Lately I have been having many small moments of panic: brief moments of clarity when I momentarily realize just how drastic our lives are going to change once we move and that perhaps I am not as confident as I once thought I was about the whole thing. I generally recover myself rather quickly of course, once I remind myself of all the reasons we are doing this, and continue on until the next moment stops me in my tracks.
Last night I had a moment I am still trying to recover from.
In our world - one of multiple relocations and a high turn over rate in friendships - it is rare to find a family where both couples and their children genuinely like one another for reasons beyond similar circumstance and places of employment. We have been so fortunate to have met some very wonderful people here in this town and I've always known the hardest part of all this would be the farewells. I was not expecting to have to face it quite so soon.
We have many friends here, and many we've seen come and go, but one particular couple and their son have really become family to us. Over the years we have shared many meals, from ordinary week day suppers and weekend BBQ's to Thanksgiving dinners and birthday celebrations. We have countless precious memories, hundreds of photos, and many, many shared experiences that make up a friendship we'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else. We've known for a long time that the military member of that family was slated to go over seas this summer to take his turn in the Sand Box, but between his date being moved up and our whirlwind spring - the date has arrived all too quickly. We planned to play host to our dear friends last night as a farewell send off, but as usual, with a busy weekend, I didn't think much about it until just before they arrived. All of a sudden, while cutting potatoes in the kitchen and seeing their truck driving down the street toward our house - such a common occurance as to be almost mundane - I was struck with the realization that this will be the last time we'll have this family, all together, at this house for dinner. Theoretically, if all goes according to plan, we will not longer be living in this province when he returns from his tour.
I felt like someone had punched the wind out of me. Before I knew it I was standing in front of them and it was all I could do not to burst out in tears. I am not a person who cries easily, but the entire evening for me became one of constant restraint. As fond as we all are of these friends, Rhian is probably the best example of how much this man will be missed. She has known him from a very early age and has always thought of him as a member of our family. As I watched them laughing and joking around last night, as is usual, I realized that as young as she is, the next time she sees him she won't be that comfortable around him anymore. I tried to explain to her that this goodbye was for a long time, that he will be away and we'll be gone when he comes home, but she has no concept whatsoever of what that means; she still thinks when we come back to visit she can sleep in her old room. All she'll know is that this much-loved family friend came over for supper one night, as he has countless times before, and she never saw him again. She will of course see him, but not as she does now; none of us remember things as we knew them at five years old. It nearly killed me to watch Steve say goodbye as well - this friend has been a huge support in all the training and major decisions Steve has made over the past year. He has a unique understanding of the world we are entering, making his support and advice invaluable.
I know part of why this is especially difficult for me is for the simple reason that it is the first of many. Its not like this is even the first time we've faced this kind of thing; last year one of my closest friends moved to the other side of the country and I felt like she took my right arm with her, I was so lost. But being left behind is different than being the one leaving. Thats where the panic comes in. I was perfectly content to deal with the stresses of selling this house, buying a new one and organizing a move to Ontario - and to leave the emotional part of it for later. I hadn't even truly considered how I would handle the good-byes, as they were down the road, something I could always worry about later on. All of a sudden I get hit with the reality that it is not easy to look at a person you've come to care about and send them off without any idea of when you might see them again. In fact, its damn hard. I am so thankful I still have a couple months - at least - to spend with the rest of their family and to prepare myself for the other good-byes we will have to face. I will not lose sight again of how important it is to cherish the moments we have with our "military family", and I look forward to the many memories we have yet to make before we leave.
As for our most recent military member to make the trip "over there", I just want to say this: take care my friend. Stay safe, keep in touch and we will take very good care of your wonderful wife and son while we can. You will be missed.