This week Brandon had a visitor come in from DC. When friends and acquaintances hear the word 'diplomat' attached to Brandon, I can sometimes see the stars start to shine in their eyes. I can see the mental images of embassy balls, fancy cocktail parties, and high-powered meetings scroll through their head when the d-word comes out. But really, 'diplomat' is just a name for another government monkey who just happens to live overseas. It doesn't matter what your title is - when someone tells you to jump, you'd better ask how high.
The run-up to this visit, which was thankfully only a three day affair, had everyone in fits from the minute the visit was announced. One of the shining virtues of Tajikistan is that it is really, really off the beaten path with almost no developed tourist industry, and so we are spared from visits of any really really important people. Those visits take much longer than a mere few weeks to plan out. I remember Brandon preparing for one visit in Baku, that involved counting steps at the venue the visitor was going to spend fifteen minutes at. Whenever I hear of the President traveling to a foreign country, my first thought is for everyone at the embassy whose life just got exploded (or rather, just finished being exploded). My second is for their families.
Brandon's visitor ended up staying over the weekend. This meant that Brandon got to wake up at five Saturday morning to get ready for a few meetings, several visits to local sights, and a dinner at the Ambassador's. The children and I got to spend our Saturday without Brandon. They hadn't seen him since Thursday night and weren't to see him until Sunday morning.
Brandon had taken the car and it was raining, so we spent all day cooped up in the house, which is the same thing we did Friday while I worked on my to-do list and took Joseph in for stitches. I had promised Kathleen that after I finished unpacking the house, I would finally make some doll dresses for her and Sophia. These dresses were Kathleen's birthday present and had been waiting since August. So I spent the day sewing in between breaking up fights, taking care of the baby, and trying (still) to get our printer to work. Dinner for the children was leftovers, again, while I finished up Sophia's doll dress. They watched a movie while I ate cereal for dinner, too tired to bother warming up something more nutritious and filling.
Brandon finally made it home around ten and we spent our Saturday night working on the printer so that he could print out an itinerary to hand over at five the next morning.
I've had better weekends.
As I dragged around the house, stewing in my self-pity I thought of my mother. My father retired from OB/GYN practice the year Joseph was born, after spending over twenty-five years being gone for countless dinners, breakfasts, Saturdays and Sundays. My mother didn't have the occasional visit interrupt her life; her whole life for almost three decades was interruptions. I thought of a good friend, also with five children that she homeschools, whose husband is in residency and probably hasn't spent a Saturday with them in months. I thought of my sister's friends in the military who spend years of their life separated from their husbands.
We all have bad weekends, bad months, bad years, and bad decades so that our husbands can get their jobs done. Sometimes that job is meaningful - delivering babies, protecting our country, keeping people safe - but sometimes it isn't. My father-in-law worked night shifts at a dynamite factory so that he could keep his family fed. I'm not sure how much fulfillment can be found in a job like that. It's definitely better than starving, but I know that my mother-in-law had a lot of very lonely nights so that her husband could keep the lights on.
Brandon would like to be home every night for dinner. The children and I have had a long day of togetherness and we're looking forward to a fresh face in the house, someone new to tell the stories of the day to. But most days he doesn't make it. Often he'll come in time for a quick bite before reading the children a story before their bed time. I'm grateful for this time. One of my favorite memories is snuggling up in my parent's bed as my father read us the next chapter in Bilbo Baggin's unexpected journey. But I can't remember the last time he made it home for dinner.
One lunch Sophia included a plea in her prayer that Brandon could come home for dinner, 'or at least to read us a story.' I told her that dinner probably wasn't in the cards and not a story either. "But I can stay up until he comes home for a kiss," she assured me, "I can stay awake for that, as long as it takes." By the time Brandon leaned over to kiss Sophia that night, she was fast asleep.
I know there's nothing I can do. This is life. I don't even had a right to complain. I live in a warm, comfortable house with more than enough food to eat. Brandon has a job that lets him come home every night. We have vacation and paid medical leave and retirement and reasonable job security. Everyone is healthy. Everyone is happy. My husband is alive. My husband comes home to me every night.
One day, in the seemingly impossibly far distant future, we will be done with this part. We will have paid our dues and done our time and be through with someone else running our life. No more lonely Saturdays, no more solo dinners, no more visits, no more paper being pushed to people who don't read it. Nobody will be able to tell him that he can't come home for dinner.
But by then it will be too late. The children be gone. They will have moved on to their own lives, having learned the lessons we were able teach them in the time we had to teach. Our dinner table, once so full and loud - so loud sometimes that I want to cover my ears and run away - will be quiet and empty.
And the only person waiting for him will be me.