All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go
I’m standin’ here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin’
It’s early morn
The taxi’s waitin’
He’s blowin’ his horn
Already I’m so lonesome
I could die
So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go
‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go
~ Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver
In two weeks, I’m supposed to have my life in order so that I can return to my unit in Afghanistan. Never before has the lack of time bothered me; then again, I never had anyone I was unwilling to leave. Before I arrived at Sookie’s house, I had been so sure she would have broken down when I told her I was being deployed; I worried about her reaction to this. I didn’t want her to think I would be another Sam. But the woman I love is truly amazing. After telling her about my deployment, she calmly grabs my face between her two hands, and kisses me tenderly on the lips. That single action soothes me like nothing else could.
She pulls back to stare into my eyes. I see love, sadness, and determination in her eyes, but no fear. “We will talk about this later. I’m not avoiding it, even though I wish I could. But this is Hunter’s birthday weekend; he’s been looking forward to everything for days. I will not have it ruined for him. We’ll talk to him Monday. Now, c’mon inside; Gran wants to meet you.”
Holding my hand, we walk into the house together. A screaming Hunter comes barreling over to the door, wrapping his arms around my legs. I have never seen him so excited! Taking my hand, he pulls me over to meet Jason. It’s kind of funny though; Jason had risen from his chair when I entered the house as Hunter pulled me over to meet him, Jason crosses his arms, puffs out his chest, and scowls at me. I want to laugh; he’s trying to intimidate me. It’s going to take a lot more than a protective brother to make me go running. Hunter comes to a stop between the two of us, looking back and forth between Jason’s rigid stance and my relaxed one.
“Uncle Jase, you promised!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Hunter wails as he looks up at Jason with a pouty face. I don’t know how anyone can resist when this kid gives them puppy dog eyes and a pouty lip. I’ve told Sookie on more than one occasion she’s going to have her hands full when he becomes a teenager, because the girls will be all over him. She told me to bite my tongue, and that no trashy girl was going to get their hands on her baby. I did bite my tongue, because I remembered how much I enjoyed letting those “trashy girls” chase me when I was younger; hell, it was only a few months ago that I stopped enjoying having women throw themselves at me.
The scowl on Jason’s face finally relaxes and he smiles. He and Sookie have the same smile. Jason lowers his arms, and ruffles Hunter’s hair. “I know I did Bubba, but I have to make sure that he’s good enough for you and your Momma. Can’t allow just anyone to spend time with my favorite people on the planet.” Jason extends a hand to me, which I clasp firmly. “Jason Stackhouse; it’s nice to meet you.”
“Eric Northman; it’s nice to meet you too. Sookie’s told me a lot about you.”
Jason looks over at his sister skeptically, and Sookie gives him an angelic smile. He looks back at me with a sheepish grin. “Don’t believe everything ya heard.” Then his grin turns wicked, “But I got some stories for you. She,” he gestures with his head towards Sookie who is now frowning, “wasn’t as sweet as everyone thinks.”
“Alright Jason, enough of that,” Adele Stackhouse, Sookie’s grandmother, admonishes from her seat on the couch. She slowly rises to her feet and walks sedately towards me. “It’s nice to finally meet you Eric.” I hold my hand out to her, but she pushes it aside, giving me a hug instead. “Thank you for making my girl smile again,” she whispers into my ear. She pulls back but I’m not quite sure I covered up the heartbreak her words cause.
The rest of the evening is filled with a lot of laughter, which is very much appreciated after the shitty way my day turned out. Since Hunter doesn’t have school tomorrow and because Gran and Jason are here, he stays up past his normal bedtime. Hunter climbs into my lap when he gets tired, snuggling against my chest. I wrap my arms around him, wanting to hold him tightly to me since I knew I won’t have many more opportunities to do this. Even after he falls asleep, I keep him in my arms, wanting to savor every minute we have together. Jason eventually takes him upstairs for me, saying he is tired from all the traveling today. Adele however, looks as if she can go all night; she said she got in the habit of being a night owl waiting for Sookie and Jason to come home from being out with friends and she’s never grown out of it.
