A couple months ago, I wrote about how awesome (and terrifying) the military homecoming can be. I’ve been home for a little over a week now, so I figured I could step away from the family long enough to describe how mine went.
When I left Rhode Island, the original plan was to spend the first night in Pittsburgh and then meet the family in Kansas City at my wife’s parents’ house. We amended the plan slightly when I got to the Steel City. My wife wanted to take the kids to her old college stomping grounds in Columbia, Missouri. Since this was directly along my route, and I was going to roll through there around dinner time, we figured it would be a good idea to just meet there the second day. This would give me the opportunity to surprise the kids, and since they were all riding out to Columbia with the grandparents, my wife would be able to drive my car the final leg to Kansas City after I had gone 20 hours in 2 days.
We had a great plan to surprise the kids. They would all get to the restaurant first and find a table where the kids could sit with their back to the door. My wife would be able to see me walk through the door, so she would pretend to take the kids’ picture while I walked up behind them. It would be perfect since we would have a series of pictures that ended with the kids being surprised by me showing up…
Of course, it didn’t actually work out that way.
The restaurant we picked had an odd layout, and there were about 3 entrances. I was also in a hurry to get there since I’d been on the road for 2 days, wanted to see my family, and my Jayhawk blood was starting to boil from being so close to the University of Missouri. As a result, I arrived while they were still ordering at the counter, and they hadn’t sat down yet. Nothing really went to plan, but it was still pretty awesome.
As I was making my way through the maze of restaurant, I couldn’t find them, but my wife’s dad spotted me, so he called out my name. He was holding my son at the time, so he pointed to me and asked Little Dude, “Do you know that guy?”
It’s probably worth noting at this point that while I’ve previously deployed 3 times since Princess was born, I’ve been fortunate to be home for Little Dude’s entire life. I had absolutely no idea what to expect when he saw me.
What happened next was funny, heartwarming, and a little scary all at the same time. When he saw me, his face immediately turned red. I’ll never know exactly what he was thinking, but his eyes looked like he was ecstatic to see me, but he was a little terrified that it wasn’t actually his daddy. He started pushing and kicking as hard as he could to get boppa to drop him, and his voice got stuck in a loop of calling out to me and letting his sister know that I was there. It sounded something like this:
“DADDY! DADDY! DADDY! SISSY! SISSY! DADDY! DADDY! SISSY! DADDY!”
This all happened at the top of his lungs and lasted until I finally made me way across the restaurant. Once he got out of his grandpa’s grasp, he ran up and gave me a huge hug like he was never going to let go. Princess wasn’t far behind him and CinC HOUSE followed her closely. It all ended in a huge family hug and a couple slices of pizza. I don’t think the kids have let go of me since.
It’s good to be home.