Last Saturday evening, just before sunset, the Littles and I made the short drive home from the airport. No tears were shed, only silly songs sung and giggles shared between my 4- and 5-year-olds who, on the surface, are much like their peers (though parents of military children know otherwise.) As I look back at their smiles in the rear view mirror, it sinks in that they have truly become indoctrinated into this lifestyle of ours, where curbside, pier side, or sleepy-eyed bedside goodbyes in the dark are simply par for the course.
As an active duty submariner, their father comes and goes, often unpredictably, sort of like “the time traveler.” When we return home from our drive, I try my best as the time traveler’s wife to explain that it will be many months until they hug their father again. They don’t fully understand time yet, so I illustrate the length in number of birthdays, school events, and seasons. They “kind of” get it.
I decided in advance of my husband’s departure that the following day, Sunday, would be the day I would attempt my first run of the year. Five miles over the Admiral Clarey Bridge to Ford Island and back home. It’s my favorite run, my favorite running distance (not sure why), but I had not run it in a while. After setting no running goal in 2016, I chose a goal of 700 miles for 2017. I knew I wanted to start strong, even if it was not terribly fast (note: it is never “fast”). My objective was simply to finish.
Sunday morning, God gifted us with a sky that was unusually sharp and clear. When I opened our front door, it felt like I was cracking open the refrigerator door in a warm kitchen. The air was crisp and the chill instantly refreshing. I took it as a sign that I would have a good run, and, despite a Fitbit ‘malfunction’ (my fault), the dreaded “forgot to unpause RunKeeper after the light turned green at the crosswalk”, and awkward sports bra fail, I DID.
I made an extra effort to observe things along my route. In an attempt to be present, I tried to “sense” everything around me – the bridge and its rolling elevations under my feet, the sweet salt of the ocean air, the stillness of the Arizona Memorial reflected on the sea below, and the grandeur of the Mighty Mo – her impressive battery piercing the sky. My body took every opportunity it could to remind me that I had taken a fairly significant break from running last year and that I needed to take it easy and enjoy it. My mind replied to my body’s signals with repeated reminders to smile and the conviction that the human body really IS built to move like this even though I felt discomfort. A quiet self-awareness started to settle in. The more I ran, the more I felt “at home” in my own body.
As I crossed the bridge again on the way home, I stopped to take a photo of the boats in the marina. I felt a connection to what I saw. In a way, I had been mentally and emotionally “moored” for the last year after my first marathon, but like the boats listing there by the dock, I had been patiently waiting to be “untied” so I could once again journey out to sea. For a while I feared losing my passion for running, but in this moment I knew it was still in me – I only needed to have faith that the waiting was part of the process.
Later that day, I caught the Littles on separate occasions standing quietly, alone. First, my daughter staring out the front door, then my son staring at his daddy’s side of the bed. When they realized I was there, they simply said, “Mommy, I miss Daddy” and continued about their day. In my growing up, this chronic absenteeism would have signaled abandonment, but for my children, the “missing” and the waiting is a part of their normal. They have a blind faith that they will see Daddy again, though they are unsure when the waiting will end. Thinking back to my run and those boats in the marina, it sinks in that as painful and difficult as it can be to fully embrace at times, we accept a simple but important truth as our way of life: Sailors belong at sea. And life, indeed, runs on.