Once we hear Jason’s door shut, Adele turns to us with concern in her eyes. “Why don’t you two tell me what’s wrong?” Sookie tries to brush Adele’s worries to the side, but the elder Stackhouse won’t hear it. “Don’t you try that with me Sookie Stackhouse! I know there is something going on between the two of you that you don’t want the rest of us to know about.”
I sigh with regret, hoping to have avoided this conversation. “I found out today that I’m being sent back to my unit in Afghanistan; I leave in two weeks. Please don’t say anything to Hunter; I want him to enjoy his birthday. We will tell him after the weekend is over.” I wonder if my voice sounds as desperate as I feel. My eyes sting from unshed tears, and I clear my throat several times trying to swallow the lump that seems permanently lodged there. Sookie squeezes my hand and snuggles closer to me, resting her head on my shoulder.
Adele looks at us with wise eyes and a small smile on her face. “The life of a solider is never an easy one. Sometimes I think it is easier for those of us that are left behind; at least we have each other to lean on. But a soldier only has his memories; even when surrounded by your unit, you feel alone.” Adele rises to her feet and moves before Sookie and me, placing a hand on each of our faces. “I don’t know what the future holds for you, but I know that God wouldn’t have let you find each other only to take one of you away. Have faith and love each other no matter what. I’m sure that everything will be alright in the end.” She leans down to kiss each of us on the forehead and bids us good-night.
The next three days fly by in a blur. Friday, I spent all day as well as some of the night at work; I had to bring my replacement up to speed on the material we were covering in the classes I taught at U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. I had a little over a week to impart all the knowledge I had about counter-terrorism, a daunting prospect to say the least. Saturday was Hunter’s birthday party. I never realized that twenty, five-year old kids could be so loud . . . and exhausting! Hunter, who has always been a polite, well-behaved child, was like the Tasmanian Devil on a sugar high. I felt like I was at a circus surrounded by midgets on crack! When Hunter went to bed that night, the rest of us weren’t too far behind.
Sunday is a somber day for all of us. After Gran insisted on attending church as a family (something I’ve never done), we drive them to the airport. The car ride is filled with lots of chatter, laughter, and love. In no time at all, we are in the parking garage. Jason and I easily unload the luggage from the trunk as Sookie helps Gran and Hunter. Sookie had given Gran a taste of her own medicine Friday by demanding to know what secrets Gran was keeping. In addition to the cane, Gran was suddenly taking a bag full of medicines that she had never needed before. Turns out, time is our enemy in more ways than one. Even though Gran is still young and fresh in her mind and spirit, her body is submitting to the common problems that plague the elderly: arthritis, high-blood pressure and cholesterol, decreased vision, and dizziness (which had caused her to fall necessitating the cane).
Once in the airport, Sookie shares a tearful good-bye with Gran and Jason. I try hard not to think about how Sookie and I will be sharing our own tearful good-bye soon. Hunter gives Gran and Jason both hugs, sniffling a bit as he leaves Jason’s embrace. Jason and I shake hands before I pass both suitcases to him. Friday evening we had come to a bit of an understanding; we had bonded over a discussion of beer, sports, and sisters. He did finish the conversation by saying that even though I was in the Army and bigger than him, he had no problems hiding my body in the Louisiana bayou if I hurt his baby sister. I understand his need to protect Sookie since I feel the same need to protect Pam.
After my good-bye with Jason, I find Adele waiting for me with open arms. I gently enfold her fragile body in my arms. She whispers in my ear, “You stay safe over there. I know it’ll be hard, but keep your head down.” I chuckle a bit as I know she intended. “But more importantly, come back to us. You’ll be in our hearts and prayers every minute you’re gone.” With those last words, Adele steps out of my embrace. She and Jason begin walking towards the check-in line for their airline. Before they disappear from our sight, they turn around and wave at us one last time. I hope that this isn’t the last time I see them.
I’d managed to push reality away for the weekend so that Hunter could have a fun, happy birthday. Given the massive amount of presents he received and all the sugar he consumed, I’d say my plan was a success. But I couldn’t keep reality away forever; Monday arrives and with it comes every bad omen in the book: black cats, a broken mirror, and a squawking crow over my head were just the start of my bad day. I’m from Louisiana; we take our voodoo and superstitions seriously. Work is awful; we are short-staffed, the patients are cantankerous and uncooperative, and I feel the beginnings of a migraine. Jesus knows something is bothering me, so he corners me during our lunch break. I try to brush him off, telling him I don’t want to talk about it. But he isn’t buying it; he keeps pestering me until I finally tell him to fuck off because I don’t want to talk about it. I feel bad about being a bitch, and I know I owe him an apology, but today isn’t the day.
