate of your relationship on two short weeks or what it felt like to know he would be here, then be gone just as quickly. We were both very aware that things could go perfectly during the time he was home, but at the end of those 14 days, he would be back in Afghanistan and then in Seattle when he was finally home. We were also painfully aware of all that had happened between us in the last 12 months, and that it had all happened without any face-to-face, eye-to-eye conversations between us. It’s a weird, unsettling feeling. On the other hand, we had talked just about everything to death, so there was a level of excitement present about being able to finally see what it would be like to actually BE TOGETHER.
I was so nervous. I was nervous it would go perfectly and I would be brokenhearted to see him leave again. I was nervous of what it meant if we decided to commit to each other and give the relationship a chance. I was nervous that we would be awkward and have nothing to say to each other. I was nervous that we would fight and decide that it wasn’t worth it and the last year would have been a waste. It was scary, considering all of the what-ifs and uncertainties.
I’ll never forget getting that phone call. Z was supposed to land SOMETIME that Saturday, but it was likely to be later that afternoon. I woke up with knots in my stomach, nervous and excited. It had been a YEAR since I had seen him, 10 months of that time he’d been in Afghanistan. I was sitting in my chair, sipping coffee in my pajamas when that unknown number popped up on my phone. I knew it was Zach. I answered and heard his voice sounding closer than it had sounded in over a year. He was here.
You’ve never seen anyone move so fast. My roommates jumped into action and provided emotional and wardrobe support as I rushed through my shower and picked out an outfit and tried to breathe normally.
I don’t remember the ride to the airport. I remember shaking as I drove up to the arrivals terminal and I remember how my heart stopped when I saw him standing there in his uniform. He looked so skinny. I put my car in park before I had come to a full stop (he gave me a hard time about that later) and jumped out into his arms. Hugging him was the best feeling I had in a long time. I cried...sobbed, really. I’m sure we made a scene. But that moment seemed to wash away the past 12 months of pain and I was just happy.
I don’t remember anything about the ride from the airport to his parent’s house. He held my hand, but that’s all I know. I dropped him off and tried to leave as quickly as possible…I felt like I was interfering with his time with his family and it was still awkward for me to see them after everything that happened between Z and I over the past year. I hated leaving, but knew it was the right thing to do at that time. And having him in the same city was infinitely better than across the world.
Honestly, I don’t have many memories of the next two weeks. I know we spent a lot of time together and I know the time we spent together was wonderful. Not totally perfect, not free of tension or disagreements, but way better than I had hoped it would be. I know that everything changed after those 14 days. We were together, we were happy, we were going to work it out. We didn’t have the answers and there were still so many questions, but we were finally on the same page.
Here we are during his R&R:
Here we are during his R&R:
I don’t remember what it was like to say goodbye to him again either. I know it was hard, and I know I was so sad, but there was also a lot of hope. He would be home for good in two more months. And Seattle suddenly didn’t seem so far away. We made plans for me to go visit him as soon as he was back in the States, in July of 2010.
The months after he got back were challenging, but so good. We tried to see each other as much possible, going back and forth between Atlanta and Seattle. I still hated the distance and I still wasn’t so sure about the whole “Army life” but I loved Z and those things were secondary to that.
The rest, as they say, is history. After we made it through the year of deployment, we spent the next 6 months dating “normally” and enjoying every bit of it. We started talking about marriage in late 2010, looked at rings when he was in Atlanta over the holidays, and were engaged on Valentine’s Day of 2011, a little over two years after we first met.
I never stopped struggling with the distance while we dating or during the engagement. It took me a LONG time to be comfortable with the Army aspect of his life, now OUR life and I still struggle with it sometimes. But we’re together now, and it’s just that much sweeter after all the time we spent apart.
So there it is. Our story, from the beginning. And now here we are. I couldn’t be happier to be Z’s wife and I couldn’t be prouder of his military service. It’s not always easy, but it is always an adventure and one that I’ll gladly be part of with Zach for as long as he serves. I’m so thankful for how it has turned out…and I’m so overwhelmed that this is still just the beginning.