I woke up one Friday morning, realising that in just over a week I would have been a married woman for a year. Wow! Time goes so fast, I couldn't believe it. I sat there and thought "One year is Paper gift, right?! Divorce papers?". That made me chuckle. I didn't want to buy him paper, or a book, or even photographs. I pondered a while, then the perfect gift popped into my head, the gift required a trip into Cardiff. I knew which shop sold it as H and I had walked past and he'd commented on wanting to get it for his dad, even though I knew he wanted it for himself!
Penderyn Whisky. H has a history with this whisky, and you will now guess why he wanted to buy it for his dad. In H's youth his father had been given a rugby ball shaped bottle of Penderyn whisky. There were only ever 250 of these bottles made. His father had no intention of drinking it, but kept it on a shelf in the kitchen.
After a night out with the boys, H and a friend arrived home slightly tipsy (well probably extremely drunk, H has hollow legs!). They thought it would be a good idea to open and drink H's fathers whisky. They drank it all. I'm not sure what consequences this action created but I'm 100% sure H's dad wasn't very happy the next morning.
J was out with a friend, so I went into Cardiff with T on my own. The first place I went when I got into the city was the Welsh shop that sold the perfect gift. I headed straight for the whisky counter. The guy talked me through the gift boxes they sold, and whilst he was doing so T was shouting and pointing "Daddy, Daddy!". I looked over the man's shoulder who was serving me, and hanging on the wall in a dark wooden frame was a picture of a young boy wearing a bright red tunic. I scanned the picture, counting the buttons on the tunic. "That's not Daddy, he doesn't have 5 buttons". T looked at me and back at the picture. The man behind the counter said "Oh that's my nephew, he's a Grenadier Guard". I explained that my husband was a Welsh Guard and the man proceeded to ask if he'd ever been in Afghanistan. We spoke for a while, then he looked at me and said "His mother has said if he ever goes back it would kill her, too much stress. She was petrified whilst he was there". So many emotions flooded my head in waves. I smiled and responded with "Yes it is quite difficult, but you just have to accept it I guess". I paid for my purchase and left. This guy had me thinking, H and I had got married, and H had met Tomas, but it could've been so different. I was extremely blessed to have H in my life, and blessed to know that God is faithful and protected him whilst deployed. Talking to that guy also reminded me of the life I had chose. I know my decision was the right one, however hard it gets. Within the last year we have had our difficulties. The first year of marriage isn't all about holding hands and skipping through meadows.
Looking back on our year of Mr & Mrs is a strange one, what can I see that has changed? We still lived in the same house, I still only saw my husband at weekends. Life doesn't change.
I look into the future, into our next year and the things we will face. Another tour, Herrick 16. It loomed like a dark cloud, it crept into my mind every silent second. In work I would hear a song from his last tour and my eyes would fill up, the anxiety overwhelming. I tried to shake it off, but I let things in, and sometimes they overtake me. During H's last tour I was just his girlfriend/fiancée, this time around I was his wife, his next of kin. I have nightmares of uniformed men knocking at the door whilst I'm at work. This terrifies me. I loved him more than ever now, and in' just going to love him more when it's time to say goodbye for 7 months.
I do shut the thoughts to the back of my mind, but they lay dormant and sting me every now and again.
One thing that plays on my mind is the children, J has been through this before, at least I know he's my corner stone and keeps me stable. But this time T will be knowing, he will understand that his Daddy has been gone for a while. T was barely a year old when H went to Kenya for 6 weeks. It was hard. I redecorated the living room whilst he was gone, and it was leading up to Christmas.
I was the "single" woman lugging a Christmas tree through B & Q, I was the "single" woman squeezing the tree into my little Fiesta, and I was the "single" woman sawing off the end of the tree in the front garden to fit into our stand. I did all this with paint on my hands and clothes, as I had literally just completed the living room! I felt independent and strong, but I was still surgically attached to my mobile willing for it to ring. Whilst H was in Kenya I hardly heard a peep, I think he was in his third or fourth week before I received a phonecall, I sent him emails though (I got the address from a fellow Army wife).
When H was back in the UK I drove to his barracks to pick him up. The excitement was unbearable! I knew he would look sexy, all tanned. I turned into the barracks and stopped before the gate. The butterflies were ridiculous, I could feel my stomach doing somersaults. I caught a glimpse of a tall, thin, uniformed soldier. I stared. It was him! I jumped out of the car, and ran. I gripped him and squeezed. He smiled at me and we kissed. It may have only been 6 weeks without my man, but 6 weeks was enough with hardly any contact at all. I could count on one hand the amount of calls I'd received from him.
H was very excited to see the boys. He'd bought them presents. My dad was at the house looking after the boys, and I let him know when we were on our way home. It was late, and there was snow.
When we parked up my butterflies returned, I had no idea how T was going to react, or even if he'd remember his Dad. My father had kept him up so H could see him. We opened the door and I heard a squeal from the living room. T went crazy when he saw H. He remembered. He started running the length of the room, and head-butting the sofa. He jumped all over H, it was unbelievable, but lovely just the same.
I just pray that T remembers H after a longer period away, and I pray that it does not affect T in a negative way. It's a wait and see matter.
When I look back on my life with H I smile, when I look into our future I smile (even if it is sometimes forced). And right now, I look at H, I look at his perfectly formed lips, at his handsome eyes and I cherish it. I sometimes don't like the situations I find myself in, but when I remember why I'm doing them I smile. I do it all for him!