Arts & Culture

The Day After He Left for Iraq

Melissa Seligman, author of The Day After He Left for Iraq, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers. Seligman is an army wife and mother, and her book is a memoir of her husband’s deployment. … Read More

By / February 16, 2009

Melissa Seligman, author of The Day After He Left for Iraq, is guest blogging this week as one of Jewcy‘s Lit Klatsch bloggers. Seligman is an army wife and mother, and her book is a memoir of her husband’s deployment.

My life hasn’t always been like this. But whose has? I’m constantly waiting. Waiting for my husband to leave. To come home. To reconnect. Or to tell him goodbye again. It seems that from the very beginning, longing has defined our marriage.

I longed to move, drive, see the west, and capture the world. He was my counterpart, my kindred hippy spirit. We married, moved out west, and began that romantic love affair that had tickled my brain for years. Until.

“I want to go active duty,” he told me one day in front of the hazy skyline of the Rockies. He had been in uniform before. Only he had a pierced tongue, in-between-duty goatees, and enough of a wild side to consider him anything but straight and narrow. “Um. Okay,” I said. What was there to stop us? It would ensure a good paycheck. Lots of travel. Job security.

I knew he would most likely go to Afghanistan. 9/11 was fresh. My patriotism was high, and he has always been called to serve. So, we packed up, left the Rockies in the rearview mirror, and headed east. To a great unknown. It was exciting. And scary. And wonderful.

Until he left for nearly seven months of school. That day, I sat on a couch and watched that infamous statue being tugged and torn in Baghdad. Two wars. Shock and awe left me shocked and raw.

As my belly began to grow with a baby (surprise!), we got sent up north. All the way up north, and I began to hear constant rumors that he would leave as soon as we got there. And that he would continue to leave year after year after year.

It wasn’t long. With a still-swollen belly and a screaming baby in my arms, exactly five years ago, my still-newlywed husband stood at our kitchen door on a frigid New York night, kissed her pink forehead, and begged me to understand. I thought I understood. At least, I tried.

But when that door closed in my face, reality sucker punched me in the gut. There is no graceful, easy, painless, romantic way to send your husband off to war. The emptiness left behind the fading sound of his boots is deafening.

He did come home. Reintroduced himself to his wife and child. And we merged back into the false sense of togetherness. With two raging wars, how comfortable could we possibly get? We tried. We took what time we had, and we trudged into the world of blissful family. Until.

With my belly swollen, again, I stood in a parking lot, holding our second newborn and searching for a way to say goodbye. Again. This time, Iraq beckoned. I had no way of knowing what would become of us. Of him. Of our marriage. I only knew one simplified version of our life, our struggle: I loved him.

After he left, the body count grew. The explosions intensified, and I struggled to remember that vital truth while I read of his attacks and missions. With two babies, a husband at war, and a life on hold, I wondered what future would come to pass.

Our struggle, my need to survive and retain some semblance of sanity, his mission to maintain a vital role in our family, and the pain of my daughter and our fatherless son all came together in my journal, my book, The Day After He Left for Iraq.

People ask me quite often, “How do you do it?” My answer is simple: I’m not sure I am doing it.

Melissa Seligman, author of The Day After He Left for Iraq, is guest blogging on Jewcy, and she’ll be here all week.  Stay tuned.