The end of my shift finally arrives and I hustle out the door so I can pick up Hunter. Once my son and I are home, I set about making dinner while Hunter plays in the living room. I crank the music up on my iPod, dancing and singing along around the kitchen as I cook dinner, hoping the music will change my attitude. Eric arrives shortly after us, greeting Hunter first before coming to stand behind me, pressing against my back as I slice potatoes. His arms wrap around my waist as he presses kisses along my neck up to my cheek, causing me to shiver. Hunter’s “ewwwwww” is loud and punctuated with giggles. Eric, placing a quick kiss on my upturned lips, tells me he is going to take a shower before dinner. He ruffles Hunter’s hair on his way upstairs. I sigh once he is upstairs; I need to be strong for him. This is hard enough on him; I don’t want to make it harder.
We sit down to dinner as a family, and I want to cry because I know we will not have many more nights like this. I know Eric said his unit is only supposed to be in Afghanistan another three months, but something always seems to come up to delay soldiers returning home to their families. I keep thinking about the conversation we need to have with Hunter. How are we going to tell him that Eric will be leaving? I never had to do this with Hunter before; he’d been so little when Sam left, it didn’t really register in his mind that Sam was gone. He would ask for ‘dada’, crying in the beginning when Sam wasn’t there, but eventually that stopped. Hunter got used to his father only being in pictures or on the phone. But with Eric, it’s different. Hunter worships the ground Eric walks on; it will destroy him when Eric goes away. These thoughts are running through my mind turning my stomach into knots. The little bit of food I eat feels like a rock in my stomach, so I end up pushing the majority of it around on my plate. Hunter has no problems eating his food, nor does Eric, but he gives me a rueful look telling me he knows exactly what is on my mind. All this nervous energy inside me is making me extremely jumpy, so I begin clearing the dishes as my guys finish eating. While I am putting away the leftovers, Hunter asks to be excused from the table. Eric tells him to wait a minute that he needs to talk to him. I hurriedly dry my hands on the dish towel, wanting to be there for my baby, but Eric stops me.
“Do you mind if I do this alone, Sook? I want to talk to Hunter man to man,” Eric looks at me solemnly. Excuse me, but what the fuck?!?!?!?! This is a discussion I most assuredly should be a part of! Eric is going to rip my baby’s heart out by telling him that he has to go overseas. As Hunter’s mother, I need to be here for when he needs me. I’m about to go all mama bear on Eric when Hunter pleads with me to let them have their “guy talk”. It reminds me of when Hunter asked me if he could talk privately with Sam in the cemetery. Hunter is desperate to connect with Eric on a guy level; he needs a male role model. Aww hell, it reminds me of Jason and Daddy when we were kids. I vaguely remember Jason and Daddy disappearing on Sunday afternoons after church. When I would ask Jason what they did, he would puff out his chest and say “guy stuff”. My anger disappears, but my worry is still present.
I retire to my bedroom so the guys can have privacy for their conversation. Turning on the TV, I try to lose myself in a movie, but I can’t focus. Too agitated to sit still, I end up flipping the TV to a music station and begin cleaning the bathroom. Some people drink, others shop, me I clean. I’m on my hands and knees cleaning the floor when Eric finally finds me. The bathroom sparkles from the scrubbing, not that it was dirty to begin with. Eric leans patiently against the door frame until I finish. Rising from my knees, I put the rest of the cleaning supplies back in the linen closet, throw the dirty rag into the towel hamper, and wash my hands.
Drying my hands on a towel, I turn to Eric. “How is he?” Hunter isn’t screaming for me and he hasn’t come running in here so I have to think the conversation went OK.
Eric sighs, his arms folded tightly across his chest, his foot moving restlessly back and forth over the carpet, like he is kicking at pebbles in the road. “He’s scared, confused, and sad. So I’d say he feels exactly like we do.”
