Selling a house, hunting for a house, buying a house, and moving into a new house is probably not on any list of things to do immediately upon welcoming your husband home from a deployment. But it’s what we did.
This reintegration was hard on me. I hate admitting that, but it was. I spent the year in a very familiar routine. I Skyped with HabMoo in the morning while eating breakfast. I either walked in the morning or went to the gym. I usually ate lunch alone and fit my consulting work in wherever it was convenient. My free time was occupied by whatever I was moved to do at the moment I found myself without a task. I had to make sure to see other people a couple times a week.
I was not used to having someone around ALL THE TIME. He was in the kitchen when I was getting my breakfast. He was stopping in to tell me something while I was working. He was asking me questions. He was not saving up his stories for the morning. And our wedding vows have a clause which states that I must listen to him for at least 20 solid minutes every day. I was used to that being in the morning.
He was very good about getting right back into the swing of taking on his household responsibilities. He was also very understanding and accommodating when I’d tell him he needed to leave the house for 4 hours at a time. Thank god he has a huge ego and doesn’t entertain the idea that I might not love him because I wanted him to go away. He understands the introvert need. After all, he’d just spent months having to be one himself with 50 of his closest friends and enemies always in arms reach.
Communication and positive assumptions have been so important for us. Shortly after HabMoo returned to Kuwait after his leave we were talking about how hard is was to be apart again. I told him that while I had no opportunity or plans to cheat on him, that week I completely understood how cheating could happen. He responded by telling me that he’d noticed that the women he worked with and who he had been seeing only as fellow soldiers were now registering as women in his mind. Being away from the physical contact you get from a lover can be challenging. You don’t really want a new lover, you just want something more than what you have.
What else can I complain about? Oh yeah, not knowing what day he was actually coming home. I understand the how he can’t tell me what he doesn’t know, but I HATE NOT BEING ABLE TO PLAN. I like being in control as much as possible. This is one reason why I’ve never been able to drink or do drugs. The experience is sort of fun, but what if I need to suddenly recite the “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech from Julius Caesar or perform CPR or multiply by 12?
Reintegration training was offered last Sunday and we went. The Yellow Ribbon does a very good job with their trainings. I’m a little tired of the suicide prevention one and I never want to sit through another explanation of TriCare, but the ones on resilience and other psychological tools are always helpful reminders. We attended a training on “icebergs” or what I call “core beliefs” and shared some of ours with each other. That was fun and gave us a little more understanding of each other. It did nothing for any lingering frustration I might have about HabMoo being around all the time, but after these 30+ days I’ve finally gotten over that on my own. (Plus he’s back to work during the days. Yes!)
Now I’m getting used to having someone helpfully remind me where I left my keys, help me with groceries, play board games and watch Mystery Science Theater movies with. I think I really love it. And I really love seeing him walk around in his shorts.
I really want to write a post full of self pity w/o readers being able to tell. Since I know I can’t accomplish that feat, I’ll try to write to my future self and you all will just have to bear it if you continue reading. (If you made it past the title, I have to give you partial credit. In Army speak, homecoming is called reintegration. It sounds like some chemical process rather than reuniting loved ones.)
When HabMoo returned to Kuwait and had been there a couple of days, we had a really interesting conversation. it wasn’t about how much we missed each other; it was about how we understood how couples could so easily cheat on each other during a deployment. Not that either of us was truly tempted, but the loss of the person you love feels a little like a breakup. It feels like you’re trying to move on even if what you’re really trying to do is hang on. To make the pain less, we could see how you’d turn to someone else. It might make things easier for a while.
I’ve written about pining for my husband earlier during the deployment. These last weeks before he returns are not about pining. They are about reminding myself that he’s still my husband and not some guy I wish was my husband. It’s about aching for the sound of his breath in the middle of the night. It’s about wishing I could listen to him talk to me about whatever is on his mind as he’s flossing his teeth. It’s lamenting the fact that he’s not here to make me healing spaghetti when I’m sick. It’s feeling shackled to Skype each morning, even when it fails us.
