Carl finally got his chance to use the payphone, smiling and waving as one of his war buddies passed by. Quickly digging a dime from his pocket, he deposited it and dialed home, hoping to be patched through just as fast.
It’d been months since he’d heard from the loves of his life, and it would be the only thing to keep him sane until he was able to return home. He felt to hear their voices would be the main thing to keep him from having and harboring negative thoughts about the things he’d seen while fighting in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Her voice was that of an angel, the bit of Heaven he needed to bring him back to reality. “Lola, Baby, Hi.”
On her end, dropping the phone, Lola quickly picked it up. She was barely able to contain her excitement, tears readily spilling from her eyes as she asked over and over if it were really her husband. “Carl, is that really you? Is it really, really you?” Please don’t let this be some cruel joke, she thought to herself. It’d happened before, and this time, she wasn’t sure if she could handle the heartbreak. She’d stressed enough over never hearing anything or getting letters.
“Yes Baby, it’s me.”
“Carl, when are you coming home?”
Carl smiled to himself, holding the receiver of the phone close to his ear as he leaned against the wall. “Not sure yet, Lola, but I am coming home. I’ve missed you so much. Thousands of miles between the two of us, and that’s been the only thing keeping me going. My Lola, and my Cindy. Say Baby, where’s my little princess anyway? It’s been far too long since I’ve seen her pretty face and pigtails, I would really dig hearing the sound of my daughter’s voice right about now.”
“Oh, you’re going to be amazed.”
“She’s talking a lot?”
“Yes. Hold on.” Carl cleared his throat, smiling to himself. He hated that he had to miss everything about his daughter growing up. It’d been a long three years, and often wished he’d been able to avoid being deployed altogether. Things hadn’t worked in his favor. When he left their home, Cindy was just learning to walk. She barely wanted to talk even though she could point and sign for the things she wanted. Just imagining that she was probably running around, talking up a storm and creating little bits of cute havoc… it hurt his heart to know he missed it all.
The sound of her tiny voice sent him into a fit of laughter, shocking him that something so tiny could bring tears to his eyes. “Hi Princess. Do you remember Daddy?”
“You make funny voices when you read.”
His smile grew, his heart beating fast. “Yes, I do. Do you miss Daddy?”
“Yes. I look for you at all of my parties, I wait for you but you never come. Daddy, where are you?”
“So far away, and I can’t wait to be close to you again.”
“Is it like a hundred miles?”
“Further than that, Cindy.”
“A thousand?!” He nodded for his own benefit, listening as she dove straight into talking about her busy little life. Everything from her swim classes and piano lessons to the friends she had and the little boy she kicked in the knee for trying to lift her skirt up. “Daddy, I miss you. I cry all the time.”
“Why do you cry, Cindy?”
“Because, you used to be here everyday and now you’re not. I play songs for you on the piano and you can’t hear them.”
“Oh, Honey. I tell you what you’ve gotta do.”
Cindy perked up, twisting from side to side as she listened intently. “Yes, Daddy.”
“Dry your eyes, wipe your face, and if you feel the urge to cry just remember that Daddy’s coming home real soon.”
“How soon?!” He loved the joy in her voice.
“Sooner than you can imagine. Just remember on nights when you’re sad that I love you, and when I’m far away I have your love to get me through my sad nights too.”
“I’ll pray for you. Will you pray for me?”
“Yes Cindy, just for you and your mommy.”
“I’m going to give Mommy the phone now. See you soon.”
Carl smiled, waiting patiently until his wife returned to the phone.
He was just letting the person behind him know that he was almost finished when Lola spoke up. “What did you tell her? She’s bouncing off the walls with excitement.”
“The same thing I’m going to tell you Lola, only I mean it in a different way for you… Daddy’s coming home soon.”
“Ooo, Mama can’t wait. I love you Carl, and I’m so very glad that you’re safe.”
“Safe and sound, making my way home to the most important women in my life. Not sure what day, but I promise you it’ll be real soon.”
“See you soon, Baby.”
He hung up, smiling to himself as he stepped away from the payphone and walked past those who were waiting to make their calls. All the sadness and disappointment he felt, gone. The thousands of miles between him and the loves of his life, no longer seemed so far. He was on his way home.