The change of command is over, one set of my in-laws left after many hugs and more than a few tears, and Rob’s deployment is only a handful of days away. (My mother-in-law kindly stayed on a few extra days so Rob and I could escape to Austin for an overnight). But I don’t need a calendar to realize he’s leaving soon. I know it by the permanent lump in my throat, by the way I’m sleeping (not well) and the general uneasiness that lingers.
A friend of mine aptly said the only way to get the (bleepin’) deployment over and done with is to get it started, which is so very true but so very difficult. When we say our goodbyes in a few days, I will begin the mind games that I’ve used in the past. Maybe this is unhealthy and dishonest, but if it helps soften the edges, then so be it. The mind games go something like this: First, I tell myself that Rob is just going to work. He is extremely busy, so much so that he’ll have to sleep at the office for a while. When I tire of this fantasy, I switch to, “he’s just TDY for a few weeks — OK, months.” Again, blatant lies but so much more palatable than, “he’s gone for 365 days.”
We all deceive ourselves in subtle ways, let’s admit it. We tell ourselves that the five pounds we gained is “water weight” or “all muscle.” We say that taking office supplies home isn’t really stealing or that calories “don’t count” when eating bites of our kids’ dessert. I figure, why not lie about something benign and harmless?
Another strategy I plan to employ is to divide the year out into manageable segments, with something to look forward to in each one. For example, early August to late September — when we will fly to Oregon for my sister Julie’s wedding — is the first part. Looking at the year ahead in one unending clump cannot possibly be conducive to good mental health.
One might say it is time to put my “big girl panties” on and get on with it. We are an Army family. Rob is a career soldier. He last returned from a deployment in 2012, so we are probably long overdue. Many, many families are in the same boat and this deployment cycle, though slowing, will continue for a while.
Sometimes it helps to look at the facts dispassionately and admit that this is part of the Army experience just as much as the fun stuff is.
Looking on the bright side, long separations make a gal appreciate her family all the more. There is a heightened sense of the preciousness of one another and the realization that what we so cavalierly take for granted on a daily basis — the “ho hum” of domestic life — is what we miss the most once a critical member of our clan is missing.
All of this is becoming startlingly clear to me now. Even our routine bickering is taking on a rosy glow. Such as the frequent back-and-forth we have over the air conditioning in our house. Rob likes it “meat locker” brisk, while I prefer a more reasonable temperature — one that my husband says feels like a sauna. Or at bedtime, when we disagree over whether to turn out the lights or continue to read. (Pretty exciting stuff, huh?) Obviously, I realize these differences of opinion really don’t matter much in the big scheme of things.
I will worry about my husband during the coming year. Not only about his physical safety — although that’s certainly a biggie — but his emotional and mental stability as well. I hope his considerable intellect will be challenged and that he finds friends with whom to share a few laughs and vent to when necessary. I pray the “groundhog day” atmosphere of deployments doesn’t drive him crazy. I know he will miss Ryan and Andrew and all the hubbub they generate. I will think of him often, going about his day and wonder how he’s doing.
As for me, I am lucky to have good neighbors and friends here at Fort Hood, as well as my kids. I plan to get through some long-overdue projects (like de-cluttering the boys’ rooms) and perhaps work on developing a new skill (gardening, perhaps?) Despite the fact that Rob will be in Afghanistan, this is a year of our lives and we should not wish it away entirely.
So all that being said, I think we are ready to get this deployment started. Well, as ready as we can possibly be. Although I am dreading the morning of his departure, I know that as Tom Petty so eloquently sings, “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.”
To my husband I say, “Be safe, God Speed and I love you.”
Gail Dillon, an Army spouse, journalist and Air Force veteran, lives at Fort Hood with her husband, two sons and a Goldendoodle.