This post will probably make more sense if you've read the other posts I've written about marriage. Here they are:
State of Our Union, The Very Beginning, Pre-Kids and Homecoming Driven.
Let me first start out by saying that this particular post has been very difficult to write. I have put a lot of thought into what I wanted to share publicly. Above all, I want these posts about our marriage to hopefully encourage you and help those who have either gone through a wartime deployment, or may go through one in the future... So, here it is.
After six months of deployment, Joel came home from Iraq in August 2007. The day that I waited anxiously for finally came. It was time. I remember sitting in the airport with Grace on my lap, and just thinking about all the time I spent over the past 6 months just yearning for this moment. And it was finally here.
Joel walked through the doors of the terminal with his arms wide open. That moment was a blur. I just wanted to hold on to him. I wanted to study Grace's reaction toward him. I wanted the television cameras to go away so we could just be. Above all, I just wanted to hold on to him, to get his bags in the car and to go home and leave the deployment behind us.
It was on the ride home that I realized that things were different. As I was sitting next to him in the car and holding his hand, I felt disconnected. It's hard to describe, but I felt like a stranger was coming home with me. Six months changes a person. Six months as a single mom and having to make all the decisions changes you. And certainly six months in a war zone changes you. I knew there would be an adjustment but I was not prepared to feel so disconnected from him immediately.
We had a welcome home party, looked at his Iraq pictures and unpacked his bags. As far as I was concerned, the Iraq-saga was over. But slowly during the first few weeks back home, Joel started sharing about his experiences and I quickly discovered that Iraq came home with him.
I knew Joel would be different. I knew war would change him. I knew that he would see things, experience things and do things that would leave an imprint. But I wasn't prepared for him to be so different. The Joel I knew was patient. Iraq made him angry. The Joel I knew was sensitive toward me. Iraq made him rude. The Joel I knew was tender toward Grace. Iraq made him quick-tempered. The Joel I knew was consistent. Iraq made him moody.
The man I loved was different. Iraq changed him. And I didn't love what Iraq did to him. I struggled to love the man that he had become. And that's what our marriage became - a struggle. It was like Joel and I were on opposite ends of a rope playing a terrible game of tug of war. He was pulling me in - wanting me to understand who he had become. And I was pulling him toward me - wanting him to become who he once was.
Part II coming soon...