My husband has deployed and “gone TDY” many, many times in our nine years in the Air Force. Some trips were short, some were longer. Some were supposed to be short and became kind of long. Some came up on little notice, some we knew about well in advance. Some were to places that gave me a stab of envy, most were to monochrome places that I don’t care to know.
Over the years I developed a routine for dealing with the separations.
- Do something I really want to do that he would really, really despise being coerced into doing with me.
- Indie and girlie movie dates with friends.
- Work, work, work.
- Work out.
- Plato – snuggles, walks, dog park.
- One home improvement project.
- Visits from family.
My system was completely wrecked his last deployment. We had moved to England just 5 weeks earlier, we had a 7-month-old, the dog was back in the States, everything we owned was months from arrival… I was totally out of my comfort zone and really, really alone.
This next time, we’re (mostly) settled into a comfortable home, the dog is curled up by my side, my mom is thinking of visiting, and our nearly-two-year-old will spend a couple of mornings each week in day care so I can write and clean and plan for #2. In many ways, it looks like it should be “normal.” Except for the toddler part.
Each day my husband is away from home, my son asks about daddy. I tell him he’s away for work, and whether or not we’ll see him that night. He takes it in stride. But we’ve only dealt with two weeks or less at a time since he has started talking.
Sunday, while I was cooking dinner, my husband left the kitchen to do something in the living room. Moments later Walden wandered out of the kitchen in search of his dad. He opened the front door and walked his cute little toddler butt onto the sidewalk to see if he was there. I heard the door open and caught him, but to think that this tiny little person is willing to venture out of our house on his own to find his dad broke my heart just a little.
They’re buddies. Walden even says so. This is a new thing. “Dad? Backpack? Buddies?” No infant can convey admiration for his father in the way a newly conversant toddler can.
Now dealing with the deployment isn’t just about the inconvenience and loneliness of being left home to live life without the man I chose to share it with. It’s about the disappointment and emptiness in not having him here to share in the fleeting magical moments of our son’s childhood. The second birthday. The first diaper-less day. The first sentence. Counting past two. I can’t even imagine all of the developmental bounds this little guy can make – each day I’m amazed at something new he knows.
The daily grind I can handle. I cook all the meals, do all the cleaning, change nearly every diaper, do the nap and bedtime routines, deal with the cars, do the shopping. Everything but mow the lawn, really. But answering my son each time he asks for daddy? My heart is heavy just imagining the task.
And I feel for my husband. He already has missed the first steps, the first “dada” (to my computer, which we used to Skype with him during his last deployment) and “mama.” Going away certainly isn’t easy for him.
I know we’ll get through it; we always do. Each day I’ll remind myself that it’s one day closer to my husband’s return. I’ll remind myself that, while there are plenty of people out there who have it better than I do right now, there are others who have it worse. That there are husbands and wives and dads and moms missing each other and births and holidays and celebrations and bad days all throughout our armed services.
And we all get by. That doesn’t mean it sucks any less.