“Where is he?” I turn off the bathroom light and the TV. My protective instincts are rising up in me. After Sam died, Hunter got into the habit of disappearing when he was upset. He didn’t want other people, especially me, to see him cry.
“In his room,” Eric says as he points at the closed-door of Hunter’s bedroom. Moving swiftly, I knock on Hunter’s door, but do not get an answer. Instead, I hear the sound that every mother hates. Opening the door, I swiftly enter Hunter’s room only to stop halfway inside because the sight on the bed before me is absolutely heartbreaking. Curled up on his side, clutching the American flag from his father’s funeral, Hunter is sobbing so hard his entire body is shaking. Rushing to his side, I quickly pick him up, settling him on my lap as I wrap my arms around him in a hug. I try to sooth Hunter, but tears are sliding down my cheeks too; all I can do is rock my son in my arms. There are no words that can make this situation better for any of us.
The week has flown by, but that’s the way it always is. Time flies by when you want it to stand still, but it crawls at a snail’s pace when you want it to speed by. I ended up apologizing to Jesus Tuesday at work, telling him everything that was going on. Jesus, being the amazing friend he is, brushed my poor behavior aside; instead he wanted to know if there was anything he and Lafayette could do. I don’t know what I’ve done to have such truly amazing friends, but I am grateful to have them in my life. I will need them now more than ever.
Eric has been busy this week trying to get everything settled before his deployment. His mail will be sent to my house; he’s added me to all his bank accounts so I can handle paying his bills, not that he has many. The first time he showed me his bank accounts, my eyes nearly bugged out of my head. I knew Eric never worried about money, but DAY-UHM!!!! He shrugged as he explained his parents’ assets were divided evenly between him and Pam; they had been held in trust until they were twenty-one. Besides his bills, the other major concern had been his house; he didn’t want it to sit vacant while he was gone. Pam didn’t want the house since she had her own, and my place was already set up for Hunter; it made no sense for us to move there. Eric considered putting the house under the stewardship of a management company, allowing them to rent it out. Miraculously, Alcide and Maria provided a solution for him. They wanted to move in together, but neither apartment was big enough for the two of them. Instead of renting a bigger apartment, they will be renting Eric’s house until he comes home. If they want to buy it, then he is going to sell it to them for the cost of the remaining mortgage. Eric told Maria to decorate the house however she wanted and they could have anything they wanted of his furniture. The rest of Eric’s possessions will be boxed up and moved into my . . . I mean our house. I had offered to store the furniture in the basement, but he said it was all from his bachelor days and they were long gone. Eric really should write a book about always saying the right things in a relationship; I melted when he said we would buy new stuff as a family when he comes home.
Friday is Eric’s last day at his job; he will be shipping out the following Wednesday. Friday is when I also take Hunter to see Dr. Claudine Crane. He was really withdrawn all week and I was worried. She asks to see Hunter alone, hoping he will speak freely since neither I nor Eric will be in the room. For the hour-long session, I am a nervous wreck; I fidget in my chair, flip through several magazines, and even start biting my nails, a habit I thought I had broken years ago. It seems my nerves have been for naught however; Hunter comes out of the playroom smiling for the first time since the weekend. He runs to my side, hugging me fiercely and whispering how sorry he is. I reassure him he has nothing to apologize for. When I look to Claudine, all she will tell me is that everything is fine and she would like to see both of us in a week. She suggests that the therapy sessions may be helpful to us until we adjust to Eric leaving. I don’t think I will ever adjust to him being away, but I refrain from saying that.
Friday night, Hunter and I stay at Eric’s house. Ironically, the first time I see his home is when he is moving out of it. It’s beautiful, but very modern and masculine; not my style at all. I don’t think Hunter or I would have been comfortable here. The three of us, along with Alcide and Jesus, box up all Eric’s possessions. To be honest, there isn’t much: DVDs, video games, books, clothes, and kitchen stuff. There are several large boxes already packed. When I ask what they are, Eric shrugs, brushing it off as stuff from his parents. Something tells me those boxes have never been opened.
