Month: October 2014

I’m Wearing His Hoodie

Here’s the thing about a hoodie. If it’s special like mine, you can pretty much conquer the world in it. You refuse to see the stains on it and it doesn’t matter how big it is on you. It keeps you safe like armour and acts like a security blanket with a convenient pocket in the front. No matter how many years go by, no matter how worn it gets, your special hoodie will never let you down. Mine certainly hasn’t.

Not 4 years ago, when it still smelled enough of MiniSir that I stuffed a pillow into it and hugged it through the night, wishing I were in Medicine Hat with him, rather than Kingston without him.

Not 3 years ago, when I would get up and put it on every morning (or sometimes early afternoon) while every broken part of me screamed in protest at the action. Still not then, when chilled to the bone in the night, even on warm nights, I would put the sweater on over my pjs and crawl under the sheets, pain killers and anti-psychotics pumping through my veins so I could sleep.

Not 2 years ago, when, after we moved and married in one whirlwind summer, I saw my husband for 7 days in a two month period and came to the realization that him being an officer back at the regiment meant something completely different than being an officer posted into a staff position.

Not a year ago when I waited and waited for him to finally be done in the field while puking my guts out and watching cartoons to cope with being pregnant on my own. Plus it was downright necessary the week when everything in my closet stopped fitting at once and I dragged the sweater on over my too-tight shirt to finally go shopping for maternity clothes.

Or earlier this year when I was so tired from being a new mother that it was the only thing that held me up some days.

And it hasn’t let me down this week either, when events have left the military community shocked and saddened, and everyone feeling just a little vulnerable. I wore it to a fellow military spouse’s house on Thursday and she asked if I had put it on because I just needed a little extra comforting. I hadn’t even realized it, but I had. I had needed that extra layer that it gave me, that armour with a hug inside it. I knew my husband was safe at work, and in my hoodie, I was safe too.

That’s the thing about a great sweater. When he asks me how my day is going and I say, “I’m wearing your hoodie”, he knows he’ll need to give me some extra hugs, for one reason or another. And it won’t matter to him because he knows he can’t ever be replaced by a piece of clothing.

Because even though being in his hoodie is great, being in his arms is better.


The Way I Remember It

Last week was not a great week. For our family, the last week in September has too many days of note, and they are all bittersweet. Chief among them is 24 September, the anniversary of the first death of a Strathcona during my husband’s deployment in Afghanistan. His name is tattooed on MiniSir’s arm, and though I never got to meet Nathan Hornburg, I’ve seen his handsome face on many memorials. Every year when I wake up on this day, I remember his face from the photos, and thank him for his service and sacrifice. I thank whoever else is listening for guiding my husband home safely so he could be the one waking up beside me. And I think of my best memory of that particular anniversary, which happened just three years ago, and I hope that wherever he is, Nathan approves.

September 24, 2011 was a Thursday. MiniSir was posted at CFB Suffield. I was in Medicine Hat Hospital, recovering from the accident. The Portraits of Honour, a mural depicting Canada’s fallen soldiers from the Afghanistan tour, was in town for a public viewing and gala. Of all days to have the gala, this one was especially poignant. MiniSir had to attend, but he had the afternoon off to get ready. I was napping in the afternoon sun, something I often did after my second Physio workout of the day, when he came into the room, still in his combats, and sat next to the bed.

“I was thinking about today, and how short life is,” he started, “and in case I didn’t get the hint when your accident happened, today really kicked my ass with it.”

Sleepy, bleary-eyed and without my glasses, I vaguely noticed he had something in his pocket.

He went on to say how he couldn’t imagine life without me, and that he felt that it was the right time to do this. After much teasing about what was in his pocket, he pulled it out and nervously opened the box. It was the ring we had picked out together months ago, the one I had loved immediately. He asked me to marry him, and when I nodded, slid the ring on. But he made me say the words, all of them, before he would kiss me in celebration.

The ring had been sized for my pre-accident finger width, so it was far too big to keep wearing. I waved it around and let it sparkle for a while, but when he told me he had to go get ready for the gala, we agreed to put it back in the box for safe keeping. Then, his visit cut short with a promise to try and see me later, he left.

I spent the evening playing card games with my mum and talking about what kind of wedding I wanted, and went to bed still wondering when he would show up. Late, nearly midnight, I woke up to a text message saying he was just outside. The ER guard had apparently taken one look at him and let him in without a fuss.

I was still waking up when I heard the familiar “Ching-Ching-Ching” of his spurs against the hospital floor. And when the nurses started wolf-whistling and cat-calling, I knew exactly what was going on. Still dressed in his mess kit, having come straight from the gala and a whiskey toast to Nathan, he was strolling through the hospital looking like a million bucks, just to kiss me goodnight.

And I fell in love with him all over again.

He came into my room quietly, and when he saw I was awake, he gave me a single red rose he had stolen from the centrepiece. “I love you, Mrs Johns,” he whispered.

The next day was the day I walked for the first time without the casts. The nurses couldn’t stop talking about his appearance the night before, fawned over my ring, and gave me a beautiful martini glass they had all chipped in to buy me as a congratulatory gift. When he came to visit that evening and I showed him I could stand up by myself without the walker, he got the ring out, got down on one knee, and proposed again, just so he had done it right.

If you ask me, he did it right the first time.

And that is why, every September 24, I wake up happy, though I know it’s a somber anniversary. Because I remember that it was Nathan who helped my husband to take what he wanted from life, to say what he felt, and to be strong and proud. This September 24, I looked down at our sleeping son, at how beautiful he was, and marvelled at how so much can change in just three years. And then once again, I thanked Cpl. Hornburg, a man I never met, for everything.