The early morning sunlight streamed through the apertures of the window blinds casting hazy shadows on the walls. The bedside clock ticked rhythmically towards its appointed hour, where it sounded an alarm at 7:00 o’clock.
Glenn uncovered his head from under the bed sheets and squinted towards the sound. His hand made its way in the direction of the familiar sound and hit the “dismiss” button.
Outside, the Labrador next door barked her usual greetings from the fence to the children as they walked past on the way to school. Traffic was starting to ramp up with people going to work and parents driving their children to school. In the distance, a car horn sounded.
Glenn had no where in particular to be, but he liked the idea of getting up at a scheduled time each morning. It added structure to his day and gave him something to look forward to. He welcomed the familiar routine. Routines kept him in check.
He had spent the last two years of his life fighting another man’s war. Just prior to that he was deployed for twelve months in a non-combat location. At the end of his tour three months ago, he returned home to care for his wife and young children as he had always done before he left.
Or so he’d imagined.
From downstairs, Glenn could hear the sounds of chairs scraping on the kitchen floor. A few moments later, his wife shouted orders to the children, followed by the clanging of breakfast items being placed into the sink.
Glenn rubbed his eyes and pushed the bed covers aside. Sydney always managed to slip out of bed quietly, allowing him sleep until the alarm went off. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up, trying to rub the sleep out of his eyes.
Several sets of feet were now running up the stairs, as they did at this time everyday. The bedroom door burst open and in walked his three children.
Phil, 18 and the eldest, spoke first. “See you later, Dad. I’m off to work.”
Anya, 16, kissed him on the cheek. “Enjoy your day, Daddy. See you later.”
The youngest of the bunch, Andre, who was 6, gave him a big hug. “Bye, Daddy. Later.”
He returned all their hugs and kisses and wished them well for the day.
Their footsteps retreated down the stairs. Another set, more slowly, ascended.
His wife entered the bedroom as he stood up. She was about as tall as he was and quite slim. She was dressed in her nurse’s scrubs with a backpack swung over one shoulder.
They hugged and kissed each other.
“I’m off to the hospital now,” she informed him. “I’ll see you later.”
Then as an afterthought added, “Do you have anything planned for today?”
Glenn thought for a moment and replied, “I need to get some information from the VA, but that’s about it.”
Sydney kissed him again. “Okay, hon. Let me know if you need a ride or anything later. Breakfast’s on the table.”
She left the room and made her way down the stairs.
Once he heard the front door close, he went downstairs to the kitchen. Sydney had left him bacon and eggs and he put two slices of bread in the toaster. He turned the TV on for the morning news. He was still not used to having breakfast alone, so the sound of the TV in the background kept him company.
He poured some coffee and sat down. There would be no other activity in the house except for him sipping coffee. This abundance of quiet time disturbed him and clouded his mind with dark thoughts.
A few years ago, it was he who left home everyday to earn a living, taking care of his family. He was a trained pharmacist and his wife was a stay-at-home mom. They relied on him back then. Everyone in the community did.
When he was called up and activated into service by the Army Reserve three and a half years ago, he went where they told him to. That’s when everything changed.
His wife returned to her nursing career, which she had before they had children.
The children grew up! Even the baby wasn’t a baby anymore.
He couldn’t even take one of the cars without seeing if someone else needed it first.
Now that he had returned home, no one seemed to need him for anything. They just tolerated him, he thought. That’s just how it was, he reasoned. But he didn’t have to like it.
He wondered if he would he have to change careers. He couldn’t imagine working behind a pharmacy counter now, especially after his experiences of the last year of his tour in Afghanistan. Everything else seemed so insignificant to him now. Thankfully, he had been given the time off to reacquaint himself with everyday life before returning to work.
But everyday life had continued without him for 3 years while he was away. He felt like neither fish nor fowl these days. In his mind he didn’t belong anymore. He certainly didn’t want to return to combat either. Where would he fit in now?
The toaster popped up its contents, momentarily distracting Glenn from his thoughts.
It was 7:30, according to the kitchen clock. Breakfast time.
He welcomed routines. Routines kept him in check.