Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Driving to Rhode Island / REUNITED!

September 1 & 2, 2015

All summer long, right up until the day before we left, people kept coming up to me and saying "Wow! You finally get to see him soon! This summer has gone fast, hasn't it?!" And all I could say was...no! It felt like years ago since our week in Wisconsin together, and even with the busyness and all the traveling I'd done this summer, it still felt like "way too long" before I would get my husband back. 

But then, all of a sudden, it was August 31 and I was leaving THE NEXT DAY to go see Curtis and watch him graduate! Wasn't it just yesterday that we were back in Arizona and watching him graduate from college?? Time is such a weird concept and always so hard to wrap my head around. Traveling makes it even more complicated. 4 weeks ago, I was living in my parent's house, missing my husband like crazy. 3 weeks ago, I was driving to Rhode Island. 2 weeks ago, I was back in my hometown, this time with my husband. Just last week we were somewhere in Colorado, exploring and living off the grid. And now here we are, back in Arizona, as if none of this ever happened.

But it did - and I'll do my best to recount our adventures for the sake of wanting to remember these exciting days for the rest of my life. :)

I could hardly sleep the night before I left. I was more prepared for a trip than I'd ever been, and way too excited about it. My alarm went off at 5am, and by 6:15 my dad, youngest sister Gina, and I were on the road, Rhode Island bound! We split the 18 hour drive into 2 days, driving 11 hours to Buffalo, NY the first night, and the rest of the way to Newport, RI the second day. 

I am SO thankful that Dad and Gina gave up their week to join me on this adventure. I can't imagine driving all this way and navigating around the Northeast on my own. They made this adventure so enjoyable, and I'm so glad we could experience this together. Thank you guys, I love you both! :)

The only stop that we made on the first day (aside from gas of course!) was to see Niagara Falls by night, since we were staying in Buffalo. We made 2 great discoveries there: parking is free at night, and the lights on the falls make them just as beautiful to look at as they are in the daylight, if not more so! 

It was fun to remember the last time I was here - on Curtis and my honeymoon, just over 2 years ago! Except we didn't see the falls from this view - instead, we saw them from the Canadian side, and from the Rainbow Bridge as we drove back into the US for the last time. One memory that sticks out is our first truck, Yeti, overheating on the bridge while waiting in line. Oh, Yeti. :P

The Rainbow Bridge

We finished the night by eating at Friendly's, a long-time family favorite restaurant from all our vacations to the East coast. :)

The next day, we were on the road again before 8, ready to blast on through to Rhode Island all for one reason: There was a chance I could see Curtis that night! There's something so special about driving to see a loved one after being apart for so long. Just the idea that every passing mile meant we were one mile closer made the drive so exciting, and it even seemed to go by so fast. 

We enjoyed the scenic drive along I-90 with the rolling hills and Erie Canal by our side for much of the drive. We were pleasantly surprised by how green and natural the area was - having never been out here, I only thought this area was packed with people and not so spread out like it is in the West. Traffic also wasn't nearly as horrific as I had led myself to believe. 

We made great time getting out there, so we made 2 small changes to plan - first, we exited I-90 early so that we could cut through Connecticut and say we'd been to another state, and then we decided to make a quick stop at the beach in Rhode Island because hey - it's the Atlantic Ocean! How often do we get to see that?! (For me, it had been 3 ½ years since my last visit!)

And then, the time finally came - it was time to cross the Pell Bridge into Newport! This was one of those moments I imagined all summer - what it would like to drive across the bridge and be on the same island, mere miles away from Curtis. Fun fact - this bridge is the one featured on Rhode Island's quarter!

We arrived in Newport around 5. Curtis told me I could come meet him on base after 7:30. After checking into our hotel, we went to grab dinner, though I could barely eat due to the crazy butterflies in my stomach. ;) After a quick stop back at the hotel to freshen up, we drove on base, nervously navigating around and looking for a familiar face. 

We successfully found the right building, and stood outside waiting. There were people in uniformed scattered around, and I examined each one quickly and carefully to try to guess if Curtis was outside yet. There is no stranger feeling than looking around trying to figure out which person is your husband of 2+ years, but having not seen him in 81 days and never seen him in uniform, this was the predicament I was in! I smiled at everyone I saw, just in case they happened to be him. Some men passed by and asked me who I was waiting for. I told them, and they responded "Oh, you're Jorgie's wife? He'll be out soon!"

And then, there he was...when I saw, I knew without a doubt it was him. We embraced, and I was home.

So there you go, folks...we survived! And we are happily reunited!

Making it through this summer is both a huge relief and accomplishment, yet there's also the knowledge that this is only the beginning. There will be more times of separation that we'll have to endure. There will be so many more highs and lows as this journey continues. Nothing about this road we are on will be easy. This summer was challenging for both of us, but now that we're on the other side, we can see how it positively affected us and our life. All the letters and emails, reflecting on our relationship and truly learning how blessed and valuable it is. Our feelings toward each other and how they have grown. Our time together now, and how much more it means to us. 

And while I see how positively it all turned out, I don't ever want to get to a point where this is "normal" for me. I don't want to simply accept that my husband has to go away for long periods of time and I have to live without him. I don't want to forget how meaningful our written words can be when we desperately miss each other. I want every reunion to be as happy, anticipated, filled with butterflies-in-my-stomach as this one. I want every departure to be as tear-filled and devastating as last June was. I don't want to grow used to this life so much that it loses its emotion and feels ordinary. I never want to be at a point where it feels normal to be away from my husband. I hope and pray that this life we are living and the challenges we face cause us to grow closer to God and each other. Because that is the only way we will continue to survive it!

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