I've been at this milspouse business for many years now. During those years, I've done my share of complaining about having to drive or fly across the country on special occasions and holidays. I would love to host one -- just one -- Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at MY house. I would love the families to do the driving, packing and unpacking and for me to do the cooking and cleaning. I would like our family to actually see our Christmas tree in person rather than as a .jpeg image in their inbox. But alas, It's just not in the cards.
I would also like my family to understand how much it hurts not to be home for birthday parties, Mother's Day, Father's Day and other important dates. I did make sure I was at the hospital when each of my nieces and nephews were born, I wouldn't have missed that for anything, but I simply can't come home for every event, and sometimes I'm not sure they really understand this. Those of us who are physically separated from our families due to military service have jobs, our own families to take care of and other responsibilities which prevent us from going home as often as we would like. Certainly, financial considerations are also a factor, it does cost money to travel.
At times, I've felt left out of family events because I couldn't be there, and I have also felt that friends and some family members never truly understand why I can't be there for everything. Countless times, I've heard the disappointment and frustration in the voices of my sibling, my parents and my nieces and nephews when I've said I can't make the family reunion, or the championship ball game or the birthday party and I've harbored resentment myself, thinking they should see things more from my perspective.
However, this week, the tables were turned and I now see that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. My sister is a busy mom, constantly driving her horde of children from ballet lessons to ball games to school to church. I now have two ill family members. My sister is juggling her normal duties as a mom, which keeps her busy enough, but add to that, the responsibility of being the caretaker for two adults, and she now has an extraordinary burden placed upon her. One that she is happy to bear, but one that wouldn't solely be her responsibility if I were closer and could help.
I think I'll be a bit less resentful the next time I'm packing my bags to travel 1,000 miles and return an exhausted wreck because my entire holiday was spent on planes, trains and automobiles, and shuttling from one house to another. My current situation has been an eye-opener and has served to remind me that it's not only we, as spouses, who serve our country. Our extended families also serve by picking up the slack that comes when we leave our families and move across the country, and in many cases, across the world. While my family is extremely supportive of my military lifestyle, they too pay a price for my husband's service, and they deserve to be recognized for pitching in and filling the void that was left when I started hopping across the country. Military service has an impact, not only on those of us who serve or are married to someone who serves, but also on those we leave behind so that we can serve.
For my sister, and those like her, thank you for what you do when we can't be there to help you do it.