For the first few days, everything felt familiar but somehow off, like I came home to find the living room furniture arranged on the front lawn. Now, nearly two weeks in, and still without a word from Noah, my home feels like my home again.
I'm experiencing things with Ethan that I wouldn't have before. During his bedtime routine, for instance, reading through (skimming, ahem) the 7,000 books on his nightly reading list has actually been fun. Tonight, as we listened to the CD that accompanies his nursery rhyme book, he asked, "Mommy, why are the ants marchin?" I told him it was to get out of the rain. He cocked his head and put on his concentration face; when the song confirmed what I'd said, he smiled and nodded.
Today I cleaned the boys' bathroom (aka the main bathroom). I've cleaned every dish, done every load of laundry, myself. I've even been sleeping quite well (thanks in part to 3 mg of Melatonin—buy it in the vitamin aisle, it's cheaper than in the sleep-aid aisle). The budget hasn't crashed and burned, and all the bills are paid. I even split wood out back today for a fire. Just call me Annie M. Oakley. (The M is for Martha, as in Stewart.)
I've realized something important: In many material ways, I don't need Noah.
We were married young, so neither of us lived on our own as adults. I've never had to run a household on my own, nevermind parent a child on my own. Granted our families are a wonderful help (and spending the day at my parents' when we were both sick with bad colds was definitely a bonus), but when it comes down to it, it's just me and Ethan. Living.
I'd be lying if I didn't confess absolute joy when the child strokes my face and tells me he loves me so much, that I'm his best friend. Our friend Nate, a lifelong Air Force kid, encouraged me: children are flexible. Ethan's adjusted. I'm relishing these special moments we're sharing because of Noah's absence. And yet, Ethan's been talking about Noah again, about wanting him to come back home, about wanting to call him. His openness has allowed me freedom to feel what I feel, which quite happily isn't always gloom and sadness.
As Ethan and I share time alone, I've realized something else important: In many foundational ways, we absolutely need Noah.
I can manage without a partner, apparently, but I really really want a partner. Well, one in particular anyway. We've spent nearly 10 years crafting our lives around the core presence of each other, giving and taking, creating a landscape in which we can both pursue our individual dreams from the safe harbor of our relationship. We've certainly had ups and downs, but we agree that our relationship has only gotten richer with time, each day's renewed commitment building on all the others that have come before.
Eleven letters now sit on the mantel above the fireplace, waiting for an address. Oddly, it feels like they've already been sent and received.