Tough one.

The signings I’ve done in the past have always included moments of sadness–unavoidable, considering Homefront‘s topic. The last time I did a signing at Books-a-Million, one woman told me her friend had lost her husband to an IED. Another woman had a husband suffering from PTSD. I tried not to imagine what they were going through. One deployment was enough for me, thanks.

Today, a mother in-law and her daughter in-law stopped by the signing table as I was getting ready to leave. The mother in-law picked up the book and read the back. The daughter in-law said, “Is this fiction or non-fiction?”

I explained that it was fiction, but based on personal experience.

“So you’ve been through it,” she said.

I think I said, “Oh, yeah.”

She eyed the book like she was afraid of it. The mother in-law said her son, the girl’s husband, was on his third deployment. I looked at the girl and my stomach felt the way it did when Ian was in Iraq. In her, I saw the way I must have looked when Ian was gone. She looked like a hug would have destroyed her. Like she’d just been crying, or like any second the right word or look could break her.

Her eyes were in my head the whole way home, and I wished I were a different kind of person. The kind of person who would, without thinking, hug someone who looked like they needed it. The kind of person who would have said to her, “Everything’s going to be okay. He’ll be fine.” Because nothing feels better than hearing that, whether or not you’re truly able to believe it. You want to believe it and you have to believe it, and if someone else is so sure everything will be okay, then it must be possible that it’s true.

In all likelihood, everything will be okay. The percentages are good.

That doesn’t change the fear, though. The constant worry. Because “in all likelihood” isn’t good enough and won’t offer that single, normal day free of a lingering, sickening fear that no matter how great the likelihood of survival, there could be a fluke, bad timing, or some unplanned…something.

I have a feeling I’ll be thinking about her for some time.

The mother in-law bought two copies. I don’t know if one of them is for her daughter in-law.

Even if she never reads it, she is why I wrote Homefront.

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