We have been working through some things at Chateau L that have made me revisit my past, focus on and sort through the present and look forward to the future. There is some good. There is some bad. And, of course, the ugly looms there, too.
This is going to be fairly rambling with not a lot of rhyme or reason and, honestly, it’s not likely I’ll go back over it and correct grammar, etc.
February isn’t just the anniversary of our “Family Day” with Olivia. One year before that, it was when I said good-bye to my husband for his first deployment. It was the first time in my life that I ever felt truly, truly alone. It was the first time where I felt weak for having “woe is me” days. It was the first time my life was filled with constant day-to-day worry. February brings with it a lot of emotions for me, especially now with one of my dearest friends, Wendy, whose husband has begun his second tour. Those who have been around a while may remember that Wendy and I met online on a forum for Navy wives when I was looking for hotel recommendations to go visit Will in Gulfport. After beginning our friendship, we realized Will had been assigned to her husband’s unit. We were friends here and they were getting to know each other there. Kismet. Wendy was the first wife I met who shared her feelings and helped me to validate mine, but I still felt like it was wrong. I mean, she had just had a baby and had a toddler. Her husband was gone. What on earth did I have to complain about?? The other two wives from Will’s unit never returned phone calls and weren’t interested in supporting one another. In some ways my feelings were hurt, but in other ways I understood they had their lives. It was just Pom Pom and me…Olivia was still a file on someone’s desk and a dream in our hearts. I worked a lot to keep me occupied and I focused on things I had to. My cell phone was a permanent fixture on my body and I slept with it under my pillow. I know there are some military spouses who read my blog who are shaking their heads because they’ve been there. There are some National Guard and Reserve wives who are doing it, too. Before Will deployed, I never really considered myself a military spouse. I often simply referred to myself as a Reserve spouse. To me there was a difference. There still is, to some degree.
We are the marriage deployment strengthened. We are the marriage this deployment tested.
Our lives moved in fast forward when Will came home. Meeting him on the tarmac at Oceana was the 2nd greatest day of my life. The first was the day I married him. He told me to stop crying; he was home now. I couldn’t stop because I relived the previous months over and over in my head. The constant worrying. The being scared. The longing for it to be over so he could come home and rest. The needing to be held and loved.
During the deployment, one of the days I’ll remember forever is April 16, 2005. It was a Saturday and the call came in while my friend J and I were on our way to look at a car because we sold his truck before he left. We were riding along I-40 and my phone rang. His voice was very calm and these were his first words, “I need to tell you something before you hear it from anyone else.” My heart sank. I gripped the armrest in J’s car and I listened to his words through the sound of my heart beating in my ears. They had convoyed to another city and, while there, they had a chance to go shopping at a market. See, something you all may not know is I’m a t-shirt ho. I have one from every place we’ve ever visited. He thought it would be cute to get me one from the marketplace and send it to me. It was cute, until I learned what the significance of that t-shirt would hold. While they were out, their sleeping quarters were hit by rocket fire and they lost many of their belongings. He was shopping for me a t-shirt so he wasn’t there. Two weeks later my t-shirt arrived in the mailbox. I sat in my car and hugged it. The only thing that made me laugh was be bought me a XXL. The shirt still has the tag on it and it’s tucked safely away.
We always knew there would be another deployment and when it became unofficially official, we started planning. We bought gear, planned vacations, double checked financials, etc. It’s what we needed to do. On his annual training last May, he was injured. The Guard STILL hasn’t gotten his paperwork moved through the system to get him fixed so we started him on doctor visits, testing, and therapy out of our own pockets. This injury kept him from deploying. He will eventually be fixed, but it’s going to be a while. I had my mindset that I was going to be the only caregiver for Olivia. I was going to be solely responsible for everything on the homefront while he did his job in a land far away. I didn’t completely know his mindset because he doesn’t talk about it much, but I knew he was preparing to go. Then they told him nope. Not happening. It was like running full force into a brick wall. We had an idea, but until they actually uttered the words, it never actually sank in. I’ve blogged about it before, but it is a lot harder to get unready to deploy than it is to deploy. Our mindsets had gotten in the right place. Our mentalities had shifted. We were ready and then WHAM. What to do with all these feelings and emotions. I used to think I hurt more for him, but after seeing a counselor, I’m not so sure anymore. I felt selfish because all the work I had done to get MY life in order was crashing down. I had planned how things would be for ME. Me. Me. Me. Oh, wait. He’s the soldier. How did he feel? I don’t know. He didn’t tell me. He wouldn’t tell me. I heard disappointment in his voice and I saw it in his face, but he never really told me how he felt. In December, after his unit mobilized, it was the elephant we tip-toed around.
I have gone back into the feeling of not knowing where I belong. Yes, I’m a military spouse by the definition my husband is in the National Guard, but I don’t feel like a “real” one. How do I define real? I don’t know. I can’t really, to be honest. Family support meetings are awkward because the other wives are living what I’m supposed to be. I guess the closest thing I can equate it to would be survivor’s guilt. I actually heard how lucky I am. I am, but I’m not. I think some of those who say that would probably have some of the mixed emotions I have.
I know how lucky and blessed I am Will came home unharmed. Believe it or not, I do know how lucky I am that he is out of harm’s way and I don’t have to live the day-to-day worry that so many others are going through. We found out on a Thursday he wasn’t deploying. By Saturday I had 3 emails and phone calls from people looking for support. I tried convincing myself that maybe, just maybe, our purpose was to support from the home front. There is a Colonel at an Army base who has my name and number and gives it to those who need support. I’ve been contacted about some projects in support of our troops in and around our area. I’ve been contacted by wives and girlfriends and family members whose loved ones DID mobilize with the NC National Guard this go-round. I know I have the support to give. I know I do. It’s what I do, ya’ll know that. I still can’t help but feel like I don’t belong. I’m supposed to be one of them. I’m supposed to be supporting them as I go through it with them. Not as a been-there-done-that spouse. I feel displaced.
Many things have been affected with this roller coaster of emotions. Friendships have been put on hold, but I’m holding on to hope that my best friends know I’m around, I’m just having some challenges right now. Sleep is spotty, at best.
The past is the past and the experience is something that I’ll carry with me forever. It has helped define who I am today – the good and not so good. I’m trying to embrace the present and remember the blessings I have. I’m working on reshaping myself into a person I can look at in the mirror every day and honestly say I’m proud to be. The future holds some uncertainty and it’s up to me to work on making the best decisions I can for my family. I’m having to learn to take it day by day.