The reality of Pat's arrival home for R & R was a lot different than the scenes I had imagined in my head. I received an e-mail from him in Germany (love the Kindle for giving him that ability). He said he'd be arriving in the US in the morning, and although he was scheduled for an afternoon flight he would easily switch that to the morning. Around the same time one of the women from the FRG that I am friendly with asked if she could follow me to the airport because she was nervous about the drive, and her husband was coming home at the same time as Pat. Their flight was going to arrive in ATL and there are flights every hour from ATL to here, so we assumed that even if they didn't make the same flight, neither of us should have to wait more than an hour. We were excited for the next morning.
(Remember through this whole story that Ryan was still battling the sickness from the week before.)
The morning comes and I frantically finished cleaning and getting ready. My friend called to say her husband would be arriving in at 11:00 a.m. I hadn't heard from Pat yet. After waiting another hour, holding the phone the whole time, Pat called to tell me his flight was coming in at 3:30 p.m. Not quite convenient for me, especially considering I had to be at the BN FRG Christmas party at 5:00 p.m. and the airport is an hour away. Plus since I said I would help my friend out, I couldn't back out. So I get the kids ready and we drive into the airport to show my friend the way. My original plan at this time was that I would drive into the airport, drive back home, run errands, drive back in to the airport to get Pat, drive back home to drop him off , and get my stuff to the party and make a quick exit. But as I approached the airport nearing 11:00 a.m. for my friend, I just knew the kids would never last that long in the car. I decide to run my errands up in the city and try to kill time. The boys and I went to Sam's club, and then decided to go to McDonald's. It was about 12:30 p.m. I placed our order and got us all situated at the table. Sean seemed very excited about eating some food. Ryan was really content with the happy meal toy. I was about to pull the pickles out of Ryan's burger when my phone rang. It was Pat. I assumed he was going to tell me he got moved up to the next flight. Well, instead he says, "I'm here." My response was, "what?, where?" He had arrived in Nashville already. He was one of the last people to make the earlier flight on standby and was not given any time to call me. I told him I would be right there, and to Sean's dismay I packed up all the food and headed back to the airport.
The parking garage was pretty full, so I had to park on the roof level. I wanted to run into the airport to find Pat, but my 3 year old is a bit slower. We hurried through the lot and down the elevator. As we approached the entrance to baggage claim, I was shocked to see how empty the airport was. There were no cars picking people up like usual, and no one was collecting bags at the baggage claim. Since it was so empty, I was able to spot Pat pretty quickly when we entered. He was still far away, but I knew it was him. I turned to Ryan and said, "who do you see?" He looked around and finally upon seeing Pat slowed down walking. I was still trying to get him to hurry though. I confirmed for him that that was Daddy waiting for him there. But by this point he had just about froze and I had slowed down with him significantly. It was then that Ryan began sobbing. I am very sad to write, they were not happy tears. Through his tears he kept repeating, "Momma, I want to go home." and almost pulling me back toward the entrance we just came through. Nothing I said comforted him. Pat was still pretty far away and was still waiting to greet his family after a long 6 months. I finally told Ryan that Sean and I were going to go see Pat. Ryan reluctantly followed behind me still shaking with tears and what I would call fear. Right in front of where Pat stood was a kiosk with some airport workers in it. I saw that they couldn't help but watch this homecoming play out. Unfortunately though it was no the picture perfect kind. Finally we got to Pat. He knelt down to say hi to Ryan. Ryan hid behind me and continued in his hysteria. So Pat turned his attention to Sean who began crying too. I expected that from Sean since he is so young and shy. At this point tears were welling up in my eyes and those spectators in the kiosk are now turning their eyes away from the sad sight playing out for the Soldier returning home. I was ready to cry myself for the unwelcoming reaction Pat just received. I gave him some great big hugs and we started to the car.
I took Ryan to the bathroom before we left the airport. He was upset and scared. When we went into the bathroom we talked a bit. He said he was scared of Daddy. I told him it was okay. When we got out of the bathroom Ryan had warmed up slightly to Pat, and by the time we got to the car on the roof Ryan seemed much happier about his Daddy being home.
A couple days later Ryan and I talked about the airport scene. Since he is only 3, he cannot explain much. He did tell me that he was scared because Daddy was so big. I really think that even though I told him many times that we were going to get Daddy at the airport and he was excited about that, I do not think he understood the reality of that. I think after 6 months of only seeing the flat daddy on the living room wall, the real live Daddy probably is intimidating. Not to mention Pat came home in the new multi cam uniform which is another change for Ryan to accept.
Now don't get me wrong, I NEVER expected the perfect homecoming. I thought Ryan would be shy and scared. Every time we get family at the airport Ryan turns shy when we meet up with them. I didn't think he would hug and kiss Pat, although I had hoped for it. What I DID NOT expect though was such an EMOTIONAL breakdown about just seeing Pat. I've never seen so much raw emotion from Ryan in his 3 years. He knew it was Pat from a far distance, and he was completely overwhelmed. I think for anyone that doesn't understand just how much the deployment affects children, even young ones like my 3 year old, they just needed to witness our welcome home scene at the airport earlier this week.
Ryan has warmed right up to Pat being home. He's been such a good little boy and big helper to Pat. He loves having Daddy back. Tonight as he was going to bed he gave Daddy a hug and kiss and then on his way to his room he said, "I like having Daddy home." Sean has warmed up now too. He probably took a little bit longer to warm up because he is such a Momma's boy. Yesterday Pat had earned hugs and open mouth kisses from Sean, which is a big deal. We are finally a happy family together again.
My heart just breaks especially for Ryan when I think about Pat leaving again. I know he'll get through it, but I also now know that his emotions about it are buried deep inside. We will all miss him so very much, but we're on the down hill side of the deployment now. For these next days, I'm just going to focus on how amazing it is to have him home and be together.
Oh and if you are wondering if we made it to the FRG Christmas party the short story of that is: Pat couldn't find his dress shoes. He wouldn't go without them. (yes, he's particular about his shoes.) We left the house an hour late, and I was a bit less than happy about it. However, I figure that my husband just arriving in that afternoon was an okay excuse. Well, wouldn't you know when we are half way to the party Sean vomits all over himself and the carseat. He was completely covered. We drove to the party, I dropped off the desserts, said a few quick hellos, and went back home to wash my little munchkin. Sean has caught Ryan's sickness from the week before, and he has been unhappy the past few days. I'm starting to feel the sore throat. I'm sure Pat is next. While it isn't ideal, I guess this is what R & R becomes when you have children, huh?