Before every deployment, it is rather safe to say that everything is… well, tense. It starts from the moment you find out the day he is supposed to leave until two days before he actually does.
The anxiety level goes up about ten notches in the house. There’s a rush for everything. Make a honey-do list that only he can do because Lord knows you don’t want to call anyone from his work to do it. Go to the kids’ favorite restaurants so we can spend a gazillion dollars at Chuck E. Cheese on skee ball and mediocre pizza. Take the kids anywhere and everywhere you think the kids would be able to take mental pictures of having fun with Daddy, as proof that even though he was gone all the time he still loved them and loved spending time with them. That lasts about a week. Maybe two. Then things change.
For the worse. Voices get louder. Patience is thinning.
You argue about who has it better and I dare say that I thought he did. While I stayed home and happily raised our children, I denied myself years out of the classroom and unable to get tenure in any school district. I also didn’t earn the doctorate in education I thought I’d have by the time I was thirty-five. He has traveled and studied in countless states and in many European countries.
You get annoyed. Pickier. What once were reasonable requests are now suddenly unreasonable. How the heck am I supposed to know you’d go through a dozen fire hot sauce packets from Taco Bell? I am not allowed to buy a pair of shoes from Nordstrom anymore? What the heck?
Then two days before he actually leaves the emotional bubble bursts but only because of a huge blow up that neither of us really remember why we were arguing in the first place. Almost simultaneously we both realize that we need to stop talking and start listening. The walls that we built that are supposed to protect each other from what we are feeling have fallen. We kept the feelings of sadness, regret, depression, nausea, jealousy, and fear inside to keep from hurting the other when holding them in feels like the right thing to do. No one wants to feel helpless, vulnerable, and miserable let alone share this with their spouse.
In that moment the tension disappears and the missing of one another begins. The apologies take over. The memories of simpler times of shore duty
all two years of our ten year marriage and training workshops held in town flood into our conversations.
Also flooding into our conversations are our goodbyes. Quiet words after the kids have long been snoring about how much deployment sucks and how we look forward to finally LIVING TOGETHER UNDER THE SAME ROOF.
Neither of us want to talk about it but we have to: Who will be the one who notifies me if something happened to him? His friend J would come to the door with news. Every time we’d get to this part of the conversation, I’d joke, “Well, I just won’t answer the door.”
Every time he’d say, “But it wouldn’t change anything.”
Then we’d sigh and wipe our tears and hold each other until we’d fall asleep.
I thought that we had our last conversations before goodbye (I can tell I’m getting emotional because I just got up to get a homemade triple chocolate brownie and yes, it’s GOOD) last March before the accident but we may be having another set of these conversations again.
Yes, you read correctly. He’s thinking about deploying one last time.
His last Officer in Charge outright told him that he was going to do everything in his power to keep my husband from ever deploying again and I secretly cheered and sighed with relief. The OIC (I’m pretty sure that’s the correct abbreviation; feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) recently transferred which means my husband can and will be medically cleared to deploy.
Those close to me have asked me how I feel about this and don’t get me wrong, I didn’t roll over and agree with everything he suggested about another possible deployment. I may have used a few choice words; after all, I have been married to a sailor for the past decade. But as much as I hate to admit it: this is something he needs to do. No matter how I feel about another deployment, I will not stand in his way. I fear that if he doesn’t do what he is compelled to do, he will live a life of regret and wonder if he did the right thing.
No one wants that. I don’t want that for him. I wouldn’t want that for myself.
Even now, sometimes he says that he should have never done the job he used to do but I know that this particular position was challenging for him physically, mentally, and emotionally. He definitely would have always wondered “What if…?” had he not followed through. And yes, I would have had to hear it for the rest of my life.
Who knows what life has in store for him or for us? All I know is that we need to cut the WHAT IFS out of our lives and either do something about it OR accept that we can’t or won’t.
My mind walks the edge of possibilities of another deployment to which I am not afraid. WHAT IFS about another deployment don’t exist in my mind. They’re not allowed.
To the outsider, it may seem like he’s tempting fate by deploying again after a near-fatal deployment. But to me, it will just be more conversations before goodbye.