This week - and since Wednesday - I have been stranded without my best friend.
As part of his final training course and in order to properly graduate from the Canadian Forces, Ryan is working in the field, completely isolated, for 7 days. Unlike a random trip or any other course - and ironically since he's training to be a signals and communications officer - he doesn't have access to his phone or email, or have any other contact with the real world.
In the old days, when we weren't so dependent on technology, this sort of separation was probably easier to handle, given that you often didn't speak to someone for a long period of time even if they lived as close as the next village over. Unless you met them at the market or at work every day or they lived on your street, you pretty much had to grin and bear it.
Imagine dating in those times!
Despite Ryan not living nearby since he joined the Forces, we've been more or less in contact daily... or at least a couple of times a week. Of course, when he got access to the Internet, we were basically in constant communication during evenings and weekends. And that suited me perfectly, because Ryan and I share just about everything with each other. He's my main wall to bounce ideas off of and he helps me through periods of uncertainty.
Needless to say, I've been a little lost without him... and though I know this is only one of several occasions when I won't be able to contact him when I need to, it's the first time this is happening for real. To keep myself sane, I have been writing him long email updates at the end of every day. I shudder to think of all the reading he'll have when he does finally have email access later this week.
In a way, these emails, text and facebook messages or random voicemails are the modern incarnation of letters from home. Of course, people still do send handwritten (or typed and printed) letters to their friends and family in the Forces... especially those overseas who may or may not have access to modern communication tools.
And though I have sent Ryan some of these letters, I'm so grateful to be able to email him - albeit with a delayed reaction - because it still is way more instant than snail mail... especially at the rate of one letter a day.
Despite having a lot of friends living or working out of town, and family that is more or less away on business most of the time, this experience is not comparable. Not even close. Because although this time around it's a practice, next time, it'll be for real. Next time, there are real chances that Ryan won't make it back, won't read my letters, won't be there to comfort me when I need it... and that makes me sad, because it's not just a concept, it's a reality.
There's no way I can understand what it's like for a spouse to lose a loved one to war or its after-effects, or worse, lose their mind to PTSD (aka Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Ryan and I are almost that close and his loss would probably have the same impact on me as losing a spouse, and just considering the possibility is simply devastating.
That's why songs and music videos like John Michael Montgomery's Letters from Home, or George Canyon's I Want you to Live, which never fails to make me cry, by the way, are so close to my heart. In a way, they do help, comforting me because I know I'm not alone in these feelings, in this situation. There are many more examples - and not all of them are country music ;)
Still, I'm glad I can send multiple, massive emails to Ryan, letters from home, v 2.0, and I know they are just as appreciated as the old school version.