“Mama, do you think daddy will ever come back again and stay with us?”
“Well Chance, I can only tell you what I think knowing your daddy like I do. You know daddy went in to the Army right after we graduated from high school.”
“Sure mama, I heard some of the stories you and grandma tell plus the pictures of daddy in his uniform up in the attic.”
“The Army sent your daddy all over the world Chance. He was stationed in Europe for a while and then Korea. He took leave and went to Japan, Australia. Hays Kansas just got to small for him even if we are the Ellis County seat. A city of 20,000 doesn’t amount to much when you been where daddy was.”
“Then why did he come back mama?”
I already had this conversation with my daughter Riley who is three years older so I knew I was going to have this conversation with my son Chance someday. I figured I would let him decide what day that was going to be. “I asked him the same thing a couple of weeks after he came home from the Army. He kept talking about all the places he had been and things he did.”
“What did he say to you?”
“He got this real far away look on his face and said he came back to Hays because of me. Daddy said he loved me and asked me to marry him in the very next sentence.”
“He did mama?”
“I was surprised and must have had a strange look on my face too. Daddy just kept staring at me waiting for my response.”
“What did you say to daddy, what did you say?”
“I told your daddy that I loved him very much but I didn’t want to live anywhere else but Hays, Kansas. Daddy said to me that he could never love any other woman and if Hays was where I wanted to live then that’s where we would be.” I thought to myself he really meant what he said but deep inside of me I wasn’t sure that’s what he wanted. I pushed that thought out of my mind and prayed I was doing the right thing for me and Travis.
“The Army trained your father as a combat engineer and he got a lot of experience. He was a surveyor but learned about construction and heavy equipment. He got a good job right away with the state highway department. A couple of months after we got married I got pregnant with you sister, daddy and I were very happy.”
“Then why did daddy leave us all mama? He didn’t love us anymore?”
“No Chance, that wasn’t the reason he left, please don’t ever think that. I know daddy loves all of us. It’s complicated but I am going to do my best to help you understand. Things got very comfortable for us, we bought a house and I opened my dress shop. About a year later we got some more good news.”
“I found out that I was pregnant with you Chance.” That’s not exactly how it happened. My husband’s name is Travis, he came home from work and we caught up on the day. After our casual conversation I said, “There is something I need to tell you Travis.”
He looked puzzled and said, “Ok Kathy. I’m listening” and smiled.
“I missed my period for the second month in a row.”
“What does that usually mean?”
“We are going to get rain Travis”
“Really, we sure can use the rain.”
“No stupid, there’s a good chance I’m pregnant. I made an appointment to see the doctor.”
Travis came over and put her arms around me and said, “Are you ok with that?”
“Yes, I know it wasn’t planned but I want you to be happy too.”
“I think its great Kathy.”
I told the doctor I had missed two periods in a row and how I was feeling. He said “There’s a good chance you are pregnant.” The test confirmed what we all ready knew. When I got home and told Travis he asked me, “have you thought about a name?”
I laughed and said, “I all ready have one picked out if it’s ok with you?”
“What is it?”
I told Travis, “If it’s a boy I want to name him Chance.” I don’t know why but I thought there was a good chance it would be a boy. A mother’s intuition was right and I delivered a healthy and happy seven pound boy and we named him Chance.
We celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary, shortly after Chance’s fifth birthday and moved in to a new house. Travis was promoted to regional supervisor for road construction the next spring. That summer, as my grandmother often lamented “the chickens had come back to roost.” A country way of saying an old problem had returned.
An officer that Travis worked for in the Army, Col. Bill York retired and was now the operations manager for a large international construction company. He was going to be in Kansas City for business and called Travis. The story was Bill had heard Travis went back home to Kansas when he got out of the Army and wanted to stop by and catch up a little.
A couple of weeks later Bill York drove from Kansas City to Hays. When Travis saw Bill he smiled, they both laughed and hugged each other. Travis introduced me and the kids. His old boss seemed like a real nice guy. Bill came in to the house and went out on the deck with Travis, I brought out two beers and they were talking about old times. I got a nervous feeling and wondered if Bill drove all this way to talk about old times.
The guys’ stayed out on the deck for almost two hours. Long moments of conversation were interrupted by laughter. Chance went out with them for a little while. He took to Bill real quick and was showing him the toy trucks his daddy got him. I was impressed because Chance was a shy little boy and took a while to warm up to people. Bill had dinner with us and then drove back to Kansas City to catch his flight home.
