Home Again

There are many things about being a military wife that are difficult and unique.  My husband is, at times, gone more often than he is here.  He was in Iraq for 15 months a few years ago, and has recently heard that he will be deployed again (we’re not sure where) next summer for a year.  Then there’s the whole risking your life thing.  And the fact that considering what he does, he doesn’t make a whole lot of money.  For many, there’s the constant moving away from friends and family, though because of Sarge’s specific job, that’s not an issue for us.  The list can go on and on.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected challenges, however, has been a battle of dependence vs. independence.  The nature of being a military wife dictates that you need to have a good measure of independence in you.  There are many times when your soldier will be away for weeks (or months) on end, and you need to be able to make it on your own.  While I’m not big on handy-man type stuff around the house, I’m very used to doing the rest all by myself.  A lot.  I taxi the kids from baseball and gymnastics and doctor’s appointments.  I handle the money and try to keep the house clean.  I make decisions on discipline, bedtimes, house rules, and sibling fights.  I do it all.

When we sign the kids up for sports or other activities, I do so based on if I can get everyone where they need to be by myself.  If I make plans for me, I always do so with the thought of needing to have a babysitter in place just in case.  I’ve hosted parties and attended parties all by myself.  I’ve hired house repairs and car repairs, and purchased new appliances on my own.  I’ve redecorated, rearranged, and reconfigured all alone.  I’ve even coached Spike’s baseball team when none of the regular coaches have been able to go.  (It didn’t go so well, in case you’re wondering.)  I am very capable of…and very used to…doing it all on my own, and doing it fairly well.

But then Sarge comes home.  And he tries to find a place to fit in, when we’ve made new rules, or have been fighting the same battle for a week, or have started doing something a bit differently, and he hasn’t been a part of it.  He wants us to need him, as any man does.  And yet….we have to NOT need him so much of the time.  We’ve had to learn to get by without him, as a necessary part of our life.  We have to be able to survive as just the four of us.

So when he comes home we start this battle of trying to figure out how to move forward without the resentment.  And it’s always a battle.  He resents that we saw this movie or went to that restaurant without him.  I resent that he missed Blondie’s recital or wasn’t home to help when Goo was so sick.  He resents that I moved his favorite chair or that the garage became such a mess after he had just cleaned it.  I resent that I haven’t had time out with my friends or that he came in and dropped all his Army stuff in the middle of my clean kitchen.  He resents that I changed the rule about letting the dog outside without his knowledge, and I resent that I suddenly have to make him aware of every plan or all my whereabouts all the time.  There’s just always this resentment.

So we talk about it.  We work past it.  We figure it out.  Sometimes a little of the resentment remains but we try to be patient and eventually even that dwindles away.  And soon, things are comfortable again and we’re back to being one happy family. 

And then he leaves.  Again.

We’ll keep talking.  We’ll keep battling our way past it.  We’ll keep on keeping on, because we love each other and because we want this all to work out.  But there are days…there are times….like today, when I’m just so tired of the cycle.

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Carpe Diem

There are two things on my mind today, and in some strange way they are related.  The first is that I found out this weekend that a guy I knew in high school died last Friday.  He was 34, had been married for 10 months, and just died in his sleep.  No warning.  No hint that his last words or goodnight kiss or the evening before would be his last.  Just poof.  Gone.

I haven’t seen this guy since high school…haven’t really even thought about him since high school, if you want to know the honest truth.  But he was good friends with my friend M, who I do hang out with now and then.  So M has been talking about it and telling me about it, and it blows my mind that a perfectly healthy guy my age just suddenly left this world.

It makes me think about how I’m living my life, for sure.  Am I living each day to the fullest?  Am I saying the things that need to be said?  Am I living my life in such a way that if I were to die tomorrow, I could die with no regrets?  Yeah, I’m thinking on all those things.  But also, I’m looking at the people in my life and seeing that there are a lot of people in this world that aren’t looking at the big picture.

My friend, A, for instance, recently found text messages on her husband’s phone from a woman.  “A friend”, according to him.  The messages were flirty and often in code and completely inappropriate.  But he didn’t like being called out on them.  He didn’t like that A was mad about his relationship with this girl, whatever it may be.  So he left.  He moved out, and now A is taking care of their three children on her own.  She’s drinking more than she should.  She has started smoking again.  She’s taking advantage of her freedom by flirting with other guys and entertaining the thought of finding a new guy.  She’s visiting lawyers and bad-mouthing her husband and talking divorce.  Mostly, she’s in defensive mode, because her husband L is being such a jerk. 

And I look at L and I can tell that he’s acting on this little feeling of unhappiness.  This restless feeling everyone has now and then of being in a marriage for a while and having the responsibility of three kids and wondering what it would be like to be a little more free again.  Most of us brush it away, whine a little about how rough life is, and get on with our lives the best we can.  But L…he’s checking it out.  He’s walking away, just like the eight years and three kids mean nothing to him.  He’s out having fun and acting single.  And his children are paying the price.  His wife is paying the price.  His family is paying the price.  All because he’s not looking at the big picture.

L claims to have no “emotional interest” in A at this point.  He just doesn’t care about her or their marriage anymore.  He’s done.  Overnight, practically, he has decided that he wants out.  He probably thinks that he is seizing the moment, and doing what he needs to do to be happy.  But I think I’m wise enough these days to realize that in truth, there are two ways to go about that.  He can leave his family behind to pursue “new” happiness…the excitement of a new girl and new possibilities and a new life.  Or, he can man up and do what he needs to do to make his current life happier.  Make more effort.  Be a better husband.  Be a better dad.  Care.  In the end, which would he regret?  If he died tomorrow, would he regret staying?  Or leaving?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying there’s never a place for divorce.  I have many friends that are divorced and it was the best thing for them…they are much happier now.  What I’m saying is that people too often don’t look at the big picture.  Too often they take the “easy” way out.  They don’t try hard enough.  I think that if you are going to take steps toward divorce, especially if you have children, you need to make every possible effort to save that marriage first.  You need to exhaust every minute possibility.  You need to fight your butt off before throwing in the towel.

Somehow this has turned into a post about divorce.  That wasn’t my intention.  But it’s a valid example of how easily many people today throw away things in their life without much consideration.  We take the “easy” way out…we are selfish and do whatever we want to do to fulfill our fleeting desires…we toss aside people and pursue our own agendas.  If I could talk to the high school friend who just passed away, what would he say his regrets were?  I think it would be the people he hurt.  The things he didn’t say to those he loved.  The things he didn’t do for them that he should have.

But for us, it’s not too late.  Now’s our chance.