The last months are the hardest. I don’t have any prior posts from this time. I think it’s because the feelings are too raw and I hate to expose all that. Plus I don’t want him to feel guilty or worried. We are just living with decisions we made. It’s sort of like a natural disaster that we knew was coming and prepared for. We built in the tornado belt because we loved it there. Round about now, it’s hard to see the beauty, is all.
I’d like to say that I want him focused on his job and not me because his job is important and critical to success. But the war is over, they’ve worked w/o a few basic work tools for several days, and no one seems involved in any activities that actually matter to the US or even to them or other soldiers. I don’t understand why he’s still there except that there was a plan and no one wants to work too hard to change the plan or the dates. If I felt like we were making a sacrifice that mattered, I think this waiting would be easier. I could label my pain as patriotic or heroic or something. Instead it just seems like a waste.
Have you ever taken the 5 Love Languages assessment? We both rank very highly for the language of touch. I wish it was words of affirmation instead. I think we’re both pretty good at that. We let each other know that the other is loved. We laugh and tease during our Skype calls when we aren’t cursing Internet connectivity. But we both need to be touched. I need a hug. I need a peck on the neck while I wash dishes. Not to mention that husband/wife touchy stuff. No amount of Skype or phone calls, no sonnets, no letters, no gifts make up for the casual unconscious touch of his hand on my leg while we watch a movie.
While I don’t have prior posts to review and see how this frustration and sadness has happened before, I do have a few posts from when he’s been home. And they barely even mention him. When he gets back he’ll be such a constant, such a fixture, that I won’t have to write about his presence. It will just be assumed. That’s what I really want. I want to be so quenched by his local existence, his perfect attendance, that I’m excited about having a weekend alone while he’s at drill. That is such a great feeling.
Today my husband gets on a plane to Kuwait and two days since he left home. It’s also two days away from the anniversary of my mother’s death. So in her honor I’m going to write a journal entry.
Mom kept a journal for many years and we all liked it that she did so. Sometimes she’d have to stay up later than she wanted so she could record whatever the TV weatherman said the high for the day was. She also recorded things like the number of pints or quarters she put up. Or if Dad bought a new pony at an auction or if she bought a new coat. Her entries are really pretty boring to read, but I treasure the couple of books I have. I’ll try to make this at least as interesting.
I do not wait well. I really hate those minutes before people show up to a party I host and I loath the hours I spend waiting to find out exactly when my soldier will be available for pick up. The only things you ever know for sure is that the time you’re given initially is just a shot in the dark. I was smart this time and went to the gym to work out. I had to carry my phone with me, but I had something to do with my nervous energy and if I broke anything it wasn’t something of mine. I got HabMoo’s phone call from Atlanta telling me his flight number and time while I was working on the ab machine.
I tried very hard not to be too early to the airport. I only had to wait five minutes or so. I imagined seeing him come down the stairs. Instead I saw him walk down the corridor and gave a little shout. It wasn’t too loud, but I’m sure people heard it. A small public display of affection followed.
I drove home. I never drive when he’s home unless I have to. But since he hasn’t driven above 10 MPH in the last six months and was sleep deprived, I took the wheel.
I had left the Xmas tree up, but had taken down some of the decorations thinking that we might want to decorate the tree together to make it feel like Xmas instead of January. That never happened, but we did take the tree down together which counts for something. It’s not festive, but it is a domestic chore which can be sort of bonding if you haven’t done one together for a while. We always give each other gifts at home, but this year we took them to his folks so there’d be more presents. That was a good plan. But we never got our traditional Xmas photo to post on Facebook. It seems like Facebook didn’t even notice.
I have a hard time with disruptions to my routine. That’s hard for me to believe that to be true. It makes me feel old and intractable, but it’s true. The second and third days of having HabMoo around talking to me outside the daily morning Skype visit got on my nerves a bit. I went to the gym one day so I did that little bit of routine and it helped. I have to remember that I need to do that when he comes home in spring.
