Worth the Wait

By Mary Beth Raabe, staff writer

“No! Please don’t shoot!” I shouted in the middle of the crowded airport. Darn these nightmares. Every time I shut my eyes, I had flashbacks of the war. Some people call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I just consider it a part of my duty to my country. Almost all soldiers have it. No big deal.

I thought to myself that I should grab a water. I had been sitting in the same chair for four hours now. I looked out the window at the snow swirling about and leaving playful shapes scattered across the runways where the planes continued coming and going. I said a quick prayer for my wife and daughter who, despite the Nor’easter making its way through the northeast, were on their way to pick me up. It’s almost childish how I was sitting and waiting for somebody to come get me. It takes me back to my middle school days, sitting and waiting for my mom after school.

I made my way to the small Starbucks store across the rows of chairs. I almost forgot how to order coffee; we surely didn’t do that in Afghanistan. I ordered myself a small cappuccino and ventured back to my seat.

As I drank my coffee I noticed how clammy my hands were. Weird. I was never nervous. Heck, I just came home from a 12-month deployment in the U.S. Army. Why would I be anxious to see my wife and daughter? Maybe because I would finally be able to touch my 6 month old daughter. Her name was Paisley Grace Williams. She weighed 6 pounds and 8 ounces. 19 ½ inches long. She was born on May 9, 2012. I pulled out a picture of them. My wife, Laura, was gorgeous. She was everything a southern woman should be. Tanned skin, long blonde hair, the most beautiful baby blue eyes you’ve ever seen. I couldn’t wait to finally touch her again. All I’ve had for a year was pictures and letters. It was the hardest thing not spending our anniversary, her birthday, Christmas, any other night, holding her in my arms. Sure it sounds sappy and some might even say “wimpy”, but even while fighting for my country and my life, I would have given anything to be with her for just one minute, one second, one moment.

I searched the room for a payphone. Everybody had their smartphones and tablets to call and make sure their loved ones were surviving their treacherous journey through the snow, but mine was blown to pieces in the middle of a firefight, so I was stuck with the payphone. Of course, there was none to be found.

So I sat and waited, sipping my coffee and smiling at the picture.

Finally I decided to stretch my legs and take a walk. Maybe I would go to the gift shop. I could get Laura some of her favorite chocolate, a Hershey’s almond bar. She keeps a stash of those in the drawer next to the utensils in our straight-out-of-an-IKEA-catalog kitchen. I couldn’t wait to be in my own kitchen tonight, and sleep in my own bed with Laura next to me. I was even excited to be awakened in the middle of the night by the screams of my daughter, stirring in the nursery across from our bedroom.

I walked to the gift shop and looked around for a while. I sauntered to the cash register with a bag of Middleswarth potato chips, my favorite, for myself and some chocolate for Laura.

As the cashier rang my items up, she thanked me for my service, I’m sure she noticed my U.S. Army clothing. I appreciated this, but I always think to myself, “They don’t even know what it’s like. How can you thank me when you don’t know what I’ve been through? I’ve seen friends die, been nearly blown into pieces by a bomb. Lived in the middle of the desert for a year. You can’t even imagine what it’s been like.” I’m always grateful but how does anybody else know?

Then, as I continued to study the woman, I wondered about her family. Was she a single mother? Maybe she was going through a divorce? Did she get laid off and had to find a new job as a cashier in an airport? What if our country had a dictator that didn’t favor the lower class? Maybe she did know what she thanking me for.

I pondered about it for a little while longer. I moved in and out of stores, considering purchasing something for Paisley. I didn’t have much cash left on me though and I had a few things custom made for her in Afghanistan. My favorite though was a blanket made by Asgharie, an older woman in the town we stayed in. Asgharie was an amazing mother to her nine children. She spoke little English, but something about her was just heart-warming. She made everything more comforting. She would wait for the pictures of Paisley to come in the mail as anxiously as I did. She was a grandmother to me, and I hope one day Paisley can meet her as well. The blanket she made was filled with pinks, oranges, greens, blues and yellows. It was the most vibrant work of art I’ve seen. And it was so soft, as soft as a kitten. I couldn’t wait to see my baby girl tucked in her crib with a part of Asgharie and her world right next to her.

It was about 5 o’clock now and Laura should be arriving soon, so I went to the lobby by the main doors of the airport. I was getting even more anxious now. Would Paisley like me? Or would she be terrified when I held her? I was timorous to find out.

My biggest regret in life is missing the day that Paisley was born. I’m glad that Laura has a great mother and sister to support her, and that my family was also present in the first hours of Paisley’s life. But how could I have missed the day that my first child was born?

I was just so scared she wouldn’t like me.

It was now about 5:30 and I began searching for Laura through the crowds. And then, among the busy people mingling around, I saw her.


It was better than I had ever imagined. All of a sudden, when I saw the six month old child on her hip with pigtails and a bright pink bow in, I broke into tears. I ran, no I sprinted, towards them.

You know in movies when the lovers see each other and the rest of the world pauses? That’s exactly what happened. In that moment, the embrace of our small family, nothing else in the world mattered. Everything after that was a blur. I remember my mother crying and my dad giving me a firm handshake. And Paisley. Oh, sweet, sweet Paisley. She was absolutely perfect. The way her chubby arms hugged me and her sweet voice cooed “Daddy? Daddy!” was the most precious thing I have ever experienced.

I remember everything about meeting her. She was wearing a little outfit; apparently it’s called a romper, which was brown and white plaid with a pink bow on the shoulder. The bow in her hair matched. And she had these brown sandals on that looked so miniscule and dainty. Oh my god, I love her. I love her more than you could ever imagine.

My dad offered to drive the 12 hours home to Charlotte, North Carolina. Laura and I rode with Paisley in between us, who slept the entire way, only occasionally waking up to be fed. I studied her tiny face the whole way home. The chubby cheeks, the curly blonde hair hanging over her eyes, the way her nose wrinkled when she sneezed.

We got home at dawn the next morning, and being home, laying down in bed next to Laura with Paisley next door, was better than I ever could have dreamed it would be.

The next morning when I heard Paisley whimpering from her crib, I tiptoed across the hallway, trying not to wake Laura. I quietly got Paisley dressed in a light pink sundress. It shocked me that I had acquired this ability to dress a little girl and put her hair in pigtails. They might not have been good but they were pigtails none the less. We went out the door, and I put her in the orange Eddie Bauer stroller. We walked about a block to the neighborhood park. Paisley was so excited; laughing and gurgling all the way. So we ventured over to the swing set, my daughter and I. And in the end it was all worth the wait.