Many of you know that my husband is in the Army. Many of you know he is deployed right now. What many of you don't know is that we have spent the last three years and three months living separate lives. Why? Let me tell you.
June 17, 1995. I went on a first date with this cute guy named Matt. We really didn't know each other that well so we are telling our stories. Ten minutes into the date he says "Oh, did you know I joined the Utah Army National Guard last week? As an M-day soldier." "That's cool." I answer while in my head I'm thinking 'who cares'. Little did I know I would end up caring a lot. A whole lot for that matter.
I ended up marrying that really cute guy named Matt and for the first five years of our marriage the National Guard didn't really play that big a part in our lives. The M-day soldier is the one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer guy. It was peace time. Things were peachy-keen.
In 2001 we had some financial bumps. Lots of them. My health went down the tubes and we had to pay lots of money out-of-pocket for some surgeries and blah, blah, blah things. And we were expecting our third child in three years. Our need for money was outpacing how fast we were bringing it in. Turns out Matt could make more money in the National Guard than at his current job. He switched from being an M-day soldier to being a full time soldier. It was a regular desk job. Every Friday off. We made more money, free health insurance. We felt we were set.
Fast forward to 2003. We got a late call on a Sunday night that Matt was being deployed to the Middle East on Wednesday. Um, hello? Some notice would have been nice. He was gone for 14 months.
When he gets back, we have another baby, buy a new house, get on with our lives. Turns out Matt, who was enlisted at the time, wasn't that happy at work. He was continuing to move up the chain and as he did there were fewer and fewer positions. Opportunities were becoming scarce, but not if he became an officer. There was a catch though. He could not become an officer while in the National Guard. He had to what? That's right. Join the Army.
Let me just say for the record I was not happy about this decision. We were in the middle of not one, but two wars. Who knew what the future held? He applied to go to OCS (Officer Candidate School), and he got accepted.
Now the plan was for him to go to OCS, do a little additional training with the Army, get a new position somewhere out-of-state and once that was done, rent our house in Utah, and move us to wherever he was. Six, maybe seven months, tops. Yeah, right.
What ended up happening was that instead of just a little additional training with Army, he had 18 months of it, and then as soon as he was done with that he was placed in a unit that was already deployed in Iraq. Bam. Another seven months. When he got back from that little jaunt we had lived apart two years. Except for when he was deployed we did occasionally see each other during this time. He would fly home for 4-day weekends. It wasn't very fun. I don't recommend it.
After he got back he was placed in a position at Ft. Riley, Kansas. We were faced with a decision. Rent or sell our house here and move out there, or stay here and do the back and forth thing. The whole time I'm singing in my head "should I stay or should I go". We make preliminary plans to move out there, but it just never felt right. There was always some reason that staying here made more sense than moving out there. And honestly, Ft. Riley wasn't exactly my dream location. I'm a west kind of girl. I want my mountains. My dry air. My ocean a maximum of 700 miles away. So we stayed. He goed. The kids and I would make kamikaze trips (1,000 miles in 16 hours) out to see him for two to three weeks. He would take a week of vacation and come home. We went on like this for a year, and then the bottom fell out. He was getting deployed. Again. For thirteen months. Now I at least knew why it never felt right. There was no way I was going to be stuck somewhere like that without him.
So here we are. When he gets back in October of 2011 he will start another training class that will take until June, 2012. At that point, we will be able to be together again. Jealous much? I didn't think so. People hear that my husband is deployed and ask how long he's been gone. I answer two months, but in my mind I say three years. It's just too hard to explain to people. And it takes too long. And it's painful. And it makes me cry. Sobbing in the bread aisle at Wal-Mart isn't good for anybody.
How do I do it? The same way you do things. One day at a time. When I think of the date June 2012, I break down. So I don't think about it. I have friends. I have family. And just in case this has been too sad, here are some benefits to leading the single life of a military wife.
1. I get the WHOLE bed to myself. I don't sleep in the middle, but his side is a convient storage place for clothes I don't want to hang up and books I'm reading. It's like having another night stand that is attached to your bed.
2. I pick what we eat for dinner every night. Mac-n-cheese it is kids!!
3. I don't ever have to watch sports. I loathe sports. I can tolerate actually going to the game, but then to watch the highlights after on TV? Kill me now please.
4. No motorcycle helmets or jackets on my kitchen table.
5. I can watch Keeping up with the Kardashians as much as I want without worrying what anyone thinks of me. It's horrible, mindless, terrible reality TV, but I love it.
6. I also get the WHOLE closet to myself. Matt's stuff has been shoved and pushed to the very back. Ahhh... the space!
7. I get the whole bathroom counter and BOTH sinks for myself. No shaving mess here.
8. I can lay around in pajamas all day (which I do sometimes) and not clean a single thing and nobody comes home and asks oh so casually "hey, what did you do today?" I will answer that now. Absolutely nothing.