HabMoo pointed out a few other aspects of my habits I’d rather not notice. Yes, I had left a bowl of oil and vinegar out for over a month. Yes, I live like a stereotypical bachelor when he’s not home. But I do change my underwear everyday and I brush my teeth so I’m not completely a lost soul. I might eat a bell pepper like an apple for lunch, but so what? I mostly remembered to close the bathroom door while he was home.
I got special dispensation to attend the annual “mancation” so that I’d let him attend. It’s an all-male party at a cabin in Wisconsin and involves secret stuff I’m not allowed to talk about. That’s their official poster for this year’s event on the right. Mostly it’s loud, involves a lot of food and booze, and allowed me to play some of my favorite board games. I also took a few walks out on the frozen lake and looked at bald eagle and Canadian goose tracks.
At home, we played a lot of board games, painted board game miniatures, shopped for board game related paraphernalia, and talked about board games. We ate at Chipotle, Five Guys, and Origami. We also renewed our driver’s licenses, cancelled out each other’s votes in a local election, and packed up books and other stuff to get out of the house before we put it up for sale. Pretty basic vacation stuff?
We also watched a few movies. I had never seen Indiana Jones so we watched that. I should have seen it when it came out instead of waiting I guess. I wasn’t impressed. We also watched Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. I love it that HabMoo loves the Planet of the Apes franchise as much as I do. On his last night at home I suggested a romantic movie and he said, “What? Like Romeo + Juliet?” And I realized here’s where our age difference really comes into play. He likes the 1996 version with Leonardo diCaprio and I like the Franco Zeffirelli 1968 version. So we watched Mystery Science Theater’s Catalina Capers instead.
The last day of his stay was made more complicated by the failure of an alarm and the snowy road conditions. But that stress was better than last time when I waited at the gate with him for his plane to leave. Worst idea ever. It was much better to kiss and run just outside the airport.
Temperatures during his visit were unseasonably warm and he didn’t get a chance to use the snow shoes I gave him for Xmas.
I’ve been surprised by how much I’m missing my husband lately. We’re not halfway through the deployment yet—getting close though—and I’m feeling a little lost. So I’m going to go through a bit of a self-inventory and share it with you. (Actually I’m sharing more for the benefit of a future me.)
First, I’m going to get out a little anger that our soldiers keep re-deploying. We shouldn’t be able to learn from the first and second deployments in order to deal with the subsequent ones. I’m sure there are a lot of doctoral theses being written because the length of our wars provides so much data. Soldiers have always been good, easily captured research subjects.
But back to me. I was very prepared at the beginning of the deployment. I had gone through a sizeable portion of my grief over Mom’s death. I had trips planned to see my brother’s family and to go canoeing. I had enough work to make me feel productive, and still had plenty of time to garden. I even created this treasure map at my in-laws. My MIL and I each thought about what we wanted to happen in our own lives while the soldier boy was away. That’s mine below.
I’ve actually done pretty well. I have made an effort to stay in touch with friends. I’m not great at that, I tend to forget that I need to work on friendships. And I can spend too much time alone.
HabMoo and I have been communicating well and expressing love as best a couple can over the Internet ether. No real fights. No protracted times of feeling like we just aren’t connecting. (Those times do happen. His energy is low, or mine is, or Skype keeps failing as we try to talk. I don’t think there’s any way around that. We just don’t let them scare us.)
What else in on that construction paper? Boots. Yes, I did buy another pair of cowboy boots. I see two boots on there so I guess I get to buy another pair. I better save that for February. Or maybe later this month. Or whenever that metalic silver pair goes on sale.
Fitness. I joined a gym and have been go regularly. My heart thanks me, I am sure. I walked almost every day during the early summer before I got the membership. I discovered a Three Rivers Park nearby and plan to go cross country skiing there if we get good snow and weather.
I’m not so sure that I have met the embrace change challenge, but I’m getting better at that all the time. In fact, I feel like another sizable change in me is on its way. Maybe it’ll be me becoming freespirited. That’s not how I would ever describe myself. Others might. But there’s a difference between not caring what others think, knowing that they always think differently than you anyway, and being a free spirit. I have plenty of internal restraints. A full cupboard of them. Maybe more of a pantry.
