I zipped Millie’s coat and gathered my own, getting ready to brave the cold to take a couple trash bags outside. She noticed a package from Grandma sitting at our doorstep, so we set everything down again to peek inside it first. I had barely gotten the front door closed when she exclaimed, “Pa-pa!” My dad walked in, followed by a boy in uniform. Millie jumped up and down. I looked at Sky for a second, in all the confusion, then (I’m told) said blankly, “What are you doing here?” He grinned.

Somehow, my dad and Sky had managed to pull of a surprise. I laughed at him as I hugged his rough nametape against my cheek, and thanked him for the bouquet that Millie had promptly taken from him before I could really see it. My dad said goodbye, Millie pulled Sky’s hand and begged for him to play, and I stopped to take in the moment that everyone else seemed to accept as uneventful. My Valentine’s Day started about 13 hours after everyone else’s had ended.

He was here for two and a half days, and we tried to make the most of them. We ate good food, and took delicious naps when Millie did. I grabbed his hand anytime I felt the baby begin to kick, and he got to see the tiny ripples it would make on my belly when it danced. We read Millie’s new favorite book together, and exchanged secret smiles as she would take the book from us and ‘read’ it herself. We went to our favorite greasy spoon in town and watched them pour pancakes and sizzling eggs onto the long griddle. And on the last night, my dad kept Millie for a while so we could have a quiet date night eating fried pickles, walking lazily through Target, and sipping iced Starbucks. I think we held hands the whole two and a half days.

A visit like this is sort of an extended goodbye. The bags stay packed at the door. The clock rolls around and around five times as fast as a regular weekend. There were those lonely but thankful twinges that happen when I know I’m blessed and that blessing is going to be far away for a while. It was so good. And I was relieved that it was so good, that it felt like a miniature honeymoon of sorts. It was a part of love I hadn’t felt for years, and it came rolling back in a unexpected flurry.

And now the house is quiet again. Completely settled. It’s almost as if it didn’t even happen, but my heart knows better. The clock ticks more noticeably than before. And I think to myself, I can’t do this again, but the again part reminds me that I’ve done it before. He didn’t want to wake me when he left because he didn’t want me to cry. He should know by now that I’m good at holding it in until I close the door behind him and feel the empty parts of the house around me. It’s one of those moments I don’t really want to be in, but it needs to happen and it always does.

It’s a bit like I just imagined it all, but it was so very sweet. I’ve learned to be cautiously greedy with time; I will take whatever I can get. Those of you who have done this before know what I mean about the next goodbye being harder than the first- and yes, this certainly was- but maybe those twinges in my heart are worth it. For all the hard parts, the reassurance of that love and hope in our marriage is a beautiful thing.

Chambanachik is a milspouse blogger, the mama of a baby girl and the wife of a solder. She is fond of sad songs, the Midwest and cherry pie!

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