Hunter convinces Alcide and Jesus to stay over and have a sleepover in the living room. Eric and I leave them in the living room scattered among boxes of pizza and junk food watching Hotel Transylvania. I walk up the stairs, Eric behind me with his hands on my hips. When I turn to walk into his bedroom he stops me, pulling me into the guest bedroom instead. I raise my eyebrow (a habit I picked up from him) in silent inquiry. As he undresses me, brushing kisses along my skin, he says he doesn’t want me sleeping in a bed where he’d been with other women. My hackles rise at the thought of him with other women, but I calm down as he continues to lavish my body with kisses and soft caresses. In fact, I start to pity other women because they will never get a chance to be with Eric; he is MINE. None of those other bitches matter anymore.
Bright and early the next morning, Lafayette arrives with a moving truck; more importantly, he comes with coffee and donuts. God Bless him! After breakfast, the five adults begin loading up the available vehicles with boxes. Maria also arrives with her truck if we need the extra room. But the biggest surprise of the morning is Pam showing up to help, even if it is just to oversee the rest of us as we loaded all the vehicles. Honestly, who shows up with manicured nails and high heels on moving day?!?!?!?! But I know it made Eric happy to see her. I didn’t understand their relationship; all they do is pick on each other and play practical jokes. After I’d met Pam, I wasn’t sure she liked me. Eric assured me that she definitely liked me since I was the only girlfriend she’d ever addressed by their real name. He said all the others she’d called Barbie, Candy, or some other stripper-type name.
In all, it takes four hours to transfer Eric’s belongings from his house to our house. Except for his clothing, all the boxes are stacked up in the living room so we can figure out where to put items. I want Eric’s things to be incorporated into the house, so it will truly feel like his home. It doesn’t hurt that having his things in the house will feel like I have a part of him here with me even when he will be so far away.
My last days home are spent with my family and friends. Instead of being sad, the days are filled with laughter and love. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. All of my earlier deployments have been very business-like; usually Pam was the only person I had to say good-bye to. And Pam being Pam would never allow things to get too emotional. I know my sister loves me, but she is scared to show her emotions, thinking they make her weak. She and I used to be of the same opinion, but then I met Sookie and Hunter. Having them in my life is the most precious gift I have ever received. Loving them and having them love me in return is an incredible feeling; it makes me feel both infinite and small at the same time. I feel that I can conquer the world because I know I have their support; at the same time, I feel very fragile because I want to shelter them from the harsh realities of the world. If I’m having a bad day, seeing Hunter and Sookie waiting for me to walk through the door makes everything better. Hunter’s laughter is the music of my heart, but Sookie’s smile is the light of my soul.
Sookie arranged to have off Monday and Tuesday so the three of us could spend my last two days together as a family. Monday we stayed in the house, curled up on the couch watching movies or playing games until the evening when everyone came over for dinner. Sookie, Lafayette, and Maria cook my favorite foods for dinner which I appreciate. Good food is going to be hard to come by in the upcoming months. After dinner, we stay around the table, talking and laughing, even my snarky sister Pam. Watching her and Lafayette go back and forth is perhaps the funniest thing I had ever seen. We talk until late in the night, and Hunter once again falls asleep in my arms. I reluctantly carry him upstairs, putting him in his pajamas before putting him in his bed. I sit on the floor next to him for several minutes, staring at his angelic face, watching his chest rise and fall, and holding his tiny hand with mine. I rise from the floor, pressing a kiss against his forehead, and turn to find Sookie standing in the doorway watching us. Without saying a word, she grabs my hand, shutting Hunter’s door softly behind us. She leads me to our bedroom where we make love all night long. We can’t get enough of each other, our lovemaking becoming more and more desperate as time ticks by. We fall asleep as dawn approaches.
Tuesday morning I wake up in bed alone which is not unusual. Sookie always rises early to take care of Hunter. I will make sure she takes a nap today since I’m sure tonight will be another late night. After a quick shower and dressing, I walk downstairs to find Hunter eating oatmeal in front of the television.
“Morning Smalls. Where’s your mom?” I think his mumbled reply is doing laundry, but it’s hard to tell around the giant blob of oatmeal in his mouth. As I head into the kitchen, Sookie is coming up the stairs leading to the basement, a basket of laundry in her hands. Just as I suspected, she has dark patches underneath her eyes from the lack of sleep. I take the basket from her, setting it on the island, and lean down to kiss her lips.
