I don’t understand it. It’s doesn’t make sense that so many people seem to live with hope. Maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s me. As a child, I never really hoped or dreamed for anything. We were poor financially, but there were many things that left us poor in spirit. Emotionally, growing up was tough. My mom and I never really talked. I couldn’t count on my dad to even stick around long enough to pretend to care. I always sugar coated everything for mom or kept her in the dark entirely. (I still do.) It was better than see her worry herself sick over things that she didn’t need to focus on. I wouldn’t say my childhood was horrible, but it wasn’t great. I had close friends until third grade and suddenly nobody wanted to play with me. I didn’t have many friends after third grade. I didn’t get along with the other girls, who always found something to pick on me for. Boys were okay friends, until middle school and then even they wanted something more. I never understood group dynamics or why the other kids behaved the way they did. I preferred to be alone. I wanted to join in, but was always awkward and unwanted in the group. We moved three time between fourth and sixth grade, including to a new city and back. I had a small group of friends through middle and high school, but I never really opened up to any of them. I’ve never opened up to anyone. It wasn’t something I could do. I’m not the most articulate and rarely do my points come across without offending someone or starting an argument, even among people that I love. I learned not to trust unless I wanted to get hurt; not to hope unless I wanted to be disappointed; and that, unlike fairy tales, dreams don’t come true… Well, not all dreams.
Every since I was a child, I’ve had dreams. Good dreams, bad dreams, horrifying dreams, reoccurring dreams. The reoccurring dreams are the worst. Same dream, always the same exact dream. I always remember them, for months at a time I’ll have this dream. This random event, which in context, means nothing to me at the time. And then… Nothing. Usually, three months of nothing. Rarely do I remember any dreams during this period of time. And then it happens. At first, it feels like deja vu. Then I remember the dream being acted out while I’m awake as exact as it was in my sleep. I’ve never had a dream reoccur in such a manner that did not manifest in my waking hours. This is the fact that terrifies me to my core. My husband is in the Army. An Officer, as it is. To become an Officer, one has to sit before an Officer Candidate Board for interview and approval. That’s when they started, the day he sat before the board. (Our fourth anniversary as it happened to be.) Four dreams, unique unto themselves, but collectively they make up the most heartbreaking story:
Dream 1: I’m at home with my son. My daughter is at school and I’m just getting ready to go to the store. I get my jacket on and put LJ on my hip. I grab my purse and the diaper bag. When I reach for the door, there is a knock that stops me cold. Nobody knocks on the door. They always ring the bell. I peer through the blinds and see it. That black SUV parked out front. Unmistakably military. I put LJ down and slowly open the door. The two men at the door are in uniform. The looks on their faces tell me the news before their mouths even open. I wake.
Dream 2: I’m sitting in a field, surrounded by friends and family. All sitting in the same white plastic folding chairs. My children are on either side of me as I sit stoically staring forward. Tiny tears streaming down my cheeks. I say nothing as the flag draped coffin is marched across the wide opening. I don’t flinch. Working too hard to control my breathing. I must stay strong for my kids. The guns ring out, the tears fall harder, the flag is folded. “I’m sorry for your loss” doesn’t cover it as I’m handed a freshly folded flag and lose what little grasp on my composure I had left. I wake.
Dream 3: I’m in my mother-in-laws kitchen in California. I’m wearing the same thing from the funeral and I know we’ve just gotten home from the reception. The kids are off playing in another room. They still don’t fully understand what has happened and maybe they wont ever because of the autism that protects their understanding of the world. I don’t know who makes the comment or even what is said, but suddenly I’m flying off the handle. Screaming, ranting, angry words. “It’s not fair? Of course, it’s not fair. He served three tours and never got a scratch, but my husband died the first time! My children have to grow up without a father, something I gave up everything for them to have!” I can’t hear everything that’s said, but I’m yelling at my husband’s family for quite some time. I collapse to the floor in a ball of grief. I wake.
Dream 4: This one is by far the shortest of the dreams. Perhaps not needing to say as much as the others to tell me much more. I’m in New York City on what would be my tenth wedding anniversary. I’m standing alone, on the top of a building. I don’t know which building, but I’m just standing there, smiling through tears. This is what we always planned. A trip to New York on our tenth anniversary. And I’m there alone. I wake.
I have little hope that my husband will return unharmed from his deployment next year. I try to have faith, I try to have hope, I try so hard not to despair over a loss I have yet to suffer. But I fail. I fail daily, weekly, monthly… As we draw closer to the day he will leave our family for our country, I fear I will never have my husband back. I don’t have a lot of friends, I don’t have much family support, and no one in the area. I fear for my ability to care for my children in his absence. I’m a realist. I know his chances are close to 50% either way. I’ve never had a reoccurring dream fail me yet, and I would be so grateful if they would this time. I don’t want to lose my husband, but I never learned how to live with hope in my heart. I can’t hope against the odds that he will return to me, but so grateful would I be to be wrong in this matter. I don’t know how to look through rose-colored glasses and see the trips we plan to take when he comes home, the family we plan to visit, or the memories we still have to make together. I can’t. I don’t have a pair. Maybe I’m broken, but hope, true hope, seems to allude me. I just don’t know how to HOPE.