I missed the turnoff. A few minutes later, I rolled in and looked for a parking spot. I had been rushing, trying to get there "on time" without knowing exactly what "on time" really was.
They buzzed me in and scanned me for any dangerous substances. Audrey wanted to be scanned, too. When the lady obligingly did so, I knew the people in this place wouldn't be all that bad, after all. Henry folded in on himself, not at all interested in being scanned. This turned out to be okay with the lady, too.
She eased my worries with a few simple words as she showed me the lobby area. Everything with my husband was going smoothly and we would see him soon.
We got our visitor badges and sat down. The kids were handed gift baggies filled with things to keep a child entertained, for at least five minutes. Crayons, toy cars, stickers and paper-winged planes were scattered around in almost no time at all. At least they were happy...
Ben walked through, looking serious and busy, but had enough time to kiss his family hello before he had to run off again. Several minutes later, he came back and sat with us for a few minutes, cuddling the kids and whispering gentle words. It wasn't long before they called for him again.
I recalled the old adage: Hurry up and wait.
They finally called us visitors back and led us to the room where Ben was waiting with three others. They stood quiet and serious, facing the front of the room. The kids took what they felt was their place at their father's side.
I was most surprised by his refusal to even crack the smallest smile or allow the twinkle to reach his eyes. He can be serious after all. (I wondered if he would get his uniform but, alas, he won't get that until Basic.)
I now wish I had paid closer attention while the officiator was speaking. I was too busy taking pictures and keeping my children quiet to listen carefully. He answered in unison with the other three the officiator's questions with a sharp barking reply. I was startled, awed and almost instantly felt a little silly.
He solemnly swears he is up to no good. ;)
I couldn't resist.
Will I ever get all the flags straight in my mind?
Proud Dad. Proud kids. Proud Mom.
On the way home, the tears leaked out of their own accord; sometimes brought on by a surge of emotion, sometimes by no apparent reason at all. If Ben noticed, he didn't say. Something clicked into place for me. A part of our lives belong to the faceless entity of our country, but the rest of our lives have suddenly started to make a lot more sense.
The game has changed.