Daddy’s Homecoming

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Twenty Years

After two decades, his day has come.

My husband R retired from the US Navy… Yesterday!

He began the day just outside of JEB Little Creek and finished it in Kentucky. He will be with family in a few days, spending time with them until the next chapter of our lives begins.

R is quite emotional and rightly so. What a huge transition!

And yet I seem to have forgotten the other person this affects greatly! That’s me!

I won’t have this independence that I once loathed, this independence that basically forced me to suck it up countless times through the past twelve years, this independence that compelled me to work, even while pregnant and raising two preschoolers.

I wonder what will happen to this independence. R would never hold me back; the Navy did that for him. I wonder if it will be difficult, if I will push myself, if it will even matter how thick skinned I’ve had to become.

It was no easy feat.

His new chapter. My new chapter. What difference does it make really? Come along for the ride.

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One of the few photos I have with him in uniform. Top: Navy Day Ball 2000. Bottom: Family trip to Disneyland, 2012.

Living apart

People wonder how my husband and I can go months at a time without seeing each other. Many couples, military and civilian, choose to live apart for many reasons. Our biggest reasons were our three children, ages 9, 6, and 3. With the older two in school, we wanted them to have stability and not have to move every couple of years. Ninety nine percent of the time, we know in our hearts we made the right choice, even if it meant living a whole country away from each other.

The remaining one percent is comprised of random moments during the day such as this one. I really miss my husband right now.

It’s almost midnight. The children have been sleeping for over three hours. Nothing is on TV. I’ve read two novels this week so I’m taking a day or so before I dive into the next one, albeit a racy vampire porn– my new favorite genre.

I have no desire to turn off all the lights downstairs, climb the sixteen steps to our room, and lay in a cold queen size bed all by myself.

I don’t even have a side anymore. Since we have been dating have been married, I’ve always slept on the right side. I’ve noticed in the past three months since my husband has moved back to Virginia, I’ve scooted to the left a little every night as if my subconscious is still searching for someone to cuddle with. Last night I found myself falling asleep on the left side.

We’ve only got about a month until he comes back for a two week visit. The kids are excited, especially the youngest since she’ll turn four just before he gets home. She just can’t seem to make up her mind over what kind of birthday cake Daddy should make for her: Rapunzel or Curious George?

It’s crummy feeling to realize that I didn’t even get a chance to talk to him all day. I don’t get angry when this happens. Bummed, yes. But not angry. Since he’s been back at work and is not allowed to deploy because of his injuries, he spends his mornings in gruelling physical therapy and the rest of his day at his new desk job. And those of you whose husbands abhor desk jobs, you can imagine how much he hates his newfound responsibilities. I completely understand how physically and emotionally exhausted he is by the end of the day.

I miss his silly jokes about how he broke down and went to Taco Bell for lunch. I miss his updates on how he’s feeling today and how much physical therapy hurt. I even miss his complaints about a former roommate coming over to finish the rest of the huge roast he made over the weekend.

Worst of all, no “I love you” to get you through until tomorrow.

That one percent sucks big time.

Life lessons learned from my kids, #1-13

1. Every morning and bath prep should include jumping on the bed, preferably to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”.

2. Choose fruit for snacks. Have junk after a healthy meal if there’s room.

3. When there’s nothing to do, jump on the trampoline.

4. If you’re tired, go to bed.

5. If Mommy says no, ask Daddy.

6. When in doubt, ask your siblings for help.

7. Always protect your siblings. You never know when a mean two year old is running rampant through the playland.

8. If you want something, don’t say anything. Chances are someone will get tired of it and give it to you anyway.

9. Save the junk food for movie night.

10. Leave the cats alone.

11. Dog kisses are fun until you remember where he’s been.

12. If Mommy looks mad, don’t look at your sibling. They’ll just make you laugh and then Mommy will REALLY get mad.

13. Don’t complain or someone will give you something to complain about.

The Call

On April 23, 2011, I got the call that I’d been dreading since we got married.

Armed with a caramel frappuccino, I was enjoying my first PTA board meeting. Ten minutes in, my phone vibrates. The kids are at my friend B’s house for the end-of-the-soccer-season party. One of them probably spilled juice all over themselves.

It wasn’t B. It was Mike, one of my husband’s coworkers who I hadn’t seen or talked to in two years, not since we left Virginia. Why would he be calling me–

Oh sh*t. My husband.

Though if the worst had happened, his friend wouldn’t be calling me. His friend would be at my door.

But still. F*ck.

I quickly excused myself from the meeting and went outside. “Hello?” Still confused. I knew it was Mike.

“Hi, it’s Mike. Boats’s friend. I didn’t want you to hear this from anyone else but he has been in an accident. His car rolled over and they’re taking him to a nearby base. He’s going to get surgery.”

I am surprisingly rational at the oddest times. I thought about what he said. My husband wasn’t dead. He’s going to be fine. His friends weren’t at my door. I replied, “So… okay. He’s going to get surgery. He’ll get fixed and go back out?” My husband was a tough old bird. He often said the only way he’d go to a hospital is if he had bones sticking out of his body.

