Perhaps today he had an excuse for tantrum throwing. Matt was home for a brief visit and left again in the blink of an eye. These past few days have felt so off. I know Joey feels the loss. We all do. The reason for Matt's visit was a happy one. He came to celebrate my 40th birthday, and celebrate we did, but first I had to bring him home from the airport.
I have never been a very confident driver, and driving long distances or through areas I am not completely familiar with cause my hands to get sweaty and my stomach to knot. The airport was over an hour away and the only route I knew was closed for road construction. It was also the middle of the night... and it was raining...hard. Really.
I started on my way, nervously praying, straining my eyes in the darkness to see the deer I knew waited to spring in front of my car. I had looked up an alternate route and the map sat on the passenger seat beside me. The sound of the wipers swishing across the windshield was strangely calming. I was going to make it, on time, even. Minutes ticked by and as I drew closer to my destination, excitement took over. In a few moments I would see my husband! ROAD CLOSED. Wait. What?!?
I had forgotten to check for construction on this new route and there it was - orange cones, flashing lights, and everything. From where I sat I could see several other roads had likewise been blocked off. I had no idea which way to turn. I was a woman alone (wearing a skirt and heels, I might add), at night, in a strange part of town, and had the distinct displeasure of knowing Matt's plane had just landed without me there to greet it.
Taking a chance, I made a turn down a side road and found a gas station. Oh relief! I would ask the attendant for directions! The lights were out. The station was empty. It was a little creepy.
"What do I do, God?"
A car pulled in around me and parked. Two women were inside. Women! Not scary! I pulled beside them and popped my head out the window. "I'm lost. I need to pick my husband up from the airport, but I can't find my way around the road work!" The response was immediate.
"I'll take you there. Just follow me."
She navigated through the maze of roadwork, driving slowly enough for me to follow, and several minutes later - the airport. Had I just been assisted by angels? I'm inclined to think so. But, whether angels or no, I am convinced they had been sent to help me. God is so good.
It was wonderful to see my husband again. (He had only been home for a week since May. Stinky ol' Navy...) I couldn't believe he had been able to come for my special day! He had planned something special. The following day I was instructed to pack a swimsuit and a dress, and off we went for a romantic overnight get-away.
The drive was beautiful. Fall color is just beginning to appear. For the first time in years I got to swim, really swim. (I'm usually too busy making sure children aren't drowning.) It was so much fun. We dressed for dinner and headed out to a local casino for a fabulous seafood buffet we'd heard about. Visions of crab legs danced in my head.
We're not gamblers and neither of us had been to a casino before. (I did peek inside one as a child.) We had no idea what it would be like. Once we arrived we headed straight for the restaurant only to be told there was a two-hour wait. How would we pass the time? (As if the casino didn't know.)
Matt ordered a margarita for me and while I sipped at the pretty drink we talked and people watched.
"Is this what old folks homes are like in Vegas?"
There were old ladies using walkers and old men on oxygen support (some puffing away on cigarettes) seated before slot machines with names like "Lucky Tornado" and "Million Dollar Goldfish". We walked past a craps table where a man with an extremely serious-looking expression rolled dice across a table.
"What exactly IS craps? It sounds naughty." I looked at Matt. He shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea."
We passed blackjack tables and more slot machines. "We still have an hour and a half. Do you want to try a game?" Matt turned to a slot game called "Party Time" that featured a polar bear in a birthday hat. "It's your birthday. You try it. This one lets you make penny bets." He put a dollar bill in the slot. We must have looked ridiculous, pushing buttons at random. "What is 5 line?" "Don't know. Try it." "Hey, I won 45 cents! Hit the cash out button. I want out while I'm ahead." Yeah. I think I'm what they call a high roller.
Now it was Matt's turn. I chose a game for him and he put in the money. By now we had figured out which buttons to push and knew we could make this tiny amount of money last a long time. Then Matt pressed the button for the second time. A light began to flash and a bell sounded "cha-ching, cha-ching!" "What did you do?" I asked. "I think I won the jackpot." The numbers on the screen kept going up and when it finished our penny had turned into $26.70. "Cash out!" we laughed. Neither of us had any desire to continue. I don't think we would make good gamblers. "This will pay for dinner." Nice. Very nice.
Dinner was even better than we expected - crab legs, oysters on the half shell, smoked salmon, and even caviar! (Okay. The caviar was icky, but now I can say I've tried it.) And, thanks to that silly jackpot, it was on the house. I felt so spoiled.
On leaving we bumped into some friends...from church(!) who were just arriving. They looked at us and we looked at them. I had to laugh. "So, this is where all those sinning Catholics go - to the casino!" Of course word would get around. The very next day... No. The very next morning we met another man from our church and his first words to us were, "So I heard you two went to the casino."
The rest of Matt's visit was quieter and was over before we even had the chance to feel settled into his presence at home. Other deployments during Matt's 23 years in the Navy were so hard, but this one... this one is the hardest yet, with the possibility things will get harder still. Some days I am sure I have reached my limit and just don't have the strength to carry on. I'm leaning on my God. Sometimes I fear how much it will hurt before we are through, but I know He will see us through it. I'm grateful Matt was here. I'm sorrowful that he has left. I feel like... I feel like... I feel like ... throwing pea soup!