He Was Mine First

“Get out of my way,” I joked to my friend in front of me. “I see my husband.”

I didn’t rush or run. I walked quickly. Although I was excited to see him after three long months, I was scared. I didn’t know who he would be. I didn’t know if he would remember the fights or the letters more. All I knew was I needed his arms around me again.

. . . . . .

Coming home, he was different. He sure looked different–more muscular, no longer the lean athlete I had met in college, built. They had taken away the hair I had loved to run my fingers through, the thing that, apart from his slim features, always likened him to Ryan Gosling.

In the weeks that followed his glorious homecoming, I spotted his differences. As much time as we spent together, he was distant. His words were different. His language was wrong, harsh, to my ears, not yet used to hearing it.

He had been hardened. I wondered about the change they had brought upon him. I wanted to know because I wanted to know this version of him. But stories, experiences, could not be recounted to someone who didn’t share them, to someone who couldn’t possibly understand.

I needed to know, more than anything, that his core had not changed–that he still loved me.

. . . . . .

The uniform didn’t lie. It wasn’t an image I enjoyed at first. Admittedly, I fought hard to not enjoy it. As months progressed, though, I pictured it frequently. It became the reason for my smile in the middle of class. It became the reason I defended him to anyone who might have dared tell me I had a reason to be upset. Because I’d decided the decision itself didn’t matter, not in the long run of our marriage. What mattered was that I loved him, that I respected his calling, and I, therefore, joined that decision.

. . . . . .

But that uniform changed him, and I’m still not sure how. And I desperately want to know. Because I still desperately want to support the one whom my heart loves. But I also may have to realize that I may never understand.

. . . . . .

They said our “soldier” would be different, that they would look different. But they never prepared us for the psychological change, the impact on them, on the family. They should. A change in appearance is one thing, but a change in personality is far harder to contend with.

He may be their soldier, but he was my husband first.