There are moments in my life that I refer to as “eternal.” Some of them are trivial, like brushing my teeth. Every time I stand there staring in the mirror with a soapy stick in my mouth, I feel like I have been there, doing that, for every moment of my entire life. Some of them are significant, like the moment between when Brian asked, “When is the last time you heard from your husband?” and when he spoke again.
That moment, sitting on the side of the bed, staring at the dog crate in the corner with my toes clinging to the bed frame for dear life–that moment is eternal. For me, it was the bridge between the old life and this new one. I probably answered him quickly–“I talked with him about 48 hours ago”–but that fraction of a second is eternal. If I close my eyes, I am there in the dim lamplight, my ears roaring from the blood racing through my veins, my breath threatening never to return, willing him not to utter another single word.
“Megan, I have to read you a statement now,” he said in a dreadful monotone.
“Ok, go ahead,” I tried to encourage him. I knew this was horrific for him and I refused to make it worse by allowing my voice to crack.
“This evening, while on mounted patrol, your husband’s vehicle was struck by an IED. He was seriously injured. Tourniquets have been applied to his lower extremities.”
“Okay,” I managed to say in a voice that didn’t sound like my own.
“Now I need you to get a pen and paper,” he calmly instructed.
My pen was already poised over the paper I brought with me to the bedroom. “Got it,” I replied.
He gave me a casualty assistance number where I could get more information about Ollie’s medical condition. Brian couldn’t tell me much more than his official notification, but there were many things I could infer. I knew that if Ollie had been conscious, he would have been allowed to call me to let me know. If his injuries were life threatening enough, the commander would have been on my doorstep. So he wasn’t conscious, but he wasn’t so horribly injured that I got a knock on the door. That was good, right?
Suddenly I realized that there were other men in the truck with Ollie when it was hit. My heart froze. “Brian? I know you might not be able to tell me, but how many other notifications had to be made about this incident?” My thoughts raced through images of Kevin, Mike, Jesse, Chad, Travis, Randy and the others.
“Just one. Just one other one and it was a phone call, too,” he answered. I let that sink in for a moment–no one was dead. They were hurt, and there were tourniquets, but no one was dead. Not this time. I shut out the words, “Not yet.”
I needed Ayse. “Is your wife available? I could use her company,” it was getting harder to speak.
“She’s already on your front porch,” he answered.
My eyes stung. “Please send her in,” I asked.
“Let me know if there’s anything else I can do,” he said softly.
I thanked him and said goodbye. Neither of us could stand much more of that conversation.
Ayse’s beautiful voice rang out from the kitchen. The children were ecstatic to see her as always, and Rosie barked for attention. I took a couple of minutes to gather myself. My legs were weak at first, but eventually held me as I stood by the door with a hand on the dresser for balance. I took several deep breaths, forced myself to smile, squared my shoulders and finally popped open the bedroom door.
“Who wants ice cream?” I trilled as I walked (or oozed or floated or marched) back toward the children. It was imperative that I appeared strong, normal, and in control. I wouldn’t tell them anything about Ollie until I had more information. I had no answers to the questions they would ask. There was no need for them to worry all night when we didn’t even know what Dad’s injuries were. When we don’t know if he will live, I tried not to think. I needed them in bed, quiet, asleep, so I could get everything organized. Too much work was to be done.
“Ooh, ice cream!” Ayse exclaimed. We avoided eye contact with one another as we focused on the bright faces of the most beautiful children in the world.
Before we could even get the container from the freezer, Birch demanded to know, “What’s wrong?” Apparently offering ice cream when it’s time for bed was a big tip off that something was amiss. Oops.
I looked at her huge, trusting eyes and saw a hint of fear. I considered telling her what little I knew, but that would only cause more stress. Looking at her worried, inquisitive face, trying to figure out the “right” answer, is another of those eternal moments.
“Well…there’s been another incident,” I said, hoping not to give away more than I already had.
“It’s close to Daddy, isn’t it?” my little empath asked knowingly.
I paused again, weighing our options. “Yes,” I answered.
“It’s someone we know? Did they die? Is it Mr. Mike?”
I took a deep breath. “Yes, someone we know is injured. It is not Mr. Mike. No one is dead. We really don’t have much information right now but I promise I will tell you what I am able to find out tonight when you get up in the morning. Is that okay?”
She reached for her ice cream. “Alright,” she shrugged.
“Hey, I’ve told you this before, but I don’t want you to worry until I tell you we have something to worry about. For tonight, I just need you guys to go to bed because I have a lot of phone calls to make like I usually do when we have an incident. Can you help me get the little kids in bed? Can we do this?” I hoped my desperation wasn’t shining through every word.
She nodded with more understanding than any ten year old should ever have. Ayse helped with the ice cream dishes and we got everyone tucked in to bed. I thought maybe Birch was more worried than she let on, but she was mostly asleep when I visited her room. She trusted me.
I hoped she would still trust me in the morning.