The Straddling the Line Recurrence

It’s been almost a year since my husband retired from the navy. A year of finally living in the same home. A year of coparenting and hardly cooking {the latter being solely for me}.

It’s surreal most times, living with your spouse, as if that’s anything out of the ordinary but in our case it is. Thirteen years of marriage with only two years of shore duty (that means he lived at home for a consecutive two years for those of you who didn’t know; hell, I don’t even know most of the time), six or seven deployments, and a duty station that averaged 36 hours at home a month when not deployed.

It’s blissful, being able to actually talk to your spouse in person and to hold his hand if you wanted. I could have conversations with him without pressing the “END” button. I could ask him to watch the kids, help me chores, and cook dinner without it being a joke– he could actually do it!

Even though retirement means little to no work for most people, it meant I could work more and nourish the career I put on hold off and on since we said “I do”. I could take long-term positions, one of which that has led me to a potential teaching contract.

Yet it’s also meant confusion in so many ways. R, like most retirees, is left second-guessing many of his decisions. Should I go back to college? Should I find a job? Should I find a contract job? Should I work? After two decades of being told what to do and how to do it, this 180 is a huge transition.

A huge transition of which I’m totally and completely supportive. I can’t and won’t tell him what he should do based on my beliefs and past experiences. I can’t and won’t steer him away from anything that inconveniences me. I can only listen as if listening was never part of my vocabulary.

As a chatty, sociable mother and teacher, I suppose my ego is tied to talking everything out and trying to find solutions but that is not what R needs. After a year I’m finally realizing this.

If R says his foot is bothering him or school is stressing him out, I can’t massage his foot nor can I give him advice on how to handle his calendar.

Nope. Can’t do that.

Let me tell you, that is excruciatingly difficult for me NOT to do those things. Even though that’s my natural instinct, that is not what R needs. There is no flow chart of what I need to do or say because there is no real plan to handle everything. I just have to turn off my voice box, listen, and listen for what or if I can help. And I’m quite angry about this.

No, I’m not angry with my husband at all. Perhaps anger isn’t the correct word.

I’m frustrated that I got my husband back with no assistance or guidance or even support on how we move on. Where do we go from here? How do we even recover from what we’ve been through? How does he even function now?

I realize this is the journey of many military families and yet now as a veteran family {if that’s a phrase; if it isnt, I’m making it a phrase}, it is that much more difficult. We live an hour from the closest military base when back in Virginia, we lived on base housing and could see the commissary from our second floor window. We live thirty minutes from the VA which is always crowded and almost impossible to navigate, especially for a veteran who’s anxiety and frustration levels are sky-high since the accident.

There were so many resources on base and in the hospitals where R was recovering. When R was recovering at the VA in Palo Alto, I asked for counseling for all of us. We got it immediately. As in, “Good afternoon! Great to see you again so I [family therapist] will take the kids and you go and see your husband!”

When I needed support, I went to my civilian primary care physician and she gave me a list of approved-for-insurance therapists. I called a couple of numbers and got no answer from one number, no returned call from another.

When I was younger, my family never saw therapists or had counseling. It took a lot of gumption for me to even admit this need to anyone let alone pick up a phone. Needless to say, I never called back. They never followed through.

My husband is a similar story. He always had easy access to whatever he needed. The doctors and physical therapists were in the next building, catering only to his command.

Now?

He doesn’t even want to bother with the VA. Who would he call? What would they be able to do for him? What number do we even call when after the second or third transfer to the “correct phone number” he has already hung up in frustration?

In so many ways, being a military family was so much easier than a retired military family. How do we navigate through this system? How do we get the answers we need?

How do we even know what questions to ask?

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One thought on “The Straddling the Line Recurrence

  1. The Navy is all I’ve known for the better part of the last 12 years, we’ve still got at least 7 more to go and I can’t imagine life on our own terms. Good luck on this new path–I know it will be hard but maybe you will learn you have different strengths about you ;)

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