Being a military wife has afforded me the opportunity to partake in many different scenarios focused on bidding my husband a fond adieu. After sending him off to the Hurricane ravaged South last year, I was able to comment on the various ways we Guard Wives typically say goodbye and to offer an assessment on each. Selection of a favorite (a lesser of the evils) has also been made possible. The three most common ways to say goodbye to a husband in the military are as follows:
1) Husband leaves in the wee hours of the morning from wherever the two of you have shared a night, be it your own home or a hotel room. His alarm goes off while it is still dark, he dresses in the dark, he gathers his things in the dark and you say goodbye in the dark. He leaves and there you are...left with an empty bed. 2) You drop husband off somewhere and the actual departure does not take place at that moment. You are left to say goodbye and drive away knowing he is still there as you make your way home. Knowing that if you turned around, you could probably make time for a few more hugs before someone chases you off. 3) You take husband to or meet husband at a staging area from which an actual departure will take place. You say your goodbyes, he boards a bus or plane and you stand there until that bus is nothing but a speck on the horizon. You make the decision when you will return to your car and leave.
Scenario one is particularly difficult if you aren't playing on your home turf. Remaning in a hotel room after your husband has gone is a cruel joke. It's VERY dark in there so you should be able to sleep, but it's hard to do when the bed feels so foreign and empty and you're ALONE. I'm not a fan of this scenario even if it takes place when you are at home. Falling asleep in your own bed is easier, but doing so without your husband right there is monumentally difficult. Scenario two is enough to cause anxiety attacks of mammoth proportion. You know he's there, but you aren't allowed to be and you spend the entire drive home calculating how long it would be to reach him if you spun your car around and drove like a madwoman to his location. Scenario three seems like it would be the most heart-wrenching, but it really is my favorite scenario. I'm doing the leaving, when I'm ready and he's gone so sticking around after a bit is futile. It also creates a "place" where you can drive if you are lonely during his deployment to see where you last said goodbye. It's alot easier for that to be a 40 minute drive than a walk up your home's stairs.
I've also been known to purchase a load of video cassettes on which we tape his favorite programs and organize them for his return. The morning Hubs left for the Gulf was a scenario one morning. Up at 4:00, out at 5:00 so he could report at 6:00. I always make sure he leaves with bits and pieces meant to remind him of home. Sometimes, it's as simple as a Bounce sheet or two so he can tuck it inside his pillowcase. Usually, it also includes cards or notes to open while he's away, especially if he won't have a way of receiving mail. It also wouldn't be a send-off without some sort of homemade baked good. Chocolate chip cookies are his favorite!
He's a lucky guy. And, I'm a lucky girl. The first few days after he leaves, though, it always seems to be the "tunnel" of goodbye in my brain. There is no other way to describe it and I imagine you've experienced that sensation where after saying goodbye, there is a huge space left behind. A space that seems to suck the oxygen from the room for awhile. I'll be there and I can function, but for the lack of a better word, there is a dull roar in my head that is just a culmination of my whirring thoughts. This subsides in a couple days, but can reoccur at any point during the deployment, especially if we have a particularly long conversation or I happen to have the chance to see him. And, whether it's the weeend, two weeks, two months or over a year, it's strange how the initial goodbye is remarkably the same.
Although I'm sure we'd rather not say goodbye at all, I bet we all have a preference of one of the three scenarios. What is yours?