"taleS froM the trencheS

National Guard wife blogging about her adventures with three sons and the unexpected joys of Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS)
....um, yes. They are tears of joy. Really.

Our Squad

Our Squad

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

My birthdays have historically been a bust. As a child, the heaviest snow of the season always fell the night before, cancelling my party. Growing up and a getting new last name did not changed my luck. I spent my first married birthday on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and a “Lifetime Movie” because my husband Charlie was five states away. The funeral for Charlie’s dear Gram was held on my twenty sixth birthday and my thirty second birthday was completely forgotten. (On the other hand, that birthday has the best “ending” with a romantic dinner and new living furniture!) But January 7, 2008 is one for the record books. On the morning of my thirty sixth birthday, Charlie’s Ohio National Guard Unit was scheduled to leave their Armory for a twelve month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Like all events in our life, things are magnified because of our son Garrett was born with Smith-Magenis Syndrome. “I think Garrett needs to see you get on the bus and ride away,” I said to Charlie. “I am afraid Garrett will believe you are at the firehouse and he will be expecting you home every morning.” Charlie is a full time firefighter and works a 24 hour shift, every third day. This does not help Garrett’s concept of time.
In the weeks leading up to Deployment Day, we tried to teach the boys how long a year is by marking a 2008 calendar with different events and explaining that Daddy will not be there. Our two younger sons, Patrick and Brennan, were upset at first, but we practiced talking on the webcam, writing letters and drawing pictures. When Deployment Day arrived, the five of us pulled into the parking lot loaded down with Charlie’s duffel bags and made our way inside the Armory. Just inside the doorway was a gumball machine, identical to the one at K-Mart.
“K-Mart!” Garrett exclaimed. “Let’s go! K-Mart! K-Mart!” We crossed the threshold and Garrett realized we were not at K-Mart after all. A full-blown meltdown began.
I managed to grab a big juicy apple from the VFW ladies before I carried a hysterical Garrett to the van. “K-Mart! K-Mart! K-Mart!” Twenty minutes later, I stood in the parking lot with two crying boys. Patrick was stuck to Charlie’s leg and Brennan was a puddle on the ground, yet we could still hear Garrett crying out from the van, “K-Mart! K-Mart!” Apparently, coming to see Daddy climb the steps to the bus was not one of my best ideas.
One quick kiss and Charlie was gone.
Once home, I left the boys in front of the television and went outside to remove the Christmas lights. When the last of Christmas 2007 was packed away, I headed back inside for some hot coffee. I was planning a good “pity party” since all hope of a birthday celebration was gone.
Garrett met me at the front door. “Close eyes!” he said. That phrase never fails to make me nervous. He led me into the kitchen and said, “Open!” The three boys, each with a large plastic spatula in hand and a beaming smile on their face, were positioned around the kitchen table.
“Happy birthday!” Patrick and Brennan sang out as Garrett cried, “Merry Christmas!”
In the center of the table was my biggest mixing bowl, over flowing with dark water. All around the table laid empty containers: a milk carton, a peanut butter jar, a maple syrup bottle, a honey jar and an egg carton. My apple from the VFW was floating in the middle. “What are those white things swimming around the apple?” I asked.
“Marshmallows!” Patrick replied. “It’s time to bake the cake, but we aren’t allowed to touch the stove.”
It seems this birthday was not a bust after all…

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