There are moments in life that reach out and change your life in an instant. Who you were before and who you became after are forever two different entities, irrevocably different from one another. That pivotal moment for me came two weeks before I went to college as an eighteen year old freshman. Not all moments in life leave you so radically changed, and sometimes, instead of passing them, you fail and learn even more about yourself.
It was the 22nd of April. We had been in Turkey for just shy of two months. We had been in our house for twelve days and were still unpacking all of the boxes from our move. We were rapidly approaching the one month mark of losing one of our own in a shocking accident. This last week had been one long twelve hour day after another, including Saturday, and we were worn to the bone. It had been a rough transition to Turkey.
It was the 22nd of April. We were supposed to go on our first trip that Sunday. Go to see Tarsus, Heaven and Hell, Kizkalesi. I was so excited. And then his voice, weary from work, telling me he just couldn’t do it this weekend. He had two papers to write, work had been long and tough. I said it was fine, but it wasn’t. I didn’t like this feeling of coming in second place to the military.
It was the 22nd of April. We didn’t sleep in that morning. B woke up early to write his two papers, hoping to finish so we could enjoy some of the day. I woke up early and felt sorry for myself that I couldn’t go on a fun trip and that I would never be priority one in this life of ours.
It was the 22nd of April. He finished his paper and asked me where I wanted to go for lunch. Since we were still without a car, there weren’t many places we could go, but we chose to bike to the gate and eat right off base. I was putting on a happy face for the small thing we were getting to do, he was still tired and just glad that I wasn’t crying or angry.
It was the 22nd of April. They greeted us from their second story window as we emerged from the gate. We called back to them and they set up our table for two. We sat down and the placed the menus. The phone rang. He raised an eyebrow, said “oh really” all while shoving back his chair and leaving the restaurant. I apologized quickly, profusely to the proprietors and scurried down the stairs and across the street after him. I caught him inside the gate, unlocking his bike. An ambulance passed us, I asked if that’s why we’re leaving, he said he wasn’t sure. I told him to call me, to let me bring him food, and he just told me he had to go and he was gone.
It was the 22nd of April. I biked home crying. I ranted as I rode that he could have at least apologized. That God could have at least given us one break. I poured out my heart in being second best as a military wife. I allowed myself to be angry. I was okay with being upset. So much time that week had been lost to his job and now we couldn’t even have lunch. I failed and I fell. I wallowed in self-pity over not being able to priority one. I hated his job.
It was the 22nd of April. The hours crawled by without a single word from him. Now I was worried about what might have happened. Now I remembered that he doesn’t choose to leave me for fun. Now I recalled that life is about more than just me. The phone rang and I left to go meet him for a quick bite of food, on base this time, closer to home and work.
It was the 22nd of April. His eyes were hollow that evening, I walked up to hug him and told him I was sorry. He asked if the news was already out then. I pulled back confused and asked what he meant.
It was the 22nd of April. Young men being young men, one decided to do doughnuts in a humvee. He lost control. The humvee rolled. He broke his wrist. His friend was in the turret, completely exposed. His friend was found by his closest friends as they raced to respond to the accident. His friend was declared dead on-scene.
It was the 22nd of April. I rallied to take care of my husband and his airmen. I bought them food, cooked for them, just sat quietly while they talked quietly. I hid away my fatal flaw, grateful that no one had seen.
It was the 22nd of April. There is no denying that I failed that day as a military wife. I have struggled with forgiving myself for my selfishness and pettiness while a young man took his last breaths. His death opened my eyes to the fact that those late nights, long hours, and unexpected calls come with a price higher than an interrupted lunch.
It was the 22nd of April. I was weighed and found wanting.