FirstHusband was in D.C. on September 11, 2001, but he wasn’t in the Pentagon. He had been there before, but by the grace of God, he wasn’t there THAT day.
My husband works in the defense industry. There are times when he travels extensively. There are times when he works . . . we’ll call it overtime. There are times where he gets to work so early in the morning and comes home so late at night (or the next morning) for so many days in a row, that the kids ask me if he is out of town. Sometimes these “crack of dawn till wee hours of the morning” work days stretch for weeks.
Some of my saved, frequently used text messages? “Are you eating dinner with us tonight?” and “What’s your ETD?” and “Status Report?” and the ever popular “I am here. I Am Here. I AM HERE. I AM HERE!” used when I feel like a “Who” because he doesn’t return my messages for hours and hours because he can’t take his phone with him in certain places.
The projects he works on do eventually come to an end, but it’s not long before another begins. He can’t talk to me about his work, but I know it’s stressful. I can see exhaustion in his face. In his gait. I see him neglect his health. I see him stumble through days and weeks on a fraction of the sleep he needs to function. I see him withdraw from us and shut down because he just doesn’t have anything left when he comes in the door.
I would use past tense in those paragraphs, but I know better.
My husband has never been deployed. The longest he’s been away from us in one stretch is 6 weeks. I don’t worry that he will be killed in combat. When he leaves the house, my tendency is to believe he will come home.
I’ve got his back.
MY job is to suck it up and pick up his slack. And believe me or not – I do not whine about it. There is NO room for whining in my day. Whining is a flippin WASTE of time, counter-productive to ANY goal. And an INSULT to the people who are making the REAL sacrifices. (Got a little worked up there. Can you tell I HATE whining?)
Here’s the way I see it. My husband may not be “over there” but what he does saves lives. He can’t tell me how, but he can tell me that what he does makes a difference to the men and women serving in the military. Not just a little difference, but a life saving difference. So you know what? If one of those projects he works on results in ONE life saved, I’ve got NOTHING to moan and complain about when the project keeps him away from us for extended periods of time.
I’m not going to pretend it’s easy. It is difficult. I have an inclination of how tired single parents get. I have a slight inclination of what the families of those deployed have to do to get through their days. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t get tired or that I don’t miss my husband or that my KIDS don’t miss their dad.
But what do I DO about it?
I take action. I get up every day and I do what I need to do to make this work for our family. And when I originally selected our cell phone carrier, before he had a company phone, I made my decision based on the coverage map. I wanted to be able to call him if he’s in the middle of nowhere and have him answer the phone.
We’re both taking daily action to get stronger and healthier and those efforts are really helping combat stress. We both exercise nearly every day and we’re eating better than ever before. We’ve each lost over 30 pounds. Our doctor gives us both two thumbs up. We are both healthier than we’ve been in over a decade. We’ve established sustainable daily habits.
FirstHusband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary last month by going on a second honeymoon (a cruise). But the strengthening of our marriage didn’t just happen. We’ve been seeing a counselor for nearly a year. We thought we were best friends BEFORE the counselor. Now? We’re closer than we ever thought possible. But we could be closer. Our marriage could be stronger. And we, like most married people, have relationship stress. Counseling ain’t cheap and it ain’t easy (unless you’re doing it wrong). But we need to continue with it if we want to be even closer. And we do. And it occurs to me that we couldn’t go to counseling if my husband was deployed. (unless our counselor had Skype and didn’t mind working unusual hours)
I can’t begin to relate to the sacrifice being made by all military families. I can’t imagine even the deployment, much less the possibility of my husband returning with lifelong disabilities. The possibility that my husband might be killed in combat? I can’t fathom it.
Why don’t I get upset when he works such demanding hours for such long stretches of time? How do I stay unwaveringly determined to support him even when I’m flippin exhausted and the laundry is backed up and the grass is 3 feet high and I have to figure out how to drive two kids two different locations at the same time and there’s no milk in the house and the bread has something green and powdery growing on it and somebody dumped an entire box of packing peanuts all over the living room floor and . . . you get the idea.
It is what it is and it will be what it will be whether I freak out about it or whether I deal with it and move on. And every time I start to feel overwhelmed and entertain for a moment the “what if” thought that comes with the possibility of my husband working in another field, I never get very far before this thought invades the self-indulgence:
I believe that because of my husband’s dedication and determination to give his career his best effort, somebody’s mommy or daddy or son or daughter or sister or brother – who wouldn’t otherwise make it – will come home. And I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of this: (the 1:45 mark trumps annihilates my frustration and exhaustion every time.)