“You didn’t have to do my laundry,” I admonish her gently. She is exhausted; the last thing she needs to be doing is cleaning up after me.
She shrugs her shoulders. “I wanted to make sure you have everything you need when you pack. I’m going to run out later to get you more socks, powder, and wipes. Anything else you need?” Sookie moves around the kitchen with nervous energy, cleaning the counters, putting away dishes, anything she can do to keep busy.
“I can go with you,” I offer. I want to spend every possible minute with her today.
“Babe, I’d rather go alone. There’s something I need to take care of. Hunter and I have a surprise for you,” she says with a smile. “I won’t be gone long, an hour or two at the most.”
“Can I guess what my surprise is?” She shakes her head no, and I advance on her. “I have ways of making you talk Lover.” My hands move behind her back, sliding into the pockets on her denim-covered derriere. I squeeze her curves as I thrust my hips against her. My lips dance across her cheek so I can whisper in her ear. “I’m VERY good when it comes to getting the information I want.” Sookie shivers in my arms as I flick my tongue along the shell of her ear before sucking on that spot beneath her ear that I know makes her weak in the knees.
“Not this time Buster,” she says breathlessly before moving out of my embrace. I give her my best pouty face, and she places a kiss against my lips. “It was Hunter’s idea; you don’t want to ruin it do you?”
I give her a mock scowl for using Hunter against me, “That’s a low blow Stackhouse.”
“Works every time, she says with a grin. She grabs her purse and keys, brushing a kiss good-bye against my lips before telling Hunter to be good while she’s gone. Grabbing myself a cup of coffee and a bagel, I move into the living room to watch cartoons with Hunter. Once we are both finished our food, I take the dishes into the kitchen to rinse them out and put in the dishwasher.
“So Smalls, what shall we do while your mom is gone? Do you wanna play t-ball?”
“Maybe later,” he mumbles.
“Is there something you’d rather we do?”
Hunter blurts out, “Would you take me to see my dad?”
“Ahhh,” I say completely baffled. I have no idea how to handle this, Hunter has never mentioned Sam to me.
“Maybe we should wait for your Mom, Smalls.”
“Plllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssssssssssssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” Hunter uses every ounce of adorableness in his body; the boo lip, puppy dog eyes, and bats his eyelashes at me pleadingly. Fuck me; how am I supposed to resist this?
“C’mon Smalls,” I say as I grab my wallet and keys from the counter. Hunter rushes over to the steps to put his shoes on. I grab his jacket from the closet, and help him into it. I put on my leather jacket as I open the door. While I lock up the house, Hunter scrambles over to my car, opening the door to climb into the backseat. After purchasing the car, I bought a booster seat for situations where I would need to drive him without Sookie. However, I never thought I’d be driving Hunter to the cemetery to see his father.
It takes us twenty minutes to get to the cemetery and walk to Sam’s grave. Hunter holds my hand the entire time we walk, but says nothing. In fact, he hasn’t said anything since we left the house. Once in front of Sam’s headstone, I offer to give Hunter some privacy but he asks me to stay.
“Hi Daddy,” Hunter says quietly. He gestures towards me before continuing to speak. “This is Eric, the guy Mommy and I have told you about. I know you sent him to us to watch out for us and to take care of us. But he has to go away tomorrow. He has to go where you went ‘cause of bein’ a soldier.”
Hunter moves towards Sam’s headstone, sitting down in front of it so he can talk directly to his father. “I need to ask a favor Daddy. Please watch over Eric for us.” Hunter starts sobbing as he pleads with his deceased father. “Please make sure he comes home safe Daddy. He makes Mommy and me happy. We love him.”
Hunter’s words rip me apart. I hurry to pick him up, letting him sob against me as I drop to my knees beside the grave of Sergeant Samuel Merlotte. Fighting my own tears, I try to calm him down, reassuring him that I’ll be fine, that I’ll do everything in my power to come home to him and Sookie. As Hunter’s little arms wrap around my neck, I can’t help but offer silent pleas to Hunter’s father and whatever gods are out there as tears fall from my eyes. Please let me come home to them, let me come home to them so I can be the father that Hunter needs. Please let me come home so I can take care of them, so that I can love them, so that we can all be whole.