Saturday, September 14, 2013

About Deployments (and Solidarity)

Packing is fun.
Hard to find everything he needs in all that camo.
In April, we sat down at the dinner table and the Man gently told Littles about the deployment. We had known for a few weeks, and even though it was still far off, we knew it was time to talk straight to the little guy. He was picking up on stuff, and we thought it was only fair to be honest with him.

After the Man told him, Littles looked him straight in the eye and said, fearlessly, "I'm going to miss you, Daddy."

You don't get over those words.

By the time the Man gets home from his deployment, we will have been in the deployment cycle for a whole year. And really, it won't be over even when his bags are unpacked. You see, most people don't realize that the deployment doesn't begin when you say goodbye. Neither does it end when you say hello again.

As soon as he walks through the door or makes that phone call to let you know that he will be leaving, it starts. Every tiny moment from then on out is inextricably tainted. Every kiss tinged by the knowledge of him leaving. Every fun family moment carrying extra weight. Every night's sleep one less that you have before goodbye. And you know in the back of your head that, even when he gets home again, readjustment takes time (especially when the number of kids will have doubled).

There are days you forget. Life feels normal. And then it hits you over the head again unexpectedly, and you find yourself blinking back tears while your husband shares Saturday morning donuts with the kids. And no, you're not crying about that touching moment in Mayberry with Aunt Bea and Opie.

Ready to go.
In a way, the goodbye is almost a relief because the waiting for it, the dreading it, can end and you can get on with the reality. You know that the days will settle into a routine that rotates around only one adult's schedule. You find aspects of the deployment that you almost enjoy, like not having to share the bed any more when your belly is taking up more than its fair share or having less laundry to do. You adjust. Because you have to.

Yes, there are the hard moments. The tired days without the knowledge of a second adult coming home to provide relief,  the ache of not being able to laugh about an inside joke with your best friend, and worst of all hearing over and over again "I miss Daddy" when barely a week has gone by.

Today at lunch, Littles asked me to pray that he wouldn't miss Daddy as much.

You don't get over those words.

But the dread is no longer there. The days have begun ticking by and as each one passes, you are that much closer to the end.

Let's be honest though: I don't typically write specifically about military spouse issues here. They like to come up on the sidelines, creep in at the corners, you know, but this isn't a mil spouse blog, and I certainly don't think I have enough experience or knowledge to write in any way expertly on the subject. Still, I'm learning that when I really don't want to write about something because it makes me feel exposed, that generally that's what I should be writing about. Besides which when I mentioned earlier that I was contemplating writing something specific to deployments, there seemed to be overwhelming consensus among my readers that I should man up and do so.

So maybe... perhaps... it's that you, like me, are in the middle of a deployment cycle that seems to have no end and you occasionally think seriously about checking yourself into a mental institution (especially during that pre-deployment phase when you keep asking yourself why in the world you're already falling apart when he hasn't even left yet). Or maybe, you're in one of those blessed lull periods in between deployment orders and just need a reminder to kiss your husband and say thank You. Or maybe you have a friend or sibling or child who is somewhere in the deployment cycle and you just want to know more. I don't know.

And I'm not typically one for pedantic bullet point instructionals (5 Easy Steps to Becoming Awesome or 18 Ways to Fix Everything Ever), but I thought, if you would allow me, I could give just a few general suggestions for ways to minister to a deployed spouse--regardless of where they are in the deployment cycle. These are ways that I have been blessed and have seen other spouses blessed repeatedly.

Last morning snuggles.
First, pray. For the deployed spouses, for the airmen and sailors and soldiers and Marines  who are far away from them, for their kids. Oh, please, pray for their kids. And don't just pray for us, let us know. Sometimes the knowledge that we are being remembered before God is as powerful as the actual prayer.

Second, don't underestimate the little things. Honestly, the little things matter just as much as the grand gestures. Thursday morning after yet another night of interrupted sleep, when I thought it would be impossible to go through the motions and put on a smile and be mom, when all I wanted to do was put my head down and cry from exhaustion, I had a friend text and ask if she could bring me chicken noodle soup for dinner--she had just put together a crock pot full. Then I really did cry. But it was just what I needed to make it until I got a little more sleep. She had no idea of how God was using her timing to encourage me. It was just a container of soup to her. It was a life line to me. I have so many other examples of little ways I have been encouraged these last few months and specifically this last week--quick messages on facebook, a trash can brought up the driveway for me, an extra set of hands with the kids. Those little blessings are seen and treasured. And they add up.

Third, allow us to serve you. One of my dearest friends shared with me this week some struggles that she was going through. I was so glad to listen and pray for her. She afterwards admitted feeling guilty about venting to me since I had "so much more on my plate." But I can't tell you how special it made me feel that I could still do something other than just survive. I took cookies to a friend whose husband left for a TDY (temporary duty) on Sunday. She was shocked that I would think of her when the Man had just left, but serving someone else made me feel like I wasn't quite so powerless. Obviously, I have limits. My kids are demanding a lot of hands on time right now as they adjust to their dad being gone. But when I get the chance to bless someone else, it blesses me. It also reminds me that what I'm going through is not the end of the world or the hardest thing that anyone will ever experience. And that's truth I need.

I won't give you a long list of things not to say to a deployed spouse or specific needs we all have, because really, what we need, just like anyone else, is to be loved--and I know that you long to do that and are doing so already. I also know that each deployment is different. With each deployment we are different. I am not handling this deployment the same way that I handled the last. Pregnant with twins or not, this one is much, much easier. And I know that with the next deployment things will have changed as well.

I share merely to give you a little glimpse into the window of one deployed spouse's experience and hoping that as I write about this I too will better understand how to love and encourage those who are going through deployment alongside me. Because wouldn't it be nice if at the end of the day we could just rest in the fact that you've got my back and I've got yours?

And I hope you know that I do. Have yours, that is. And I thank you for having mine.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing and for the thoughtful bullet points!!! I am praying for you all!