My husband's first deployment spoiled me for how things ought to work. As the deployment neared its end, we got word when they'd be returning. We got frequent updates. Then on that day, we got a call saying they had landed and were home, and that families could report to the gym in two hours. We all showed up with signs and balloons, they marched the soldiers in, the commander gave a quick speech, and they released the soldiers into their families' loving arms.
That went like clockwork.
I have never repeated the experience.
Last year when my husband returned from Iraq, they were delayed a week. Every morning we'd get a call telling us when to show up to get them, and then every day it would get canceled. Finally on Friday evening we got a frantic call: "Hurry up, they're on the buses, they're on their way NOW!" We dropped everything to run get there. Some wives were in the middle of dinner at a restaurant; they left their uneaten food on the table to race out the door.
We all arrived breathless...and then waited another five hours. On concrete picnic tables.
So this week, when my husband speculated that he'd be home around midnight, I probably should've expected that our second deployment experience was more likely than our first...
First of all, I knew I'd never sleep. So I was going to wait up for him. I started watching TV and staring at the clock. At 1:30, I was discouraged. I figured I ought to try to get some rest, so I shut off the lights to sleep. When I woke up at 4 AM, I was a bit nervous; what if something happened to them? When I woke again at 5 AM, I just got really sad. And then I started having dream after dream of all the things that could've gone wrong with the flight.
He finally called at 6:30 AM. I got to pick him up at 8:00.
Those hours in between when you think your spouse might arrive and when they actually do, those hours are awful. The waiting with no info on what's going on, the speculation on what all could be going wrong, the complete uncertainty as to when they might actually show up...they're exhausting. And from my experience, it's bad whether it happens during the day or in the middle of the night.
But once they're home, happily none of it matters.
However, now my experience runs 2-to-1. I hope next time I expect the unexpected and either finish my dinner or just go to bed.
I think I'll just add five hours to whatever arrival time they give me.