Kylie McCaffrey wrote a poem whilst her husband was away on a nine-month operational tour. She found putting pen to paper a cathartic release while she was at home looking after their two small children…

Bags packed by the door 
Uniform neatly pressed  
A final embrace
I squeeze so hard I think my bones will break 
Loneliness creeps in through the door, as if apologising for intruding 
Fear and dread follow closely behind, their shadowy figures flouncing playfully 
I peek through the curtain and watch you leave
The click of the gate, the sound of the engine against the stillness of the night 
The lump in my throat hard to swallow, like a cough drop lodged for a second too long 
I hold my breath for a moment, you are gone

Next comes the space in-between
Instinct and survival in equal measures 
I clear the clutter of boots and coats from the hallway, a selfish act but a way of coping
Piggy-backing the emotions of others before my own 
OCD grips to me the same way a shy toddler clings to your leg
Riding the waves and staying afloat but always gasping for breath

The longing for human touch whilst always feeling suffocated 
The warm feet at bedtime because he’s missing his hero 
The under-eating, the overeating, the boredom of repetition
Being everything to everybody except to myself 
Sadness and elation jumbled up like a bag of old clothes 

I know I’m here but not always present 
Always caught up in constant chaos 
Tackling it all; the sickness, the school runs, the tears and the tantrums
I find your photo under pillowcases and your aftershave bottle open 

Time zones, war zones, waiting for WiFi 

Living our lives 5000 miles apart 

I’ve turned the calendar a million times, thumbing the pages and smudging the ink

Exhausted by plans yet longing for plans 
I’m thankful for the kindness of others, the warmth of their smiles and inviting faces

This is a journey we’ve all had to bear but at last the homecoming is near 
Self-care and healing to follow 
Beaming with pride and a sense of relief 
Let the next chapter begin and the grey pages fill with colour once more 
Balloons in hand of our dandelion child

A sea of camouflage and the traced memory of a face 

Look how far we’ve come  
I hold my breath for a moment, you are home. 

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