James and I met as the result of rare serendipitous circumstances. I am convinced that our meeting was orchestrated by some greater force. I was in college at the height of my “independent-woman-who-does-NOT-want-to-date-anyone” phase and he was attending the Air Force Academy enduring the strict rules, high expectations, strenuous physical activity, and utter lack of female interaction. My friend bought me tickets to see a concert at the dingiest night club in Denver as a birthday gift. I did not know or care who the artist was and I cared for the venue even less, but it was an opportunity to dress up and hit the town which was something I never turned down. “Just girls tonight,” I remember saying, “I’m not talking to any boys!”
That same night, James was supposed to go to a beer and bratwurst festival with his friends. This group of fine military gentlemen can operate any firearm you put in front of them, run a mile in six minutes, survive in the wilderness for 8 days straight with nothing but a tarp and a rope, but they can never manage to purchase tickets to an event ahead of time.
When they arrived at the event, it was completely sold out. A couple hours away from the base with nothing to do on a Friday night, they decided to go to the strange club across the street and attend the concert. This happened to be the same concert at the same dingy nightclub that I was attending. That decision would change our lives forever.
Amidst the chaos of the crowded concert, James was pushed into me in the crowd. I turned around to yell at him, but my words got caught in my throat as soon as I looked at him. He was gorgeous! We spent the rest of the night dancing and talking and when he asked for my number I thought of it like a formality. “There’s no way I’m hearing from this guy again,” I thought,”He’s way out of my league.” When he asked me to go out to lunch a couple days later, I legitimately squeeled. I could not believe it. We sat at lunch for hours talking, they started setting up dinner before we left. The whole drive home I blasted “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen imagining how great it would be to date him. I did not know then that my imagination would not even scratch the surface of how great it is to be with him, and now, his wife.
The wedding was out of a fairytale. The venue, The Felch House Inn, is a charming, historical home in the heart of downtown Phoenix. Everything was authentic 1920’s vintage. I wore a cathedral-length veil with my lace detailed dress. He spent the morning in a vintage barber shop with his groomsmen drinking beer and smoking cigars. The evening was beautiful and we danced in the garden until our 1950’s Chevy came to pick us up…and then we went out to the club and danced until our feet were numb. Neither us nor our friends and family wanted the night to come to an end.
A couple weeks after our wedding we received some news that shattered our world. James would be deployed to the Middle East just a few short months after we said “I Do” in March. I would not see my new husband again until 2016. The next couple months were a blur of tears, wine, and frustration. I was angry at everything and we felt an enormous pressure to make every moment count. We learned quickly that it is impossible for every moment together to be romantic, and trying too hard will make you crazy. It wasn’t until he left that it really sank in. That first step into my empty house was like a cold slap in the face. It was my new normal.
I am five months deep into his deployment. I can say that it has been nothing like the movies. Deployment is complex. It is being eternally busy, but inexplicably taking on more tasks. It is ordering a lot of take-out. It is long talks on the phone, even if the reception is so bad the person on the other end of the line sounds like a robot. It is never watching the news, to keep yourself sane. It is taking up running, something you have always hated to do. It is learning how to do anything and everything by yourself. It is a sense of independence and pride. It is watching your wedding video over and over. It is making new friends. It is buying as many throw pillows as you want because no one is there to tell you how silly they are. It is wearing his shirts because even when they stop smelling like him, they still feel like him. Deployment pushes you so far out of your comfort zone that you don’t know how to go back in. Deployment is wondering why you ever bickered about whose job it is to put up the dishes or cook dinner or why it is or is not necessary to watch football for 10 hours straight. Deployment is what you make it.
Despite the obvious hardship, we are more in love than ever. We have gotten to know each other on a level we never thought possible. It is amazing how much you learn about someone when all you have is talking. We look at his future homecoming as a second honeymoon. It is a blessing very few people ever get to experience. Some days are better than others. When I have a hard day, I look through our wedding photos and trust that the same strange forces that brought us together, will bring him home safe. Our journey together has just begun and I know the best is yet to come.