50 Uses for Your Cat. Yeah, I’m going to fail that one. I think I’ve become better trained by my cats in the last few months. I jump even more quickly for them. They have perfected their pitiful cries and demanding yowls. And the neighbor trapping one of them didn’t help matters. I think they have found more uses for me than I have for them.
The last is the house for sale. I’m working on that. The realtor (trademarked professional) is already sending us emails. I’ve been packing up a few things getting ready to show the house. I’m not terribly optimistic about the market, but I think we’ll be able to sell it and find something we like. Our requirements are pretty minimal.
Best for Whatever seems to sum it up pretty well. Whatever comes along, I have to believe that I’ll be ready for it. I hate the way the word whatever is used these days to dismiss another’s comments, to acquiesce to the inevitable, to fill space between verbalizations. Whatever, the way I see it, is more like Doris Day’s que sera, sera. The wheel of fortune turns and you’re off on a new adventure.
Wow. I sound positively optimistic and brave. Honestly, I am trying to rein in my fantasies about my husband’s homecoming. I’m trying not to speed past the holidays. I’m trying to dance to the beat here and now in this room instead of the ones in my head and heart and spleen (does anxiety live in the spleen? Let’s say it does.) But right now I do feel capable of feeling lonely every night without feeling truly alone. And I’m very sure that I’ll be able to give up the body pillow once the man is home.
Beef: on the hoof to Mongolian BBQ
Yesterday I was reading about the problem Civil War soldiers faced of finding their food infested with flour beetles and having to decide if they should dunk their hardtack and let the beetles float out, or just toast the bread and eat them cooked. That’s a long way from my husband’s biggest food complaint during the war in Iraq in 2005: the dining facility (DFAC) temporarily ran out of onion rings. Times have obviously changed. But how much?
During the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress passed legislation to fix the components of a soldier’s food allowance. It included beef, peas, flour, milk, spruce beer, soap, and a candle. Next to the lack of vitamins A and C, the biggest problem was the lack of salt. Not just the lack of salt in the rations, but the lack of salt in the country. Salt was used to preserve meat and the salt had to be imported from the Spanish. The solution was to force the soldiers’ food to follow them and hopefully find pasture nearby. When the cattle didn’t have good forage or roads, the soldiers’ provisions dwindled. (Eventually the British West Indies sold salt to us and butchery on the battlefield once again referred primarily to humans.
Wars were tough on cattle. During the spring of 1778 when soldiers were starving, suddenly the cattle finally made it to camp. Unfortunately there were more cattle than could be eaten. Without forage for the cattle or salt to preserve carcasses, the cattle starved.
Later this week the soldier I know best will head to the DFAC in Kuwait for its unique version of Mongolian BBQ.
Rum or coffee
Current soldiers might envy the first soldiers in the U.S. Army. In 1790, the daily ration of four ounces of rum was reduced to only two, but they might get rum, brandy or whiskey. When you consider that they were probably drinking from the same water source as their cattle, the alcohol was probably a good idea. But boozing it up was a fact of life during Colonial times. I’ve read that they got cherubimical by imbibing such alcoholic delights as Rattle-Skull, Stonewall, Bogus, Blackstrap, Bombo, Mimbo, Whistle Belly, Syllabub, Sling, Toddy, and Flip.
None of these drinks were officially available to soldiers after the rum ration was eliminated in 1832. But then Congress must have felt bad about it and allowed enlisted men constructing fortifications or surveying an allowance to pay for their own ration of alcohol. By 1865, even that provision was eliminated.
What beverage replaced the booze? Coffee and sugar. During the Mexican War soldiers also got a bit of vinegar.
Temperance leaders tried to prohibit alcohol on military bases after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. However, policies to encourage moderating soldiers’ drinking were as strong as they got. For the most part officers saw a reasonable amount of drinking as good for morale.
