First, let me give you the backstory: Jan enlisted in the Army to play basketball. It was ideal not to mention an honor to be working for the Army, and I naturally had no complaints. But then came October 30 when they were told they were getting shipped to Basic Military Training, which would last at least three months, and they had to leave the same night. Three months (and now it could actually be six freakin months) is a long time to spend away from your one-year-old daughter, and it all happened so sudden! You can just imagine what a mess I was that night, and I honestly haven’t been able to adjust to everything even up to now.
So I saw my husband for the first time today in two weeks since the Army trainees were in Manila for the week-long APEC festivities.
Spending the last two weeks in Basic Military Camp, I really didn’t know what to expect. For sure, he would lose weight and get a little darker, but probably not anything drastic. But when I saw him, I actually almost didn’t recognize him. He is three shades darker and about two sizes smaller; it was like he got sick. He had lost six kilos in the first week alone. His naturally high hairline can be seen in its full glory since he has gone bald.
My love Celestine,
I know you haven’t noticed Daddy hasn’t been home for four days. He hasn’t called too. Maybe it’s a good thing that you don’t know, so you won’t have to feel sad like mommy. Here’s the thing, that’s going to last for a while. I’m sorry but we won’t have daddy for 14 Sundays. He won’t be there on your first birthday, maybe even on Christmas or New Year too. We don’t know if he can call to greet you or if he can go out so he can spend the holidays with us. Actually babe, I don’t know a lot of things about this trip, but I know for sure he’s doing this for you.
Remember what I told you yesterday, while we were watching TV and I was stroking your hair while you were lying down on my chest? I really miss dada, babe. I don’t know how to survive the next three months without him. I know I’m going get help from Lola. I know I can provide you your needs. I promise you won’t lack the love and attention while he’s away. But I don’t know how to enjoy our Sundays without him. I have never been away from your daddy for more than a week, and I never imagined he’d ever be far away from you for three months. How do we walk around the mall without him carrying you? Only dada is strong enough to do that. Who’s going to change your nappies at 5am when mommy is still too sleepy to do so? You’re going to finally stop being afraid of walking on your own soon, and by the time he gets back, you won’t need to hold his hands anymore when we go on our strolls.
Daddy and Elle.
Do you think is mommy overreacting, babe? Is three months not a long time? But you’re growing up way too fast and everyday you show us something new. All I can think about is you won’t recognize Jan when he gets back, that you won’t call him “dada” anymore when you see him.
I’m writing you this so when you see photos of your birthday or your second Christmas and you wonder where daddy is, you will know that daddy is out on a great adventure just for you. He shaved his head bald (Daddy does not look good bald), he endured not seeing you for a long time so he can provide for you. I don’t think he ever saw himself being in the middle of a gruelling military training in his lifetime, but he was willing to do it for you in a heartbeat.
Please stay a Daddy’s girl, baby. Mommy and Daddy love you so much.
This morning, I showed Elle a photo of Jan on my phone. She grabbed my phone and started kissing the screen. I think she misses her dada too.
In a perfect world, every day would look like this; My husband and I would have breakfast together, kiss Elle goodbye, go to work together and get home by 6pm in time to tuck our daughter to bed. We’d have the weekends off and we’d spend all those time with Elle. Maybe we’d eat out on Sundays after mass or stay in while I get busy in the kitchen. We would’t have any arguments in front of Elle. We’d have a car to go around and we’d be able to buy anything we want.
The reality, though, is this; I have a demanding job that keeps me out until past midnight and my husband Jan has one that needs him to wake up at 4am everyday. We only get one same free day each week—Sunday—and sometimes we’d spend half of that bickering. He is not home a lot. He is an Army guy in the morning, a highschool coach at night and a basketball player somewhere in the middle—just some of the many hats he wears just so we could get by. Jan doesn’t get morning playtimes that I get with Elle, neither does he get to sing her to sleep at night. He used to be the first person Elle sees in the morning when he still had the luxury to spend most of his day at home. Now, we’re lucky to wake up to him still beside us at least once a week.
It doesn’t paint a perfect picture of a family, but doesn’t mean we are less of one. We’d probably get a scolding from others who’d tell us that none of our work mattered if we didn’t have time. Sure, I’d kill for more time for us together, but given what we have now, we don’t have a lot of room in our life right now to complain. We just make do of our Sundays together and we spend it with Elle, either we turn the entire day into one long playtime in our room or we go get something to eat at the mall. It isn’t much, but it’s something. But here’s the thing, I know for a fact that if we could squeeze in another job in the middle of what we already do, Jan and I both will—if it meant giving our daughter Elle the perfect world, eventually.