Back in January, Steve found out that he would be getting a 4 day pass in late February to come home before he would be going overseas. Nothing with the Army is ever final so even though we booked his ticket to come home (with insurance of course), I decided that it was best to not tell Jonathan. I could only imagine hyping up daddy coming home and then find out at the last minute for whatever reason, that he couldn't. So, as the day got closer, I told Jonathan that on Saturday (february 20) we would be going to the airport "For a surprise". Thank goodness a 3 year old can take that at face value and not ask a lot of questions. Thinking about that day, I was thinking how I can make it special. A friend of mine had mentioned that there is an organization called "Operation Love Reunited" which has photographers who donate their time and product to military families. I contacted 2 photographers and I ended up with Erika Hopkins Photography! She took care of all the details and made sure that Jonathan got the perfect surprise!
When February 20th arrived, we met Erika at the airport. Jonathan clicked with her automatically because she had a camera (Jonathan absolutely LOVES cameras!). We kept up to date with when his plane landed and we waited and waited to hear from him that he was near. In the mean time, hundreds of soldiers walked by us and Jonathan just kept saying, "Hey, those are Army guys like Daddy!" but never put two and two together. Finally I got a text message fom him saying that he was on the tram. My heart began to race!!! I know it had "only" been 7 weeks but it sure felt like an eternity and I could not wait to be reunited! I finally saw Steve coming with another soldier and I pointed to the two of them and said to Jonathan, "Jonathan, who is THAT???" He looked for a few seconds and then you saw the excitement and he screamed, "It's my daddy!!!!" It is something that I will never forget! Truly one of the most priceless moments of my life. Steve scooped him up and Jonathan just would not let go. I ran to him and hugged him probably harder than I have ever hugged him before! Erika snapped many photos (and before you ask, I am still waiting to see them but when I do, I will post them!) and then parted ways with us.
We had the most amazing 4 days! We went to Tampa and stayed at MacDill Airforce base at their Hotel there. It was a beautiful condo with a full kitchen, master bedroom and pull out couch! We went to the beach, out to dinner, shopping and enjoyed every moment as a family! Monday night we went to dinner at Cape May Cafe at Disney. They made us "family of the day" and gave us chocolate covered strawberries with "Thank You" written on the plate. Then, we were surprised that when we asked for the check, the server notified us that it had been taken care of! I tell you, some people are truly generous!!!
It went by SOOOO fast and Tuesday arrived where we had to bring Steve back to the airport. Originally I was going to work and now I am forever grateful to work for letting me have the day off even though I didn't have any days left to take. I think this "See you later" day was SOOOO much harder than it was back in January. He hugged me and told me everything was going to be okay and that I was going to be okay. I just sobbed for a moment into his chest and then he had to leave. He hugged Jonathan who was still in the car and he walked into the airport. I watched every last second until I couldn't see him any more. Then I cried again and then I hear Jonathan saying something to me that I will never forget. He said, "Mommy, it will be okay, Daddy will be home soon." I should be the one comforting him. What a strong and smart little boy Steve and I have raised!
I kept telling myself that I wanted to keep Jonathan busy that day but really I think I wanted to keep myself busy and out of my house. We went to play miniature golf and went shopping...but then it was time to go home. I walked into the house and cried some more. How could it be that Steve wouldn't step back in here for so many months??? It just didn't seem possible.
Every day is hard, some days are harder than others. But every day I try to smile! Jonathan keeps me going. Plus, I have such a great group of coworkers who some are truly great friends and they don't let me get down. Same with my family...they are checking in on me constantly and I appreciate it more than anyone will know!
Yesterday In Hartford
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