Brewers were required to allocate 15 percent of total annual production of beer for use by the armed forces; local draft boards were authorized to grant deferments to brewery works who were highly skilled and irreplaceable; the Teamsters were ordered to end a strike against Minneapolis breweries because beer manufacturing was considered an industry essential to the war effort; and near the end of the war, the army made plans to operate recaptured French breweries to ensure adequate supplies for the troops (Rubin, 1979, p. 240).
While young soldiers were fighting in Vietnam, the argument was made that if you were old enough to die for your country, you were old enough to drink. Many states lowered the legal age to 18.
Alcohol is still enjoyed and abused by soldiers, even those serving in Islamic countries. Alcohol is fairly easy to get from the locals or have delivered by mail disguised as mouth wash. Heavy drinking is often seen as a symptom of PSTD or as influencing the actions of soldiers involved in criminal acts in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Sen. Jim Webb, a Vietnam veteran and former war correspondent has suggested letting troops in war zones drink alcohol as a way to relieve combat stress.
Coffee is easily available. It’s in the MREs and on bases. Tea is a little harder. The Canadians, Brits, and others have it in their MREs, but not the Americans. My poor husband arrived at his base in Kuwait only to discover that the Starbucks there was out of Earl Gray tea.
Potatoes became part of the daily ration during the Civil War, as was pepper. And dried beans added to the variety. WWI saw the addition of butter (or margarine or lard). A total of 17 different food items were available on the list of possible rations. By 1927 this number was up to 23, mostly because of food prices and substitutions.
Now even MREs (meals ready to eat) have great variety. And they are available for purchase by the general public who uses them for disaster preparedness or camping trips. Personally, I find several of them to be rather good and better than most freeze-dried camping foods. The cheese tortellini with marinara sauce is probably my favorite.
The menu plans for DFACs includes menu standards that “should support menu planning for special dietary considerations. Vegetarianism and religious dietary requirements are normally addressed within the framework of the daily menu items offered.”
Sutlers to Starbucks
Sutlers would procure provisions for the military through the Civil War. They were civilians who followed the armies or who received a license to sell to an army post.
Now we have food provided free to soldiers via the DFAC and lots of privately owned establishments you’d easily find in your local shopping area. For example, Camp Arifjan has such fast food favorites such as: Pizza Hut, Charley’s, Hardees’s, 3 Subways, Burger King, Pizza Inn, Taco Bell, KFC, Baskin Robbins, Hawaiian Ice, Panda Oriental, Nathans Hot Dogs, Green Beans Coffee, Hole N One Doughnuts, 2 Starbucks. It only has three DFACs.
Starbucks really are everywhere. See this map of how to get to store 5546. I assume they are preparing to close down shops in Iraq now.
The contracts of modern day sutlers can be lucrative, but they are also costly. Food has to be imported. The contract proposal for the 2011 contract has this line: “The prime vendor bears all risk and responsibility for personal injury or death of its employees or agents or subcontractor employees or agents or for any damage to, loss of or demurrage of equipment during the transportation of product into Iraq.” As the Washington Post reported: “The Kuwait-based Public Warehousing Company/Agility, which has had the Iraq contract from 2003 through this year, has said 30 of its employees have been killed, 200 injured, 300 trucks destroyed and 700 more damaged over the past six years.”
Even with the availability of cinnamon dolce latte, war still sucks.
What I want right now is a salt lick for humans—something salty not covering a chip or cracker. I’d usually crave the chip, but right now I just want the salt.
I am back from working out at the gym. Yep, I said it. I have been working out at a gym. I even own some gym clothes. This bothers me.
I am not now, nor have I ever been, an athlete. My high school girlfriend made me learn tennis and play on the school team one year. I did play varsity badminton without urging, and loved it, but that’s the sole athletic endeavor I’ve ever really enjoyed. Oh, and hiking, which I’m not sure counts because there are no rules and no special equipment is necessary.
