"Don't hold in your emotions; get them out now. Or else you'll end up like me, cynical and unpredictable."
This was my advice to my coworker as we traveled out of state for a work conference. Next to me, our other coworker burst out laughing... only because she knows it's true. I'm not sure at what point I realized that I might be too cynical... but I can at least explain the unpredictable.
About a month and a half ago, my brother and his wife told our family that he was going over to Afghanistan for a year in the middle of October. When he told me, I was kind of shocked, but otherwise just asked questions about how R was going to handle being a new bride in their apartment all alone for a year.
About three weeks ago, my sister and I brought our kids to stay the weekend with them. We went shopping and went to the zoo and had pizza and played X-box together. The kids had a blast, which was what AJ wanted. As we left that Sunday morning to drive back home, my little sister bawled. She was doing what I should have done too... letting it all out. I should have gotten in more hugs and more pictures and just been unafraid to show a little emotion. Instead I gulped it down and tried not to think about it too much. AJ wasn't leaving for another three weeks or so, so there was no use in crying.
Since then, we have talked a little on the phone and we were all a little bummed when we couldn't have the going away BBQ that we had planned because everyone's schedules were too crazy.
Last week, as I was packing to go out of state, I realized that I could catch up with AJ and R for dinner on my way to the airport. Excited, I sent a text and we set a time and place. As I was washing dishes, I felt that lump in my throat and tightness in my stomach. I had to fight back tears and make my mind change the subject as I started to realize that this would be the last time I saw my little brother for maybe a whole year. And... oh dear God, don't even think forever...
I had to run to the bathroom and blow my nose and do deep breathing exercises to make the tears stop. After all, AJ has already been to Iraq twice. He was fine. Besides, I pray for him all the time to come back to God... surely God isn't going to let anything happen to him while he is over there. He has to return to Him first! Right?!
So, push, push, push. I shoved those emotions and questions way down deep. I finished packing and later that day, we set off for the airport. On the way, I warned Lilo (my coworker) that I might bawl all the way to the hotel after dinner with my brother. She said that would be fine, and we both went into dinner fully prepared.
But I didn't. I gave AJ a good long hug goodbye and we worked out a plan to get Skype up and running so that he and the kids could talk a lot. They know him so well now and love him so much. Now that they are older... they realize more.
So, I made it through the goodbye. Clear sailing (well, flying) from here on out. Operation Repress Emotions complete. I am totally turning into my grandmother... But wait, there's more.
We get to the airport. Me and my two coworkers. We happen to be flying into DFW. During screening and all that good stuff, I notice quite a few guys (they look so young) in military uniforms. But, I am also quite intent on finding some good coffee. Little do I know I will have to settle for Starbucks (another blog).
As we are boarding and I am obliviously and quite happily drinking coffee and making sure I have the right boarding pass, I hear Red say, "Oh look, that is sooooo sad. Oh, and she's pregnant."
Just then I notice one of those boys in uniform enveloping his tiny, sobbing wife in the sweetest, saddest embrace. He has twenty more minutes to hug her before he has to board, presumably overseas for a long time. I blink quickly and look away, trying desperately not to picture my brother hugging R the same way in less than a week. And where do I look? Right over to another crying, hugging couple. Duh. Of course. At this point I can feel that awful welling up in my eyes. Tears? Now? Are you kidding me?
So, here I am, handing my I.D. and boarding pass to the attendant with tears streaming down my face. I must look like a complete idiot. And it doesn't stop there. I let my eyes leak, and now the floodgates have burst.
On the plane, there must have been another ten military men... all of whom were leaving families behind to serve their country. They looked quizzically at the crazy, crying lady as she sniffed and tried not to make eye contact with anyone on her way down the aisle (and of course we were at the back of the plane). All I could think was, next Friday, one of them will be my brother. Deploying for the third time before his 30th birthday.
I sobbed all during taxi and take off. Eventually I had to give in to the fact that I was going to be a teary mess, so I just did my best not to actually make weird crying noises.
So, that leads me back to the beginning of this blog. Later on that same day, after I had apologized and made fun of myself, I was giving advice to Red. Don't hold it in, let it out. If you need to cry, get your cry on while it's safe and appropriate... otherwise the tears will just wait until the moment that you least expect it. And there are few other things that make one appear crazier than bursting into tears out of the blue.
Seriously though. I love my little brother. He is a good man with a fabulous wife. I am praying fervently that God will protect him, and above all else, that AJ will begin walking with God again. If nothing else, at least that.
** Names have been changed to protect the innocent **