Just over a year ago, my husband returned from his most recent deployment. It wasn’t on our radar and came at the tail end of that Iron Major time people warn you about. For two years he rowed. Training rotations, TDYs...out the door at 0430 every morning and barely home in time for bedtime (or late dinner on a good day). It was a season off solo-parenting where I felt like I rowed alongside him, just in different ways. Ceremonies, meetings, and volunteer commitments filled my days and chauffeuring the kids to activities filled my evenings...with running the business somewhere in between.
I was burning the candle at both ends.
As we inched closer to the deployment, I realized how different it would be. In the past, he had deployed with units. This time there was no unit support, no group of spouses in the same boat, no official information source. The morning he was set to leave, he said goodbye to the kids as they headed off to school and then started to load the car. We drove to the airport like everything was completely normal—I tried to straddle the line of spouse and statue, knowing that if I gave what I really felt an inch, it would take a mile.
At the airport, he pulled up to the curb and got out to get his bags, I met him by the trunk, still smiling and oddly feeling like this was no different than the many TDY trips that came in the months before. A hug...a kiss. Another hug... another kiss and an exchange of “ I love yous” before the “call me when you get to the gate.” He walked further and further away as I hopped back into the car and prepared to call into the Spouses’ Club board meeting scheduled for that morning.
At that moment, I convinced myself I needed to be a statue, not a spouse.
I buckled my seatbelt, set the GPS and reached over to call into the Spouses’ Club meeting...and the statue melted away. Endless weeks without sunshine, misplaced loyalties, over-committed schedules and the dread that lingers over the holiday season when you know what’s to come all collided at that moment. My kids needed me to be strong...so I did. The Club needed a leader...so I led. The plates needed to keep spinning and I had committed to doing everything I could to make that happen.
But I’m a spouse, not a statue.
I gave it an inch and then a mile as quiet tears rolling down my face transitioned to the kind of cry that’s only ok when the kids aren’t around. I cried for what we’d been through in the previous months and for what I knew was coming. For when I knew that sinking feeling would come in the evening when the kids and I realized it would be months before we’d feel the excitement of hearing B walk through the door again. And then, I dried my eyes, blew my nose, reached over and dialed into the meeting.
Once again a statue.
Nearly 45 minutes later, I walked into the meeting. As I walked through the doorway, the talking stopped. What I failed to remember was that I was walking into a room filled with people who know the delicate dance between spouse and statue. Who’ve waved goodbye and shed not so silent tears as they watched half of their heart walk away. There were hugs and questions about how I was doing. For a moment, I didn’t need to lead and even in front of people, the plates didn’t have to keep spinning. For a moment, I was reminded that despite all this crazy military life asks of us, there is still time to feel and feel for those around us.