I joined a gym because the geeky boy I married is turning into a geeky biker and runner. He keeps growing more muscles. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to keep up with him since he’s got so many fewer years slowing him down, but I want to hike up a hill with him and not keep stopping along the way to wait for me to stop panting like an overheated shar-pei.
So I looked around and found a gym with “free” tai chi and yoga classes. I figured those would be more gentle ways of encouraging myself to activity. I could do those a few times a week and later think about doing more on my own. Joining the fitness center—they aren’t called gyms any longer, I guess—was a cultural experience.
Apparently this fitness center caters to cougars. I really hate that term, but it seems appropriate here. There was an attractive young man at the front desk, an attractive young man to give me a tour, and an attractive young man to give me my free session with a trainer. They smiled, they talked about how clean everything was, they asked me questions about myself, and they pushed offers on me like my Aunt Mil would push her homemade cookies. When I hesitated about an offer, mostly because I was still in shock to be in such a place, they’d offer a slightly better deal—available only if I signed up today. They had me agreeing to all sorts of obvious things, saying yes to their questions, and then slipping in the question about what package deal did I want to buy. They were well-taught salesmen.
I bought a membership. The place was clean like they said. It was uncrowded. There were lots of shiny pieces of equipment. There was a sauna which I’d probably never use, but I’m from Minnesota where saunas are heavenly places in the winter. I did not buy the services of a personal trainer, however. First of all, the number of pretty boys walking around made me wonder if any of them felt like gigolos. I felt like I was being manipulated by testosterone. Also I was asked why I wanted to work out and what goals I had. I talked about wanting to avoid another should injury, wanting to build bone density, and wanting to increase my endurance. The handsome dude just kept talking to me about weight loss and looking better. I did get him down from $50 an hour to $25 before I had sat long enough to regain enough strength to walk back out the door. Oh, and I think he’s starting to bald on top.
My first yoga class was taught by a tall transvestite. I’m sure he’s a straight and very masculine transvestite. Don’t ask me how I know this. I read Blink and learned about someone spotting a forgery in a manner of seconds, So I’m confident in the snap judgment I made with no real evidence. He’s the only one of their yoga teachers I’m actually comfortable with. The others move much too quickly and I’ve left their classes with sore wrists.
Mostly I now go to do whatever the proper verb is for using the elliptical machine. Walk? Ramble? Circle? Row? I do whatever it is and sweat into my eyes while listening to audio books. I find that I almost enjoy it. I like being read to and it helps me avoid the Kardashians who seem to be on at least one TV screen at all times of the day. (I now know that Kardashians are humanoids and that somehow an Olympian is related to them.)
I’ve learned how to lengthen my workout by my choice of books. For example, right now I listen to The Poisoner’s Handbook until I start to feel queasy. I tell myself it’s the book and not the exercise. I stop, take a sip of water, change the audio track to Bossypants and let Tina Fey get my energy level back up for another 20 minutes. This works better than listening to women with British accents read me a novel. That works for walking around the neighborhood, but is too somnambulant for strenuous exercise.
I have been working out almost daily now for three weeks. I have lost the 3 pounds I gained during the first week. My heart rate no longer shoots into the 90% range as soon as I near any equipment. I have learned how to get into and out of sport tops so I’m feeling pretty good. But last night during my second Latin Heat class the instructor stopped class to ask if I was OK. After class I caught a glimpse of my face and saw why she asked. I was purple. It’s not a good shade for someone sporting copper-red hair.
I still have to practice thinking of myself as someone who works out. I am trying to think of it as an extension of the Army wife thing. It’s what Army wives do when their husbands are away. It’s not who I am. It’s just a way of coping. This doesn’t really help but will have to do for now.
HabMoo has said that he will be writing a blog post about his own self-loathing about becoming a biker and someone who runs in the heat of the desert. Maybe we’ll bond over this, but I prefer bonding over Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones, and Disgaea.
Written a few days ago…
Ever wake up some days and just feel like you’re a toddler? You want something—everything, really—and don’t want any help getting it, but you need help and you’re hurt if things don’t go right or aren’t about you. You’re peeved that the world isn’t revolving around you as it should. That happens to me with some regularity. But today I felt like a teenager.
