This has been an interesting month for my military family members: a few have had their spouses return, a few will be saying goodbye to their spouses soon, and a few have learned what their next duty assignments are. You know who has had none of those things happen? ME!!!! During the last deployment, January was the longest, most anti-climatic month of my life, and that sure hasn’t changed during this deployment.
During the past few weeks of phone conversations, my husband has said, “Well, I have some good news…” and my heart beats excitedly. Are we moving to Hawaii? Florida? D.C.? South Carolina? Staying where we are? But the news is always the same: “We are going to be home (insert an amount of dates here) early!” and my heart sinks. I know you must be thinking that I’m not looking forward to his return, or that I don’t care he’s gone, and both of those statements couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’ve gone through any deployment, you know how those dates change, and usually not for the better. I have had my guard up this entire deployment, and I will not let it down now.
When my husband was set to leave, I had the date on my calendar for weeks. I had made plans for my best military friend to come over with coffee after I dropped him off to have something to look forward to. At 5:30 that morning, we said our goodbyes, I tearfully took pictures of him holding our infant daughter in the darkness, and drove home blasting Michael Buble’s Christmas cd (even though it was essentially still summer, and 75 degrees outside). Denial. My friend came over and we were watching the dogs and kids play when my cell phone rang. My husband was not leaving until the next day. I picked him up, we had a lovely day at home together, but I didn’t sleep a wink that night. The following morning, we dropped him off again, and I watched a dad saying goodbye to his three daughters. The oldest (and only one who knew what was actually happening) was screaming, crying, and refusing to let go. She had already said goodbye to her father once, and now she was going through it again. My husband jokingly said, “You know what we should do? We should high-five and walk away. Make everyone think that this is nothing for us.” So that’s what we did. Left the baby sleeping in her car seat this time, a quick hug, kiss, and a high-five, then I got in my car and started my trip home with Buble again.
I’m a fairly independent person. I don’t mind being on my own, as long as my life is organized and I have direction. So, although they suck, deployments don’t make me an unhappy person. I cross the days off (if you have a copy of Daddy’s Deployed, you already know that), and I carry on. (I promise this circles back around to my point of why I won’t allow myself to be excited about my husband’s potentially early return!) During the previous deployment, I had cried maybe twice during the first six months that he was gone. I was on a rigid schedule: up at 0445 to workout, work by 0600 to do any prep work, teach all day, home by 1600, walk the dog, dinner, tv/read, bed by 2045 (that’s 8:45 right? I’m losing my military time skills). The days flew by. So when it was May and my countdown was getting close to single digits, I allowed myself to get excited, to anticipate his return. Big mistake. The jets broke down the first day. And then the next day, and the day after that…you can see where this is going. So every day, for a week, I went to bed thinking that my husband was returning the next day, only to wake up to a message saying that something else had broken down and he was delayed another day. By the fourth day of madness, I had cried more than I had in the previous four years. My husband called my mother to fly out to be with me; I think anticipating that if he did ever make it home, it would be to changed locks, or a note that I had flown the coop (I wanted to!).
On the sixth day, he called with good news. The tanker that was escorting them back had to go on, and he was going back on it. He assured me that there was no chance of him being delayed again. I was thrilled. My mom and I went to the grocery store to stock up on his favorite items (the previous four days I was living with my depression like Howard Hughes lived…only I actually showered, trimmed my fingernails, and used the bathroom), when he called. The tanker broke down. The tanker’s maintenance crew was broken down at the previous stop, and he was not coming home. Really the only thing I remember after that is my cell phone crashing to the ground, and my mother rushing me home.
Of course, my husband did eventually return home. It was at 0450 one morning, and I got there about an hour later, after I woke up and received word that he was back.
Hopefully my husband reads this post and understands why I can’t allow myself to be as excited as he is that he “will” be home early. This deployment I have a child that I have to be positive for; no breakdowns allowed!
A friend of mine recently went through a similar situation (only much, much worse!). Her husband had been gone for about nine months when he was finally set to return. His carrier was heading back to the states when a crisis occurred overseas. The carrier changed direction and was deployed “until further notice.” Not only did my friend not break down, she kept her son on his daily schedule, kept herself on her schedule, and remained positive. A great role model for me. There is a picture of her son excitedly holding a son that said, “Move over! I’ve waited 360 days for this hug!” that will forever make me smile.
Then there’s the actual preparation for the day they return. You have to plan your outfit and hair based on the weather, you have to do the same for any children you have, make accommodations for family members that might be coming in, order a sign, hang the sign, get the house ready, and so forth. Not to mention the mental preparation for it all.
Like I said, I’m a pretty independent person. I actually like being in control of everything: garbage, mail, meals, shopping, bills, tv, etc. The first day my husband was back was eerily as if it was the day after he left (had he not left). We picked up right where we left off. There was no adjustment period, or so I thought. It was about a week later when I started yelling at him for leaving every light on that I realized maybe it wasn’t going as smoothly as I had thought. It was really hard for me to give him back his share of responsibilities. It took awhile for me to let go, and I am sure that it will be the same way this time as well.
Harder still will be allowing him to parent. When he left our daughter hadn’t even begun crawling yet. Now, several months later, she’s talking, eating bite-size food, crawling, and walking. She’s her own person now. If anyone has any suggestions on good way to get back to co-parenting well, please comment below. I have a friend whose husband watched her parent for a week, noted the words she used, and then started stepping in after he understood what worked, versus what didn’t. To me, that makes complete sense.
Fear not, readers. You will know exactly what it’s like when he does return (which isn’t for a few months yet).
Here’s hoping everyone has a safe, and happy week.
As always, if you have any comments, please share them!