Silence.

“Um no. he’s going to be transported to a base for surgery, then to Germany for another one. He’s coming home.”

Insomnia

We had it pretty good in Texas.

Everything’s bigger in Texas. The Walmart in town is the biggest I’ve ever seen, even offering 3 liter sodas. There was a barbeque joint just outside of town that had steaks that were the size of medium pizzas. If you didn’t own a truck, you were in the minority. And apparently if you weren’t Caucasian or Mexican, you were still in the minority.

Even though we spent only two years there, it was long enough to call it home. In fact, we bought our first home in San Angelo, just outside Goodfellow Air Force Base. We found a seven year old, 1800 square foot home with a huge back yard that backed up to train tracks. That was an added bonus for our son M who at the age of 2 was a huge Thomas the Tank Engine fan.

We have always felt like family when we’re together but something about that house made it feel like home. Maybe it was the large kitchen with ample counter space where my husband Boats discovered his love for cooking. Maybe it was the roomy backyard to give M space to run around. It didn’t matter that San Angelo was a small town with very little to do. Being together whether it was enjoying a backyard barbecue, ordering a pizza, or renting a movie was enough for us.

To top it all of, my husband was an instructor with predictable work hours and never deployed. The base had an excellent child care facility that M loved. I was able to work as a substitute teacher and tutor part-time. Later we adopted a rescue dog or rather, the dog adopted us.

No wonder we had it good. Life was simpler then. Easier.

Two years later, my husband had an opportunity to transfer to Virginia. He’d been working toward this particular job his entire naval career. Not only would we have to leave our home, he warned he would be deployed. A lot.

I wondered if we could keep our house, renting it out until he retired. How often would he deploy? I already went through two four-month deployments with a newborn. I wanted to go back to work but knew that wasn’t possible since we had another baby on the way.

Sadly we sold the house. My husband reasoned that we wouldn’t be able to live in San Angelo after he retired. Both our families were on the west coast, too far for our kids to grow up with their cousins.

I knew he was right.

But when I drive through our town full of McMansions and SUV egos, I can’t help but miss the simpler life. No one honked if you drove too slow. If you noticed you were driving too slow, you’d pull over and wave at the driver behind you to pass. Then he’d wave at you and call out, “Have a good one!” without any irony whatsoever.

I find myself thinking about Texas tonight. About the simpler life. There wasn’t a rush to go anywhere or get anything. It was just about slowing down and enjoying everything life handed your way.

Here’s to slowing down. Have a good one.

Reality check

There are few things I truly detest in life: kids’ birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese, using butter substitutes when recipes call for real butter, going to the Borders and seeing that another dumbass reality star celebrity has published a book…

But what I really truly hate is seeing my doctor after gaining weight. Or in my case, twenty pounds in the past year.

I could lie and blame my husband’s accident last April. Blame his cooking when he came home to recover in October. Blame my knees for taking turns giving out after high impact Zumba classes. Blame my fourth toe on my right leg that BROKE after taking a pole dancing, ahem… fitness class.

But really I have no one to blame but myself.

I know what I should be eating and how much of it I should eat. I know to exercise and lift weights regularly.

And I did. Until last April when my husband’s car rolled over while deployed in Iraq.

Self-prescribed mocha breaks and the pastries to go with them. McDonalds for the kids so they can go to the playland. Portion sizes appropriate for my husband, six feet tall. Having dinners with friends. No sleep. Too much sleep.

That, my friends, is a recipe for weight gain.

I saw my doctor this afternoon and I told her that making an appointment her was my reality check. Twenty pounds ago, I was very active and eating healthy. I told her last year that I only needed ten more to be my college weight and we all know we were BANGIN’ in college.

But twenty pounds and one year ago, I was sitting in National Naval Medical Center, wondering if my husband would ever walk again, if they could put the seven pieces of his pelvis back together, and how I would explain to our eight year old son that he wouldn’t be going back to school for a few weeks. For a brief period I saw a number in the tens digit of my weight that I hadn’t seen since high school because I spent so much time in the hospital sitting next to my husband’s bed that I actually forgot to eat and trust me, I am so not that person.

I can’t hide anymore. Deeper depression will find me with a vengeance if I keep this up.

I was watching Eat Pray Love last night and when I wasn’t drooling over Javier Bardem, I thought about the scene where Julia Roberts’ character was having dinner with her friends and discussing THEIR WORD. Roberts said “ambition” which led me to wonder: Who am I? What’s MY word?

All I could come up with were job words and who I was RELATIVE TO OTHERS. Teacher. Writer. Wife. Mother.

If I remove the following [navy wife, mother, teacher, writer, –insert your labels here–], what are we left with? Or have our labels made us who we are?

I tell you one thing: I’ve got a doctor’s appointment in three months for a weight check. Hopefully I can add LIGHTER to my list of words.

Cheers!