My husband Charlie was deployed for twelve months with the Ohio Army National Guard in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. A long separation is difficult for all families, but because we have a child with Smith-Magenis Syndrome, I felt especially overwhelmed. Garrett requires physical therapy for his low muscle tone, occupational therapy for his sensory issues and speech therapy for his speech delay and feeding problems. It was difficult to juggle all of these responsibilities and still tend to our two younger sons, Patrick and Brennan. After only one month into the deployment, I was beginning to feel pulled in three different directions.
Although he was eight, Garrett had no concept of time and believed Daddy could be walking through the door at any moment. When Daddy did not come home, Garrett cried off and on, throughout the day. Patrick, our kindergartener, knew exactly how long twelve months would be and he teared up at any mention of a holiday, school program or family event that Dad would miss. Brennan, age four, was ready to replace Charlie with any man that passed by. I had to continually reiterate that our Daddy would be coming home and that we were not shopping for a new one.
Finally, a “Carrie Wednesday” rolled around, the day we went to Children’s Hospital to visit Garrett’s favorite friend, the occupational therapist. The waiting room had a TV that played Disney movies and a magazine rack full of good reads. All four of us looked forward to “Carrie Wednesdays”.
As soon as we entered the building, Garrett grabbed Carrie’s hand and happily skipped off ready to go “play”. Patrick sat on the floor in front of the television playing “101 Dalmatians” and I was thrilled to find the latest issue of “Better Homes and Gardens”. I sat down in a chair ready for a whole hour of uninterrupted reading. I did not notice Brennan pointing to another parent on the opposite side of the room. “Look!” he shouted. “It’s an Army guy! Maybe he can be our new Daddy.”
Quickly, I scooped him up into my lap. “Use your indoor voice, Brennan,” I told him. “And it is not nice to point at someone.” I glanced at the man with a buzz haircut. He was flipping through a copy of “Sports Illustrated”, pretending not to notice us. “He is not an Army guy. He just has short hair. And remember,” I said swallowing the lump in my throat, “we are not going to get another Daddy. We already have a Daddy and that is the Daddy we are going to keep.”
Brennan went and sat down next to Patrick and I returned to my article on patio planters. The next time I glanced up, Brennan was sitting in the chair next to the man and was starring up at him as if he was a movie star. “Brennan!” I gasped. The man held the magazine up to his face, trying to block the unblinking gaze. Brennan grinned at me from across the room.
“I know, Mommy!” Brennan “whispered” with a raspy shout. He held up his left hand as a shield and began pointing with his right index finger. His face was beaming because; finally, he had found a loophole.
“This guy can be your new husband!”