April 28, 2010
Vivian, a Navy veteran and spouse, regularly guest blogs for Family Matters and shares her experiences as a spouse of a deployed sailor and a mother of two. Her husband, a Navy lieutenant, is deployed to Iraq and she has two boys who, she says, “enjoy peanut butter, trucks and air shows.”
In this blog, Vivian writes about her husband’s anticipated return home in early May and expresses her appreciation for the support she’s received while he has been gone.
As I write this article, I’m in total countdown mode. We have mere days before my husband will be back home from his yearlong deployment.
I can already picture him making us his famous French toast for breakfast while asking me why I have to cook the eggs in bacon grease (um, because they taste better that way!).
I honestly can’t believe we are such short-timers. In the beginning it seemed like time was stretching out in front of me as far as I could imagine and it was even longer for our kids.
It reminds me of when we were stationed in Texas and the roads were so straight and flat, we joked that you could tell where the Earth curved. All I could see stretched out in front of me this time last year were a lot of lonely nights, fuzzy phone calls — where it seems like you can actually feel the distance between each other because of the static and ringing on the line — broken up by awkward e-mail exchanges where I relive the entire day to my husband while being witty and trying to appear like weâ€™re fine and perfect and he shouldnâ€™t worry about us at all because â€¦ did I say we are fine and perfect?
But here we are! We’ve made it through. I even have a collection of “Mike on a Stick” photos of the fabulous fun we’ve had and attempted to include him in. I plan to make them into a video montage to celebrate our family’s ability to thrive during this year.
I have been put through the fiery test of taking my oldest to get a T-ball bat only to have the salesman bring up the necessity of a “cup” and all that conversation entailed. Is there a service ribbon for that? There should be.
We’ve already started to prepare for Mike’s arrival on the home front. The kids and I picked out some of his favorite foods at the store. Putting Sprite and St. Martin’s rolls in the cart had me almost giddy.
We military spouses know all about “shopping countdowns” â€“ mixes and pastas are the longest, but when you get to dairy you are officially a short-timer. Fruit is the best of all. Everyone knows that bananas and strawberries might as well signal a plane taking off somewhere, right?
These are the funny rituals we take part in to countdown to their return; mile markers that no calendar marks. No one has to teach us, it’s simply something that we all inevitably, instinctively figure out. It’s kind of like how spouses all eventually wear our hair back on a pier or airfield for a homecoming because of the relentless wind. It’s easier, after all, to kiss your love when your hair isn’t caught in your lipstick.
I’ve heard that one of the bonuses of a deployment, besides eating cereal for dinner, is getting the bed to yourself. Spouses who are no longer constrained by another person taking up space enjoy stretching out and end up sleeping in the middle of the bed, possibly even stealing the now-extra pillow. I’m not sure why, but I’ve never gotten used to the vacant spot beside me. Even after all this time I still very much cling to my side, giving deference to our cat, Rocky, who always has preferred to sleep snugly in the middle.
It could be that, probably more often than they should, my two boys inch their way into our room and into the bed at night. They come with different excuses â€“ water, ghosts, bathroom trips, leaving a toy. But their real reason is always the same: to seek out the comfort and safety of mommy and daddy’s bed. The pleas always seem to follow an extremely rough day, when one has been asking for dad a little bit more or after R&R leave. And really, though I know it is a bad habit to start and I definitely lose sleep over the rotating sundial that is my youngest, it’s a comfort to me as well. These two little guys, who both remind me of their dad in so many ways, sleep so soundly when nestled in between huge throw pillows and a thick comforter.
I wish everything about deployment could be as easy as snuggling in the bed together on a Saturday morning. And most times, thatâ€™s all it takes to get rejuvenated and back on track.
If I had a theme song for this deployment, it would have to be “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends” (the Beatles’ version of course). I’ve watched my friends’ Facebook statuses outline their own deployment and reintegration processes and laughed, reveled and even shed a tear or two at our shared experiences. Let me repeat that: our shared experiences. I say that because no one – NO ONE – can do this alone. It just isn’t possible to maintain the levels of energy and resolve it takes to be in a military family without a little help from your friends.
There isn’t room enough to list out the name of every person who sought to make a difference in our lives this past year nor is there any gesture I could make to thank them enough for helping to keep our family afloat but here is a very partial inadequate list:
My neighbors who brought us dinner more times than not;
My friend, Amanda, who babysat for me on a momentâ€™s notice;
Acquaintances “liking” or commenting on my Facebook status updates where I shared our deployment experience so I didn’t feel so alone;
The teachers at my son’s school who went out of their way to support him with their extra attention; and
People who participated in the Blue Star Families’ Operation Appreciation, and wrote cards to military family members, reminding me that people outside of our little military bubble really do care what’s happening in our lives.
I hope by sharing our experience, others both inside and outside of the military community will see that it is, indeed, a group project, this military lifestyle. We are only as strong as those who chose to participate, engage, and support the idea of service, sacrifice and yes, honor and pride. I’m proud of my husband for doing his small part and proud of my family for playing our small roles as well.
And, those eggs cooked in bacon grease will taste mighty fine next week, knowing what our family has been through to be together to eat them.