I remember my husband's first phone call to me during his most recent deployment. I was driving and didn't get to my phone before the call went into my voice mail. I didn't recognize the number on the display, and when I played the voice message, it was him. I hadn't talked to him in four days. Doesn't sound too bad, but you know how anxious we are to find out they are "boots on the ground" and the clock is finally ticking. My immediate reaction was to dial the number that showed on my phone display, but, of course, that wouldn't do any good. I hated, hated, hated missing his call.
Phone calls are precious. More precious to me than email because I tend to judge my husband's well-being by the sound of his voice.
He sounds tired.
He sounds sick.
He sounds great.
He sounds upbeat.
Liliana sent an email which made me think of something. She writes:
I love all the suggestions that everyone has, especially on deployment. I am recently married and my husband is recently deployed. It's hard to find someone relate to what you are going through. But how do you deal with an argument when deployed? I try not to argue over the phone and try to end the conversation with an "I love you." but sometimes I may be so pissed off that the only thing I want to do is hang up. How do you deal with your disagreements?
We never know when, or if, the next phone call will occur. Personally, I don't want my husband worrying about trivial things while he's in danger. He needs to be focused on his mission. Distractions are no good. However, things do happen and sometimes phone calls go awry. That's just the way it is.
I remember one phone call home which didn't go too well. It had been a long day and I was thrilled to hear from my husband, but the call turned into one of those "administrative" phone calls.
Have you done this?
Did you do that?
Where does this stand?
I handle our administrative matters whether my husband is deployed or not, and he's kept informed on issues he should be informed about, so I was a bit miffed that our precious phone time was being used in an unnecessary manner. Both my husband and I were on edge and the phone call was like none other - and not in a good way. We ended our call saying the right things, but it was clear there was tension. I didn't sleep that night.
All I could think about was a story that an Army widow once told me. Her husband was killed during a routine training exercise. She told me that on the morning he was killed, the two of them had a spat over a very trivial matter. She had no idea when her husband walked out the door that morning, she would never see him alive again. I met her five years after her husband's death. She was still grappling with that minor spat. She would give anything for a do-over.
I've held onto this story for over ten years. It serves me well. As Sarah would say, perspective.
I think we can all relate to Liliana's question. We cherish our phone calls and we don't want long-distance tension. We can't reach out and make it better immediately. We're at the mercy of our spouse's unpredictable schedule. There is no "redial."
One of my girlfriends had a bad phone call with her husband during the initial invasion of Iraq. Of course, nobody knew what to expect then. Would there be chemical attacks? Would there be thousands of casualties? She didn't talk to her husband for another three weeks, and fretted over their phone spat the entire three weeks. She didn't say it, but I know she was thinking, "what if he doesn't make it and the last memory I have is of us getting into a stupid argument."
I'll bet most milspouses have had at least one phone call they would like to "do-over."
Back to Liliana's question, "how do you handle your disagreements?"
Update: Via email, I received a link to a post which deals with the topic of this post, and is worth a read. After discussing her anxieties, Bette, the author, concluded her post with this.
Those are the middle-of-the-night anxieties, though. In the clear light of day, I know that all things considered, we've done very well over the past year, and we've been extremely fortunate to communicate as much as we have. The day is coming when we'll be able to talk things out while we're in the same room. Maybe even slam a door or two, although I suspect that he'll bat his eyes at me and I'll forget why I was mad. It'll be nice to try some close combat for a change.