Not the live-for-today, crazy, imperious, vibrant and vital teenager. No, I was never that teenager. I’m talking the teenager who is insecure, but diligently well-behaved, worried about the future, and feeling and fearing some portentous loneliness. I lived with that “I’m smart and mature” attitude behind which knelt the one fearful of asking questions and worried that she’d never be loved in the right way. And today it revisited.
I took care of responsibilities today, and missed my husband. I was smart and mature. But I didn’t want to be. I couldn’t stop looking ahead into the months of deployment ahead and fearing how I’ll handle it and who I’ll be when it’s over.
I pine for HabMoo like a girl pines for a teen idol. I think about him throughout the day. I wonder what he’s doing. I wonder what he’d say if he was here. I long for him to notice me. I read everything I can about him. Luckily he keeps a blog, sometimes uses his Facebook or Twitter account and contacts me directly through email and Skype.
So I don’t have any real complaints and the anxiety feels undefined. I hear from HabMoo daily. The deployment means we’ll have another honeymoon period when he returns. I feel secure in the relationship. Work is good. I have interesting and supportive friendships. I’m intellectually challenged. But I feel this weight, nevertheless.
When I wake up as a toddler, I need structure and routine until I find my place in the world around me again. I need to hold off on really important decisions for a day. I can provide for that toddler by myself most of the time. But the teenager is harder to support. The teenager needs what?
For me I think much of it comes from the absence of touch. I think my greatest fear of growing old is that people won’t touch me except to examine some medical symptom. Wives joke about missing sex, but what I really miss is being able to lean up against someone who stands strong and accepts my weight. I miss touching feet under the table. I miss the hand around my waist turning me in the correct direction. I miss the unconscious brushing of skin against skin. It’s better than any anti-anxiety drug for me. It’s that assumption of acceptance you can make when someone touches you. It’s the affection and support.
Touch quiets my adolescent mind and assures it that life is progressing just fine and that I have my place in it. It reminds me that I’m not alone in facing the unknown future.
Today I spoke with HabMoo and told him about what I was feeling. As I spoke I realized that I was looking forward only into the fall and winter. I could choose to look ahead to next summer instead. He’ll be home and hopefully we’ll have a new house. And then I’ll probably worry about the next schooling he has to do in another state for weeks, but will have the knowledge that if I could survive a deployment, I can survive a two-month class.
At least in my mind, today was HabMoo’s first real day of deployment; I won’t see him again until he gets leave, probably sometime mid-winter. I am now a single married woman.
I gave myself today and tomorrow to feel blue and mope. But I woke up feeling much better than I have for several days. Even while HabMoo was home, I was anticipating his department and now that it’s here, I feel like I can finally pick myself up and begin my new routine. I unexpectedly feel competent and optimistic today.
This post is really just for me, in anticipation of the next deployment which will eventually happen. Here’s what I need to remember about the deployment-before-deployment:
- I will miss him even while he’s sitting next to me. This anticipatory loss is sometimes worse than the real thing.
- His presence will sometimes bother me. My heart thinks: If he’s going, why doesn’t he just go now?
- I am no good at planning things when I’m not sure how his schedule will impact mine. But I should do it anyway. People will forgive me for screwing up dates and I need the support of others.
- Friends help. Family helps. Pets help. A routine helps. Walking helps.
- His family has their own grief that is theirs, not mine, and I don’t have to understand it.
- Even if I don’t want to clean the house, I’ll feel better if I do.
- I need a menu and grocery shopping plan for cooking just for me.
- My husband is very good at expressing love in person and from a distance.
- He’s also good at accepting, but not taking on, my confused feelings. Trust him and don’t worry about protecting him from your own feelings. He wants to be missed.
- If the usual stuff doesn’t comfort (like re-reading favorite books) then try something else. This time it seems to be listening to books and cross stitching.
