Countdowns are useless. D(eparture) day changes, sometimes it’s earlier, sometimes later, sometimes it’s back and forth. The last one is the most irritating. (Mission planner/Leadership, can’t you just make up your mind?) If he’s going to be bumped, great. We’ll take the extra days. However, in my 20 plus years in the Navy and the last 8 as an Army spouse, I’ve yet to fully understand the Army way. So I’m basing a lot of the emotional ups and downs on my personal background since this is my first long deployment as an Army spouse. My own downrange prep experience in 2010 was as an individual augmentee* and I thought that the process to go into and out of Afghanistan involved a lot of sitting and waiting. So anytime we had to rush around to get things done, I knew in the back of my mind that I’d better bring a book because I’d be waiting for the process to catch up.
Now that I’m watching DH rushing around to get things done, I hearken back to that crazy month before I left (Jan 2010) and I hold back a little sob for my hubby, my best friend, who’s going to miss a year of our nutty household daily craziness. Sniff. Life goes on.
*Individual augmentee: someone who’s deployed “solo” from his/her home unit to be part of a bigger unit. In my case, I was the only one from my command and one of 3 from San Antonio deployed as a group of nearly 200 from around the world to support the NATO Role 3 hospital in Kandahar/Qandahar. Ever see the movie “Lost in Translation”? That’s what I felt like being a Navy gal learning how to play Army for 5 weeks. 1st Army Ft Lewis: Thanks for my training, awesome range time, the Stripes housing experience and the opportunity to catch up on sleep and reading.
What’s happening? DH is leaving soon for a year. Am I sad? Of course. I’m terrified more than I am sad. Selfishly, I’m afraid of failing as a (super)mom. Papa’s the one Bella calls for at 0423 nearly every morning. (He even wakes up automatically at 0423!) Papa makes her laugh and giggle uncontrollably. Heck, he makes us all laugh. He’ll only be 2.5 or 3.5 hours ahead of us which is an awkward time for morning Skype so we’ll wait excitedly for suppertime Skype. Life goes on.
Knock-kneed terror: I know I can do this. I can be a single mom here in Germany while papa’s away. The light-hearted, nay, easier to swallow or choke out, way to say it is that he’s on a business trip. In reality, he’s on a deployment. Regardless of where or what he’s doing, I know he’s as safe as he could possibly be. He’s got more a chance to be in a car accident on the autobahn than he does of getting shot or blown up by an IED. I have to believe it. I do believe it. The toughest part will be the passing of time. He’s going to be super busy from the minute his plane lands and he grabs his military issued-
crap gear and his personal ruck off that pallet and heads down the ramp with dozens of similarly dressed soldiers onto the tarmac.
On our end, we also have to keep busy. For those few who recall, I retired from a pretty busy career to bring the family overseas ahead of this deployment. I recently decided to rejoin the workforce and will soon start a new job. It pays less than I brought home as a uniformed active duty officer, but I think I’ll enjoy it, especially once I get the hang of things. B and I will both go to work and preschool together each morning and at the end of my workday, we’ll head home. We have a new dogwalker/sitter, Michelle, who’s job is to walk the dogs during the day (she is a nursing student so the walks are either in the morning or in the afternoon). Our days will be full and hopefully loneliness and isolation will be kept at bay. Life goes on.
Parenting from afar: The only advice I’d give my husband about this upcoming year and parenthood (if he ever asked, which he won’t…that’s just how it goes) is to remember that she will move on while he’s gone. So how do I plan to keep him involved in OUR household? Constant communication is nearly always possible from Afghanistan. Skype may be choppy because of technical difficulties, but it works. Social media will probably be curtailed (he doesn’t FB often). Letters in the mail would be a thrill but emails are just as appreciated. The goal is to ease his return next year by making the deployment year as cumbersome-less as possible. He needn’t worry about the little things that he can’t control or influence. He has done a great deal to ensure that the major and pseudo-major things have been handled on his honey-do list.
Buy a lawn mower Arrange passport for B Swap winter tires and store tires on Car #2 Get Power of Attorneys
- Update Wills (he’s done but I need to do mine)
Arrange finances Hire a dog-walker/sitter Hire a housekeeper 2x/month
Daily photos, daily calls: DH was awesome, in the beginning of my 2010 deployment, with sending a daily photo of Bella. As time went on and family/work requirements increased, the photos slowed down although the Skype calls (usually without video) were made nearly daily. I think I missed less than a handful of daily calls because (1) I had a very busy night full of real trauma drama and (2) overslept through my afternoon Skype time as a result of (1).
Life keeps going…While I love my daughter dearly and would give anything to turn back time to recapture the months missed (ages 13 months – 22 months), I have to face facts and move on. I’m still getting past the guilt of leaving her at such a young age, among other things. Always reveling at how close she is to her beloved papa, wondering if that would have happened regardless? (I think so) She doesn’t remember that time period when I was away.
She will likely remember this next year without papa, though. So it’s my duty as a mom and wife to make sure that Dad’s represented in what we do and to share our days with him in chunks. I’m thinking of getting a lifesize photo of him to bring around with us when we do cool things. In the meantime, I’m praying her Daddy Doll makes it in the mail before he leaves. (She had a buildabear for my deployment and every so often, I’ll hear my voice coming from the little electronic box…weird how certain things make me stop breathing. That’s one of them.) Countless parents who live and work away from their families do this all the time, deal with separation for months, years at a time. The challenge is to pull down the brick wall of stoicism, to pull aside the sign that says “I can do it” and be able to ask when I truly need a helping hand. (For those who’ve ever taken a cruise, think of your ship staff and their families who live far away while they are at sea, making the all mighty dollar/paycheck. That’s life in the military, too.) I choose to keep going…Life goes on.
I remember sitting in my barracks room, in the dark of day (I worked nights), after a particularly eventful night, and all I really wanted to see and hear was normalcy. I didn’t want to deal with the folks at work. I wasn’t interested in the KAF social scene or the monthly Role 3 morale “party”. SEEING Papa changing B’s diaper every morning was a treat and when we had no video, that was heartbreaking. My daily call at 1630h local (7am at home) would interrupt my sleep cycle, but I would happily go back to sleep afterwards. It’s no wonder it took me well over a year, counseling, a personal tens unit and ambien to get back to “normal”. Every now and then, I pull out the tens unit, just so I can sleep through the night.
Give credit where it’s due: It’s in the genes. My mom was an incredible SUPERmom. She kept us safe and dry during more than one supertyphoon when it was just the two of us. She made sure I had what I needed for school, for life, for my personal “toolbox”. I want B to think of me as her SUPERmom, even if I don’t wear a cape and sometimes start crying for no reason. Because Life goes on.