Last week I went to visit my grandparents. They have dial-up.
Last year this would have stressed me out immensely but this year it doesn't, because deployments are like snowflakes.
And this snowflake is liberating.
This is my husband's third deployment, and #1 and #3 are much more similar than #2 was. The first time, he was in Iraq in 2004. Infrastructure was a mess, and he rarely had access to contact home. I went about my normal life and gladly heard from him every two or three weeks. Last year he returned to Iraq in a staff position, which meant he worked regular hours and had good access to Skype. I found myself glued to the computer each afternoon, waiting to see if he'd show up. It was wonderful to get to talk to him so often, but I rarely left the house in the afternoon so as not to miss him. I felt obligated to be there for him every day, which meant I needed to keep the entire afternoon open since I never knew if he'd show up at 1:00 or 4:00.
This time, he is in remote Afghanistan with spotty communications. And I am back to the way I was in 2004, living my life and being happy when he does manage to contact me.
I like it better this way.
So last week I packed up for grandma's, sent him an email saying I'd be on dial-up for a week, and left. Halfway through the week, grandma's dial-up ran out of juice; we had used up her monthly minutes. (Talk about the Dark Ages of internet.) So I called AWTM and asked her to email my husband, just to let him know that I now had no means of communication.
Two days later he called and we had this funny exchange:
Sarah: Did you get AWTM's email, that I no longer have dial-up?
Husband: No, I haven't been on a computer in a week.
Sarah: Oh, nevermind then. Neither of us missed anything then.
But he called right in the middle of a birthday lunch at a restaurant with my grandmother, aunt, cousin, and mom. It was the worst timing he could've had all week. I explained and we got off the phone quickly, and he said he'd try again in a couple of days.
Later my grandmother and mother remarked that I could've left the table to go talk to him, that it was an important call. And I explained to them something I feel I've learned over three deployments: We have to live our lives.
I told them about the cheeseburger story, and how I know wives who've refused to leave the house in case they might miss their husbands online. I told them how crazy it can make you to be a slave to the computer and cell phone, and how nutso you can go if you're afraid every time you shower or take the garbage out to the street that you might miss a call. And I said that I heard his voice and knew he was OK, and that was enough for the moment.
I love hearing from my husband, and I do indeed miss the long IMs and jokes we had last year. But I think I still prefer living my life while he's gone rather than being chained to my computer.