[This blog was written over the course of a few days, so please bear with me as the timeline may jump around a little bit.]
The day that I say goodbye to my husband, when I have to let go and send him off to lands unknown for something in the ballpark of a year, is coming up very shortly. How did this day get here so fast?
It seems like just yesterday we were snuggling together on the couch, watching it snow, (OK, so in the New England, it’s very likely that we could have been watching it snow yesterday) when we heard rumors of deployment, but no officials orders had been released yet. I want those days; I want to wake up and have all of this be a long, elaborate dream; that he is not deploying.
I have heard a lot of information, meant to help alleviate some of the anxiety. Let’s be honest, sometimes we just want to say, “shut up,” and wallow in our own stress and worry. Like one of the tidbits I’ve heard – soldiers who served for the World Wars were often away from home for years at a time. Deployments weren’t set up like they are today – if you were called to war, and called to serve out of country, you were gone until the job was done, or die trying. This is meant to alleviate the stress of being separated for around a year. And, yes, in comparison 365 days sounds better than 1095 days. But at the same time, a day is a week is a month is a year of separation when it’s someone you love. Any length of time apart sucks. [OK, except for when you’ve had so much of each other that you’re driving each other crazy and look forward to drill weekends only for some alone time.]
Last night, my husband and I were just laying in bed, and I kept looking over his face; wanting to cement into memory every detail of his smile, every speck of color in his eyes. And the most intimate moment of the night? When we just held each other. There were so many emotions wrapped up between us in that embrace…love, worry, fear, hope… There wasn’t a sound in the room, aside from the fan, but our minds were running.
It’s important, starting now, to find and rely on your support persons. I may reiterate this time and time again in my posts, but please, please, please do not think that you are or should be in this alone. You won’t survive it. I know, because I tried to rely on just myself the first time; I didn’t seek out support. This time around, I have family, friends, and a therapist.
Having a therapist is not a bad thing, or a sign of weakness. I saw a therapist only a couple of times leading up to my husband’s first deployment. Then, I moved back to my home state and I didn’t keep up with another therapist. I started to see my current therapist when we learned about this deployment, and I have met with her three or four times, and I know that she is always there when I need to see her again. If you have one, or get one, go as often as you need to; it may be weekly, monthly, or every few months.
I want to write another post in some time about your plan for his or her deployment, otherwise this would be an extremely long and off-topic post.
The morning came that I had to say goodbye. As the soldiers were getting their gear together, I could be found close by my husband. You bet that I was going to soak up every last second that I could with my husband. It was so surreal, watching the sea of digi-cam with all of their gear, as they went about their final formation and business at the unit before they boarded the buses. I went around the unit and gave hugs, goodbyes, and well-wishes to soldiers I knew that I could find. Then it was time for “the” hug; the perfect hug, since it would be the last hug that I would get from my husband for a long time. You guessed it – I didn’t want to let go. And I wanted to climb into one of his duffel bags and go with him.
It’s been weird without him. I know eventually I’ll find my routine, and get used to sleeping and waking up alone: the first morning was difficult to wake up and accept that he wasn’t laying in bed next to me. Thankfully he’s been able to call me nightly, so far, from his location. I know that the nightly conversations will come to an end eventually when he gets overseas, and I’ll look forward to any phone call I can get from him. Most days have been relatively good to get through so far. But of course, he’s safe in the states still. I’ve allowed myself some mopey, lazy days. And days when I know I need to get out and be distracted.
And as much as I was getting accustomed to this new routine of living without my husband in the same house, at the same time it’s been difficult to get into any kind of routine. Not long after his unit left to mobilize at another location, he tells me that he has time off for the Fourth of July holiday, and “hey, do you want to come out here to spend a few days with me, and say goodbye again?” Ok, so he didn’t ask me exactly like that, and of course without hesitation I said “YES!” and was looking up airfare, hotels, and rental car information the next second.
But since he isn’t overseas yet, and I had this opportunity to travel to see him, I can’t yet convince myself that he is deploying. He’s still here, kind of. Last time he deployed, we said goodbye at the hangar on the airfield, and he was gone. He immediately left from there to go overseas. This time, it is completely different. I guess it’s just another difference from being Active Army.
All that aside, I had a WONDERFUL time out with my husband. We had a great time spending a few days together, traveling around the area near where he is currently stationed. (Due to OPSEC, I won’t specify where we went). We spent a few wonderful days together, an overnight with my Uncle and Aunt that live kinda-close, and a couple of days with another military couple. It was exciting, relaxing, and emotional. My husband and I love to travel together, and have discovered some new places we plan to go back to when we have more time, so it was saddening knowing that we wouldn’t be traveling anywhere together for quite some time. (Although I keep joking that I’ll pop up at his FOB, hidden away in a duffel-bag.)
So, saying goodbye in person a FINAL time…doesn’t get easier. If anything, it’s more difficult. I know there are spouses who wish they could have gone out to see their soldiers. But at the same time, saying goodbye over and over again is only more difficult. You don’t want to let go. You get yourself psyched up the first time to say goodbye, that this is it, you’ll see each other in about a year. But then you get this surprise, that seems awesome at first, getting to spend more days together. But that surprise isn’t all glitter and stilettos. Remember how I mentioned that it’s been difficult to get into a routine, to mentally accept that he isn’t home and won’t be for a while? This trip was emotionally confusing and draining. While we were together, it was amazing, just like old times. But as we got closer to the date that I had to bring him back to base, it was tougher on both of us. We knew there was an end to the fun. OK, maybe not an “end”, but certainly a dramatic pause. I wanted life to continue as it was, so badly.
Sitting in the car together, saying our final goodbyes and embracing each other, literally made my heart hurt. It was late, I had 33 miles to drive back to the hotel, and I had to be out the door and on the way to the airport by 4am the next morning. I just had him back daily/nightly, and I had to give him up again, until a date yet to be determined. Neither of us were happy with this, and I felt worse for knowing that he wasn’t happy, and I couldn’t do a thing to change it. I’m a hugger, and I wanted to hug the worry, sadness, and fear out of him. But no hug, not even the most epic bear-hug, can console those feelings. And maybe I needed one of those hugs more than he did.
I have been home for a few days, now. And I still wake up surprised that he’s not waking up next to me some mornings. I’m still finding my routine, and trying to keep busy. For those of us spouses who stay home, that’s the best we can do to start – find your rhythm, stay busy, and enjoy those phone calls.