Sunday, October 28, 2018

Dear Daddy - Goodbye and Thank Goodness for TSA (Week 1)

We've never been grateful for TSA. We know they are there for a reason - to keep us safe. We know they protect crazies and criminals from doing harm. We know that most of them mean well. We know that their job is hard and they are often not treated with respect or kindness or even civility. We know all of this and we appreciate their role in principle. But, truthfully, in practice we get annoyed with them and wish they were not part of our travel experience.

We travel a lot - A LOT. And EVERY. SINGLE. TIME, going through security is a challenge. We stand there in bare feet, trying to keep the kids corralled, waiting for the inevitable bag check, reminding the children of what they are supposed to do even though the requirements are never the same from airport to airport. We wait for the line of backpacks, snacks, cameras, iPads, empty water bottles, etc. to make their way through the scanner, waiting for...something. There's always something. Some random object that cannot be identified. The inflated football, that has to be deflated. The bag of candy that looks sinister on the X-ray. The battery that looks like anything but. Etc., etc., and so on.

We said goodbye to Daddy the first time 2 months ago. He stayed in Washington, DC, for 7 weeks of training for his next assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan, while the rest of us flew home to Shanghai. He took us to the airport, walked us to security, and told us goodbye. We cried at the airport, all of us. It was hard. We were tired and anxious and sad. We talked about the next time we would be together. We promised to talk on the phone every day. We exchanged long looks questioning the wisdom of this plan. We hugged and hugged and hugged. But, eventually it was time and we joined the security line.

And, there they were. TSA. Full of unanticipated rule changes. Full of directions and admonitions and signals to move and stop and take off one more layer. Full of long, slow-moving lines. And mercifully, full of distractions. As the instructions were issued and followed the lingering glances shifted. As the shoes and jackets and bags were removed and placed on the conveyor belt the sobbing ceased. And as we collected our belongings and organized ourselves the tears dried. Going through security distracted us from our distress and forced us back to normalcy.

This week we said goodbye again. We stood in our living room to say our goodbyes. We expected it to be like the time before, but it was so much worse. We all knew it was coming, but that didn't seem to mitigate any emotions. It was shoulder shaking, breath catching, throat burning, ugly crying, painful. Daddy cried too - never a good sign. And then the car was there and loaded and it was time, again. Daddy got in the car and drove away. We closed the door and sobbed. It was Monday and that night we cried ourselves to sleep. And the next day we cried, sobbed really, some more. And the next day and the next and the next. Mommy seems to be taking it the hardest, which has surprised us all - even Mommy.

By the end of the week it was time to go camping with the Boy Scouts and hiking with the Cub Scouts and celebrate Halloween. And, as life inevitably goes on, so have we with it. Daddy's new normal is a room somewhere in Afghanistan, and ours is almost the same as it was before apart from one very big change. And each day we learn to ignore, fill, or just pretend away the void.

A few days after Daddy left, we talked about how hard Monday had been compared with the goodbye in DC and we agreed the difference was that we were the ones "leaving" that time. And then someone said, "thank goodness for TSA." Back in DC, TSA and all its inconveniences had been there to distract us from our thoughts. There had been no TSA on Monday. Week one of this year comes to a close and we find ourselves missing Daddy and, incredibly, feeling grateful for TSA. Only 51 weeks to go.


Beijing TaiTai said...

Linsey, You are a magnificent story teller! I felt your grief so deeply, and continue to, and yet I felt the unusual sensation of relief that came after "hearing" the mention of what you were grateful for that had helped your grief the first time. So we have learned to find irritating distractions to get us back on course! My heart feels your real pain of this separation. How do we minister to each other so far away??? Prayers. Prayers that there will be those distractions and happy events and good friends that surround you. --and those wonderful phone calls. Love to you all.

sandberghale said...

Sending hugs to you all!


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