Very shortly, I will kiss my husband goodbye and put him on an airplane.
This is the third deployment of our marriage, and we have known for a long time that this deployment was coming. So, we are not new to this, and at least we have had notice — but with the looming inevitability of any deployment, there is also a small hope that maybe it will change. Maybe it won’t happen. Maybe he won’t have to go. The calm, rational side of your mind tells you, this is silly. Stop being a child. You know this will happen. But still, there’s that side that hopes. Just like as the departure time grows closer, there’s an almost interminable wailing inside, I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. I want him home, with me, with the kids, where it’s safe. And the calm, rational side answers, don’t be silly. You’ll be fine, you all will be fine, and you’re stronger than you think you are.
I am one of the lucky ones. This isn’t our first deployment. I am not the 18-year old wife of an airman who was recently uprooted from all she held near and dear to follow her (probably new) husband overseas, where she promptly learned he was deploying and leaving her far from home, in a strange country, where she doesn’t even speak the language.
I have a strong family network and I have my friends, all of whom I can turn to in a moment’s notice and cry on their shoulders, and they will cry with me — and then tell me it will be okay. I learned in our first deployment to choose my friends wisely and that, for the most part, civilians have no idea what this life is like or why we would still be married. One friend said that she understood completely what I was going through, since her husband was leaving shortly to volunteer at church camp for five days. When I pointed out to her that this was an entirely different set of circumstances, her answer was that I knew what I was getting into when I married into the military.
I’ve always particularly liked that line: “You should have expected this when you married.” I like to compare it to telling someone after their house burns down, “Well, you should have expected this when you bought the house.” Because when you’re young and naïve and in love, you just get married, and you see your future stretching out together like the long rays of an early morning sunrise over the lake. You don’t see the ripples in the water — military or civilian. Everyone buys insurance for their house, but no one expects to use it. And when you fall in love with a soldier, sailor, airman or marine, you don’t foresee the long nights, or the missed Valentine’s Days, birthdays or holidays. But you take the good with the bad.
So today, we went shopping for some last minute groceries, just to make sure things would be set for a few days. The lady at the checkout line asked, “Did you find everything okay?” and part of me wanted to say, “I don’t know, do you have husbands with nine-to-five jobs who will only volunteer at church camps once a year on aisle one?” — but didn’t. I knew she wouldn’t understand.
You would think if your spouse is leaving shortly, then there would be a lot to talk about, but the powers of attorney have all been signed, the will is updated, and the arrangements have been made for snow to be shoveled and oil to be changed in the vehicles. The air becomes thick with things not said, things that can’t be said, because if you say them, it will only hurt both of you worse. Things like, “I will miss you so much,” or “You know I have to go,” or “I love you — why do you always have to leave?”. As strange as it sounds, you actually start wanting them to go, because you know that the only way for them to come home is for them to leave so you can both start the grieving process and then the healing process, and get into a routine.
And so, very shortly, the little ones and I will drive him to the airport. We will walk with him as far as we can, and he will kiss us all goodbye. He’ll tell our daughter how much he loves his little princess and to behave herself for me, and her grandparents, and her aunt and uncle. He’ll tell our little guy to take care of me and his sister, that he’s the man of the house for a while, and that he needs to mind his mother.
And then he’ll tell me that he loves me and that he’ll see us as soon as he can get home. We’ll watch him through the security line, and then we will go, back to the car. I’ll hug each little one close — maybe a little closer than necessary — and kiss the tops of their heads as I put them in their seats, and then I’ll get in behind the driver’s seat. His seat. I’ll swallow hard, and put the key in the ignition, but not start it. From the backseat will come a small little girl’s voice: “Mommy okay?”
“Yes,” I will answer. And I will be.
Farewell, my love, and Godspeed.