I love military reunions. Reunions where military friends, made family by separation from their own, become the greatest of friends. I love reuniting with my military friends/family whenever I get the chance.
If you're a blog follower, you probably know of my friend Joia.
She was my great friend at Eglin.
When I left Eglin in 2010, Rebekah was just moving there. Rebekah and I had gotten to know each other after she visited the Base during their transition there. I helped Rebekah get settled a bit as we were moving out. Joia was not moving and so I helped to connect the two of them.
I left and they became the greatest of friends.
But then, this past year, Rebekah left. And here is where I'll let Joia take over.
Wendi asked me to do a little post about the events of this weekend. In order for that to make sense, I need to give you a little background.
My husband is in the Air Force and we have been stationed at Eglin AFB in Florida since 2007. For the last three years, we lived ¾ of a mile from my friend, Rebekah, and her husband, Josh, as he did his residency at Eglin. We were very close. Our kids ages were closely matched and they were good friends, we saw each other multiple times a week, talked on the phone at least once a day and watched each other’s kids on a regular basis. Sitting on her back deck on a summer day, drinking iced chai was a little slice of heaven.
When Josh graduated last June, the Air Force sent them to the Azores, a small island off of Portugal, in the middle of the ocean. The day they left was a crushing, tear soaked one.Life has gone on, as it does, even though so many things seem so strange with them not here. Their life across the ocean was so different from here and I missed talking to her every day. Keeping up with someone’s life on Facebook justwasn’t the same. I missed her deeply. No one had quite filled the spot I had become accustomed to her being in in my life.
Rebekah was pregnant when they moved and they (due to super strange rules at the local hospital) decided she would fly back home to Colorado to deliver the baby when it was time. Colorado is a long way from Florida, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to get to than Portugal! A couple months ago, I convinced my husband that I should visit Rebekah while she was stateside and contacted her husband to arrange the details. She would be induced on December 30th, and I’d fly in on January 3rd. Rebekah knew nothing.
Fast forward to a few days ago…. The baby was born, Luke Isaiah, and when I saw his pictures on Facebook, I messaged her about how bummed I was to not be visiting her in the hospital (all the while, knowing I’d see her in four days!) She echoed my sadness.
Early Friday morning I was excitedly waiting to board my flight that would get me started on my way to Rebekah. That flight was delayed several hours, due to engine trouble and I ended up missing my connecting flight in Dallas. I was supposed to have arrived in Grand Junction, CO by noon and now… I wouldn’t get there until 8:45 pm. I was devastated. There went NINE hours of my already short visit! I was stuck in the airport for seven hours.
My phone had quit working shortly before my first flight, so I had a stressful time contacting my husband at home, and also letting Josh know I hadn’t made the flight. Two of my friends at home (also military wives) were watching my three kids for the day and were instrumental in helping me get connected with Philip and also getting information to Josh, without ruining the surprise with Rebekah.
The first bright spot in the day was finding the USO in the airport. A smiling face, free food, and a place to relax was a welcome sight to this emotional, disappointed and tired traveler. I called Philip, napped a little and watched part of a movie. God bless all the sweet volunteers who work there.
I arrived in Grand Junction that evening and was met by Josh. Conveniently, Rebekah had just asked him to go and pick up a prescription for her at Walmart, so he had an excuse to leave the house! We had a plan. Rebekah and I have a long standing joke about Raisinets. Due to a childhood experience where she got sick eating them, she now Despises them. When she lived in Florida, every now and then, I would buy her some, or post a picture of them on Facebook, just to gross her out. Josh picked some up at Walmart as part of the plot. We made the short drive to his parent’s house, where they were staying and I tried to not jump out of my skin with excitement.
Everything went off without a hitch. Josh went in (he left the door cracked and I waited just outside). Rebekah was sitting on the couch and asked him what had taken so long. As he explained and made excuses, he picked up her camera, turned it on, and said, “Some random person gave me these Raisinets and asked me to give them to you (and then he threw the bag in her lap), then I popped in the door and said, “...and here she is!” Rebekah’s face reflected total confusion for only a millisecond and then she screamed and launched off the couch and across the room at warp speed. Who knew a four day post partum woman could move so fast?? =)
She hugged me and burst into tears. “I’m So glad you’re here!” she said. Josh caught it all on camera: (insert surprise pictures here)
It. Was. Perfect. All the planning and waiting and scheming had paid off, she was totally and completely surprised and just kept saying “I can’t believe you’re actually here!”
We really only had 24 hours together, since I left the house again at 5:30 this morning, but we made it count! I got in lots of baby snuggles, we sat and chatted and caught up, we joked, we laughed and teased each other just like we always had. I did a photo shoot of Luke, we visited with her family, and last night had a girl’s night out with her sister, sister’s in law, mother in law and some friends at a card party.Josh’s family was very welcoming and he ragged on me like old times. Nothing had changed. We hadn’t skipped a beat. Thousands of miles of separation don’t have anything on real friendship.
It was an early, chilly start this morning and goodbyes were quick. They weren’t the tear-stained kind like last time when they moved. This time I had travel, getting checked in, and getting home on mind as well. Josh was wearing shorts, argyle socks, Keens and a funny, tasseled, knitted hat in the freezing cold when he dropped me off, so that helped lighten the mood. =)The tears didn’t come until hours later, on my second flight as I thought about kissing baby Luke goodbye on his silky soft hair that morning. He will likely be a little boy the next time I see him… a pain that cuts deep to someone so in love with new babies.
We are likely moving in 6 months (to where, we aren’t sure yet), and Josh and Rebekah could be moving to Europe or elsewhere later this year. Travel and schedules are increasingly difficult when you consider that there are seven children between our families. We won’t be seeing each other often. I don’t know when I’ll see her again, but I know that our hearts will only ever be ¾ of a mile apart.