When Bill’s car pulled away from the house Travis just stared at it for a bit and then walked quietly in to the house. There was no mention of Bill’s visit during the next week but Travis was definitely preoccupied.
When I got the kids settled down I got two beers and went out to the back deck were Travis was sitting. He was just sitting there and seemed to be in deep thought. I sat down next to Travis and said, “You’re going to have to tell me sooner or later so it might as well be now,” then handed him a beer.
Travis looked at me and grinned, “Sometimes I think you know me better than I know myself Kathy.”
I was sure this wasn’t going to be an easy conversation, “I know you well enough Travis to understand when something is bothering you and love you enough to help you carry that weight no matter what it is. Now let’s get everything out on the table.”
Travis looked at me in a real serious way that I have only seen a few times, nodded his head and said, “Ok, Bill’s company just got a contract for a $400 million construction project from the Saudi Arabian government. He said that he needed qualified people that he could trust and offered me a job as the director of equipment and materials. I thanked him and was as clear as I could be that it wasn’t possible for me to accept the offer.”
I knew all along it was something like that and asked my husband, “What would you do if it was possible? I don’t want to live with, could have, should have, and wished I did.”
“You know I’m not like that, I make the best decision I can and live with it.”
I responded quickly, “I wasn’t talking about you; I was talking about me Travis. I don’t want part of my man, I want all of him. I don’t want to be second guessing myself when you are looking up at the stars and thinking I killed your dream. Your body is here but your mind is elsewhere because of me. I’m not living with that so as I said what do you want to do?”
Travis thought for a moment and told me, “I have always been honest with you, it is a great opportunity. I would be making five times what I earn now and most of it is tax free but it’s not just the money. I could only dream of being involved with a project like that. It’s just a dream, my family is more important.”
“Travis, I think we should find out for sure instead of wondering for the rest of our lives if that’s true.”
The director of the Kansas State Department of Transportation told Travis he would always have a job for him. Travis called Bill and was in Saudi Arabia a month later to work on a project that was going to take six months.
The kids and I got mail from him once a week. I asked him not to call because it made things harder hearing his voice. Travis was sending home more than enough money to cover our expenses’ so are savings grew quickly.
The six month project got extended to eight months and then I got a late night phone call. It was from Travis, it felt so good to hear is voice I had all I could do to not cry but if he called I knew it wasn’t good news.
“Kathy I know what you asked me but I had to call.”
“Its ok Travis I just want you to tell it to me straight.” The six month project would now be a year, or more.
Travis was feeling my emotions and said, “I can come home to visit and stay for a week.”
I had a real difficult time holding it together and told Travis, “No, that’s not a good idea. You coming homing for only a week will be difficult because we will have to say goodbye to you all over again and I don’t want to put the kids or myself through that. You come home when you are ready to stay with us for good. If that isn’t what you want then let me know Travis, please let me know and we will have to deal with it some how.
Travis just said, “I love you all,” and hung up the phone. The letters kept coming and we cherished every one but I sensed weariness in Travis’ letters, I held his most recent letter up against my heart. The doubt and fear I had chased away occupied my thoughts, I wondered if the only man I ever loved was longing for his family or tired of trying to live two lives.
Getting back to Chance’s question, what would I tell my son? I would say what was in my heart, “Yes Chance, I think daddy is going to come back home again and this time never leave us.”
“That will be the happiest day ever mama,” Chance said with a big smile.
“Yes, that surely will be the happiest day ever.
Travis had been gone now for one year and two months, I stopped marking a calendar on the day he was gone a year. It was late and the kids were sleeping when I heard a knock on the door. I had no idea who it could be so I opened the door with the safety chain and said, “Who is it? The door was only opened an inch or two and it was very dark.
A familiar voice said very softly, “I’m home for good if you’ll still have me?”
My hands were shaking so much I couldn’t unlatch the door. When I finally got it open I pulled Travis in and held him as tight as I could, we both started crying and I couldn’t say anything, I just held on tighter.
Travis wiped the tears from his eyes and promised me, “I’ll never be away from you and the kids again, ever! The next morning the kids got up and when they saw their father it was like all of our birthdays, Christmas and Thanksgiving all on the same day.