Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Fix Is In

I wish I could make clear all the trials and tribulations that we've faced over the last 20+ weeks. I think that only those who have experienced the - er - trooper training experience can comprehend just how stressful it can be.

For us, it was doubly - trebly difficult since we were a good 14 hours and, what with airfares being what they are, about $600 apart. So. In the course of the spring and summer, we've been together twice.

All through Christmas last we talked of how we'd try for monthly visits and the holidays - there would be three of those after all - and I secretly dreamed of saying goodbye in the parking lot there and heading home. But none of that happened. Rather, I was told that surgery was necessary and immediately so and was scheduled 48 hours before he had to leave. In two days I had to be mobile enough to send him on his way.

So he spent those last few days of freedom at home alone, caring for the cats and packing his things and no doubt worrying like crazy about the trip to Texas and the coming academy. Of course, when I woke he was there just as he was all the day long and into the evening so that while the morphine was kicking and I was sleeping he kept watch. I am thankful, now, for the drugs that kept me from seeing too much - his fear, his worry, his sleeplessness. But the task in front of me was to get home - home by Saturday afternoon.

I'd made this clear on Thursday to the doctor. You do what you have to but I am to be released Saturday. Period. And so I stopped the meds, started moving and shifting even though I was sliced hip to hip and innards were readjusting. And there was the emotional healing, can say that children are not desired but you hang onto that little snippet of an option. I could if I wanted. Well, not now. And there is a mourning associated with the loss. A farewell, unexpected.

And on Saturday, when he had to arrive late in the morning because he had to pack everything, he came in to find me dressed to go home. I'd intended it to shock him and so it had. The underling doctor came by and declared me fit to leave and I was out like a shot. He pulled the truck around, they wheeled me out and I swung myself up and in there to his smiling laughter. Get me home - that was my thought. Home before the strain shows.

I was installed in the upstairs bedroom but only after I showed that I could mount the stairs easily - slowly, but easily. A small fridge was stocked there for me and we had a scant hour of arranging things, ensuring he had all he needed...the time was slipping by and we tried to eke out the very last of it.

His motorcycle looked like a personal caravan, loaded with all its cases and tank bag. And he mounted up, in his proper gear. I took photos because I was trying to document the process - the acceptance, the leaving, the graduation...and then tears and kisses and reassurances. I would not burden him. I would not worry him. He made me say goodbye from the upstairs so he could be sure he'd left me there and not lying on the stairs. And all my wishes left with him.

And was Easter before we saw each other again. I had my own routine, now, and he had his. And the calls in the evening were brief but reassuring. He could not come to me, he said. Sorry. And looked at a holiday alone there, everyone else taking that long weekend to be with their beloved - most of who were not so far away. Instead, I was driving at 4am, northward, to Nashville where a cheap Southwest flight would take me to him.

I am very paranoid of driving long distances, worrying about vehicle failure, hating not knowing my surroundings, afraid of missing roads and getting lost. But I got my nerves in order and just sailed off. It went off like clockwork, really. My sister took me to the academy, his truck still there. And then, she bade him meet her for his Easter gift. He came into the restaurant still in his uniform and I stepped out. He smiled and laughed but there was something in his eyes that I did not quite understand.

It was shock.

I had managed to give the man the biggest surprise ever and he actually had to sit down and gather his emotions. I could only laugh, having been certain he'd have seen through my lies and not be surprised. But all that day he would look over at me in his truck and just laugh. He knew the price I'd paid in nerves and travel. And the weekend flew by.

So that was really all the time we'd had, until the week off in the middle of summer. And even that sped by, what with family visits and trying to make everyone happy. And of course, the funeral leave...losing his grandpa was the worst. I will not even discuss it. Still too fresh a wound.

And he and I rejoice in how lucky we are, how our goodness has been repaid. All along we've talked of what would be possible in terms of duty assignments. What we could manage and what would require that I lose my job and start anew. You see, it's a crap shoot. They ask you for a choice of region and there are 7 in Texas. It's a big state. A region could cover 8 or 9 counties. So we pinned down those 3 regions that we could perhaps make work.

And then comes the assignment of regions - you could get first choice or your worst choice. And a lot of things come to play in that. Your performance at academy, your networking skills, your prior abilities and experience and your familial obligations. They try to take all those into consideration when making the decisions. But you never know.

And do we were given our preferred region. As were a half dozen others. Now comes the city assignments - where would you actually work within that 8 county area? That information is given very much at the last, forcing fast decisions and mapping and consideration of everyone's needs. You don't want to shaft your buddy if you can help it but you also need to take care of your own.

He told me "Caldwell" and I knew the commute - 80 miles - would be a hard one. But it's just a year, I tried to tell myself. Still, I worried about it. (The paranoia, remember?) But I set to. it is. We work with it. But a part of me was asking just how much more would be asked of me to make this dream come true. It isn't my dream though I have given a great deal. It is his dream and I am merely doing my best to support it and him. But there comes a point where you start wondering if there is a line being crossed between what you are willing to give and what it will cost. In love, though, one finds such boundaries to be sketchy at best and highly mobile. One day you cannot fathom agreeing to such and the next you think it do-able.

And the next day...they declare that the cities provided were wrong. All wrong. So all the negotiating and arguing among the recruits was for naught. And now they had scant minutes to consider the new options and come to an agreement. Except that they couldn't. There would be 90% happy and 10% not, no matter which way it was sliced. So the duties were assigned.

This is where everything you've done, all you've said and how you have performed comes into play. Did you do your best? Have you whined the whole time? Is your experience suited for that environment or are you a bit too slow witted and likely to be dead if placed there? One person is going to take all the parameters into consideration and make your decision for you. At least for a year.

The message on my phone just said, "We got Elgin". In those three words my world was set from spiky red frantic lines into a smooth blue ocean of calm. My God, I thought. It was our dream slot. The one best suited to my work, housing and his preference for terrain and work. It helped that he'd gone there and spoken with the other troopers, letting his experience level be known, ensuring they remembered him when the calls were made. Elgin. One word held all our future.

The price for a dream is sometimes high, though, and in this slot was the sour taste of someone else not getting their dream. And so it was that his buddy - to whom he'd tried to give the slot - was instead given a middle-of-utter-nowhere location. It hurt him deeply to know that. His joy at the slot was stifled by the thought of all his attempts to get him a decent slot had failed. But you could not know the reasons behind it - what the Lieutenants knew and used to make their choices. But I know the days to come will find us wondering what we could have done to help. What we can do now for them.

My friend, at the news, asked me to thank him for sleeping with the lieutenant. I laughed out loud. Indeed, could it have been any more advantageous? And so now we start the final process - a mad rush to find a home and get the last of the packing completed. And then the move. The struggle to get two people, a 24 foot truck, a towed SUV, a loaded down truck and 3 cats across 14 hours of road in one day. It will be a miracle if we manage it. And I think we can. After all, we got this far.

God, we got this far. And it is only just beginning.

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