April Column Winner

Smiling Through Tears: Daddy's Home

SUZIE CAMPBELL, The Countywide & Sun

For eight months we have planned, dreamed and waited on this day to arrive. I could feel the butterflies bouncing around inside my stomach as I marked the days off the calendar one by one. I felt anxious and a little giddy as I counted down the hours, then minutes, then seconds until his arrival.
I was excited to see my son, but I was more excited to see Delilah spend time with her dad. Then he was here. I watched as he walked towards us through the airport. I watched Delilah, who thought we were at the airport to see the planes. She turned and spotted her daddy. She stopped dead in her tracks and just looked at him with wide eyes.
This man looked like her daddy, but her daddy was in Korea. We all watched and waited.
"Hi, Punkin," was all he said. But that was enough. Her feet grew wings as she flew across the room and jumped into Kyle's arms. She hugged him and kissed him. She softly ran her tiny fingers over his face, all the while grinning from ear to ear. Daddy was finally home.
She clung to him as he carried her from the airport to the car. I followed behind, watching as the two of them continued to exchange looks, softly whispered their secrets to each other, then hugged some more. She willingly shared her ice cream with him when we stopped for him to grab a bite to eat.
We stood in the parking lot talking, no one wanting to say goodnight and go back to their own homes for a good night's rest before gathering again for more stories and hugs.
As we all finally made our way into our vehicles, Delilah poked her head back out the door and said, "Daddy, are you coming home with me?" I caught myself as I felt the tears well up in my eyes. I couldn't control the joy I felt as I listened to her delighted squeal when he said yes.
Although his time here is brief, the two of them are making the most of his visit. Daddy's vacation is being spent taking Delilah to school, shopping, riding bikes and 4-wheelers. I even caught him playing Barbie dolls with her, though I doubt he will admit to this.
There are plenty of tender moments where the two of them just cuddle up to read a book or watch a movie. These are the moments that make my heart soar. watching my son and my granddaughter lovingly transition back into their same old routines.
I remember my dad traveling when I was a young girl. He was never gone for more than a couple of days, maybe three. But I can't imagine how hard it is for young children of military parents to go about their daily lives for months at a time. They do it every day, though. Delilah has continued her routines, only stopping briefly in the evenings before bed as she waits for me to tell her it's time to go see Daddy on the computer.
This visit for Delilah and Kyle has been wonderful to watch and I am so thankful to have been a part of their reunion. But ours is only one of the many families who are experiencing all these emotions as their loved ones return home. I pray that all their reunions are just as sweet to watch unfold.
Thank you to my son Kyle, my nephew Cody (who returned home the following week) and to all the military men and women and their families. Words cannot express how grateful I am to all of you for your sacrifices.