It started with great news: our 8-year-old drama queen was awarded a significant speaking part in the school’s holiday play–her first foray into acting–and she was thrilled. A few hours after, I got the news that my husband would be deploying again, and would not only miss the play, but the third Christmas in a row. Our kids are 8, 6, and 3, (in prime Santa Claus years) and he’s missed almost half of those Christmases. This was deployment number 6 for us, so it should be an old hat by now.
I keep thinking it’s going to get easier with practice, but it doesn’t. Not for me, at least. He comes home, tells me about the deployment, the anticipated dates of departure, where he’s going, and about how long it’s supposed to be. I do the mental projections and count up all the things he’ll miss (the play, Christmas and New Year’s, that professional conference I wanted to go to, the baby’s 4th birthday, our 12th anniversary, the first promotion in karate, another Mother’s Day alone). I interrogate him for the details, he makes jokes to lighten the mood and starts plotting reminders on the calendar (get new tires here, dog flea treatment on these days, change the air filters on these days, oil changes these days). After it sinks in, I get to be mad for a little while that my family will lose him again for a few months, and that again, he’ll miss so much. Then I get to be sad for a little bit, and then the kids come home from school and it’s time to pull it together and get the boy to karate and start making the meatballs for the spaghetti.
Our pre-deployment rituals are an old hat now. We know what to do. I need to find a good reliable sitter, start calling on my friends, and put all the bills in my name so I can handle household needs while he’s gone; he needs to get his Will updated, get a signed Power of Attorney, plan his packing list, make sure I have a lifetime supply of coffee, and get a new tattoo before he leaves. When he does deploy, I hold it together until I’m out of eyesight, plan my good cry for a time when the kids aren’t around, come home, turn up the thermostat, buy all the groceries I know he doesn’t like, and invite a friend over for coffee.
On our first deployment, I expected the world to stop because my new husband and I were apart. I also expected to get “better” at it, as I got used to the deployments and this new military life. Seasoned spouses told me they couldn’t wait for their spouse to deploy to get some alone time. It didn’t get easier for me, though; the worries are just different now. This deployment I worry less about the harm that could befall him (though that’s ever-present) and more about how his frequent absence is affecting our kids. I care less about missed anniversaries than I do about missed opportunities to connect in our daily nitty-gritty of homework supervision, activities transportation, meal planning, car registration and vet visits. I’ll admit that the house is cleaner, though that might be my increased anxiety, or knowing that there’s no one else to do it but me.
I might get used to it at some point; we still have some years to go in the military. But I hope I don’t. We’ll keep the rituals, and we’ll keep the pain of leaving. Because I also know, on the other side of that deployment is the joy of homecoming, and there’s nothing better than that.
How does your family deal with the ebb and flow of deployments? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by Jessica, military spouse