Jerome knew that I was upset about having to say our goodbyes on Sunday night, our 17th wedding anniversary.
And that was the best thing I could have ever been given...just a little more time.
Sunday night as he tucked each of our three kids in bed he hugged them tight, wiped their tears and comforted them with a promise to be back home safe with them soon.
After tucking them in bed he had to put his helmet together. They were issued new uniforms Friday and he hadn't put his helmet together yet. I was sad watching him fold the fabric over, all the things that go inside for protection. Watching him put the straps on, trying it on and readjusting the straps and then trying it on again.
At first I kept myself busy by getting our stuff all packed up. We would be taking him to the base in the early morning and then later that day getting on the road.
But I kept watching him put his helmet together.
It was upsetting me and he looked at me and said with a smile, "No crying yet".
We woke up very early Monday morning to get him to the base on time. They were headed to the range that day.
I kept the kids in their pajamas. We stopped in the dining area of the hotel for him to get some breakfast to take with him and some coffee. The news was on, specifically the weather....even MORE specifically the threat of a storm with tornadoes headed right in our direction.
I was scared. I knew I had to travel home but didn't want to get caught in a storm. At that point I was ahead of it if I could get on the road in the next few hours.
We went outside and the cold morning air greeted our sleepy faces.
The drive there was quiet.
He held my hand like he always does. A few times squeezing it, looking at me and reminding me....no crying yet.
Our kids were quiet in the backseat.
We were quiet.
I wanted to talk but held it in for fear that the lump in my throat would escape and I would break down and start crying.
He broke the silence by talking about wanting us to be safe traveling home. He wanted to make sure we were ahead of the storm.
We went through security one last time. The sky was dark as midnight still.
Then we made our way through the base. Looking all around there were troops in their Army greens preparing for their day. There were convoys loading up. There were soldiers doing their morning runs. Everywhere we looked there was something.
He gave each of our kids a hug and kiss, reassured them he would be fine.
Then we stood together. I felt his arms around me as he gave me a goodbye kiss. He told me he loved me and to not worry about him. We kissed again, said our goodbyes and then he headed to the place he needed to be.
I watched him walk away....his new Army green uniform, backpack on his back....I knew this was going to be the last time I would see him until he returns home.
I watched him walk away until I couldn't see him anymore.
I climbed in the drivers seat, the place he was just at a few minutes ago. I took a deep breath and knew that I could cry now. I looked down and there sat his coffee cup he had left. Then Spencer, who was now sitting in the passenger seat, got upset and was telling me how much he misses his dad when he is gone. The girls started crying. I WANTED TO CRY. But I couldn't. I comforted them, reassured them, promised them and all the while I just wanted to rest my head on the steering wheel and just let it all out and cry until it didn't hurt anymore.
But I didn't, I knew I had three kids to comfort and there was a big storm heading right in our path and I needed get ahead of it.
I kept myself busy. I drove to the hotel, and loaded our suitcases up and checked out of the hotel. We ate breakfast there before we left.....I rushed the kids through it because the weather forcast was not looking good.
We made our way home safely. It took us two days of driving....but we made it home......just me and our three kids.