- It helps to keep doing things I do only because he wants me to (like unplugging the coffee pot or turning off the car radio) because it makes me feel connected to him. Doing everything my way for a little while feels good, too.
- When he comes home on leave, make sure to plan something you want to do and not let the schedule be completely dictated by his family, his friends, and his interests. He wants to do something for me, too.
Even though HabMoo will be coming home for a couple of days before he leaves the country, the deployment is beginning to feel real. I can tell because of these tell tale clues:
- I can’t look at the calendar. I’m having a terrible time with days and putting things on my calendar.
- I’m paying all the bills and not liking it. (Normally I don’t like it that he’s been taking care of them. I like knowing where all the money is.)
- I haven’t cleaned the toilet recently.
- It’s after 7 and I haven’t thought about dinner yet.
- I’m playing a lot of Phantom Brave.
- I’m being careful about the music I listen to. Liking Country music makes things tough.
I wrote HabMoo a letter today. It’s terribly old fashioned, but it feels more personal and more intimate than a phone call. I wrote about feeling like I unwittingly married the National Guard when I wedded him; it’s a third member of our partnership. I feel like the other woman. Right now he’s with her and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I hate to admit that I’ve been watching Army Wives, but I started when I needed to make myself give in to some tears. The writers have had the wives talk about “choosing this life” and I just don’t get that. I chose my husband. I did not choose his career. I did not choose this life. I would never consider choosing a career for him. I’m not even sure if I have any problems with it except that I don’t feel like I’m an equal partner.
The Guard calls and he answers. The Guard tells him what to wear and he wears it. I got him to buy cowboy boots, but he won’t wear them every day for me. The Guard tells him where and when to sleep. It feeds him. He serves it. I’m not sure I want that much power over him—but damn it—if someone is going to have that kind of control of him shouldn’t it be his me?
Like a mistress, I remind myself that it’s really me he loves. I know that when he can come to my side, he will. I want to get into a direct competition, but I can’t and I won’t. There’s legitimacy to what he’s doing and where he is. Luckily I’m not a naturally jealous woman.
It’s a little weird, though, to be paying the bills with money coming from that legitimate partner. It’s a little like a wife paying the mistress for the nights her man is at home. Except my taxes go to make that payment. It’s really much messier than Army Wives would lead you to believe (and the people are much less pretty and articulate).
So has HabMoo deployed yet? He’s at Camp Ripley right now but will be home at the end of the week. So not really. His formal deployment ceremony is on Sunday. Will he be deployed the next day? Not really. He has home station activities. After that? I’m saying yes. Although he won’t be leaving the country yet and he’ll have another visit home.
This really messes with my head. Can I grieve yet? Can I begin some new activity to occupy my time alone yet? Can I get his stuff out of my way yet? I’m not sure.
HabMoo’s last deployment (or pre-deployment) training phase didn’t have much of an effect on my life. I went to his going away party, watched him open silly gifts, and get drunk, but then I left the party early. I felt a little sad but he was just a friend, and I was more concerned about my boyfriend’s second departure for a Peace Corps assignment after being evacuated from the Ivory Coast when fighting broke out there. HabMoo’s trip abroad to represent the United States seemed like it would be better supported, better funded, and better organized.
A few months later and HabMoo was still in the states and I visited a few times. During one of those visits we said I love you and on another he asked me to marry him. So we used that deployment, really pre-deployment, time to give us the perspective on our feelings. So maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling more relaxed now that he’s out of the house. I expect something good from this time.
But now that the short trip I took to take my mind off his deployment is over, I’m turning my attention to his coming back home (I look forward to it. I miss him.) I’m also turning my attention to his departure ceremony (But he just left. I’m going to miss him.) I’m pretty good with contradictions and paradoxes, but this one is juggling my emotions like a Cirque du Soleil performer. I can’t imagine having to explain this all to little kids. Daddy’s back! No dear, he hasn’t actually left even though he was gone and we said good-bye.
I’m a little afraid that HabMoo is going to come home to a greeting from me that is just as confused. “I miss you! Haven’t you left yet?”