My husband came home with about half of his gear for his year long, special duty, non-voluntary deployment to Afghanistan.
The two older kids were doing homework. The third was begging for a snack. The littlest just got up from nap.
I met my husband's eyes over the gear. Since I was in full swing trying to get dinner made and I had four kids needing my attention, my husband just rolled his gear into our bedroom and came out to help.
Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Fast forward into that evening: Dinner was done. The kids were bathed. I sat on our bed watching him pack. I was not afraid. My husband has been deployed before --but a year?
This was the first time he would be gone that long.
I knew in my mind that stronger women than me endure that amount of deployment time ALL the time. However, I had Mr. Doubt sitting on my shoulder screaming about this first time of him being gone so long and it was scary.
My husband was busy going over his checklist since he was leaving for training in days. He was oblivious to my inner meltdown because I didn’t want to stress him out.
But seeing all the new gear laid out-- the things he has never been required to wear before, scarier things, things to have if things go wrong--was so very sobering.
So I went and got a Michelob Ultra out of the fridge. I was sitting there, gulping sipping my beer while he unwrapped everything and explained how it was used.
He was like a kid at Christmas. I was still outwardly very calm. Inside my head, however, I was doing the official “damn chant.” As in, Damndamndamndamndamndamndamndamn…
I KNEW the “thing” was coming. And I looked at it with that perspective. The “Thing” is just something I am doing. It is something I must accomplish. I look at each task individually and get them done one at a time.
That thing I have been prepping for.
The checklists, the Power of Attorney, the “thing” that we were working towards to make sure everything was done. Sitting on the bed, I knew that thing was finally... HERE.
And that was when it hit me. My heart sank a little and my head whispered, This is it. It is right here in front of me. It just got real.
This is what I call the Deployment Slap.
It happens to everyone before a deployment. It doesn’t matter if you are the deployer or the one left at home. You KNOW it is coming, and you KNOW it is happening, but it takes that one little thing for you to go "Oh. Now it’s here."
Two beers into his packing and I was feeling buzzed much better. I had lost my panic edge and reminded myself of all the times I had done this before, it was just longer right?
And all that gear? Well, the military are kind of like the Boy Scouts. They are prepared. Do I want him to need to have all that gear? NO. But if he does, I am glad it will be there.
I am not sure what they put into most beers, but I am pretty sure that they put love, laughter and a little bit of kickass into that particular Michelob Ultra.
After two of those, I was a little calmer and dammit, YES I CAN DO ANYTHING. I am SUPER MOM!!! Able to be 400 people in military mandated increments of time!!! Hey, I may even crave a little cape action, but that's only for special occasions! Ha!
Really though. Between us, I think there is nothing you can do in the moment of the Deployment Slap but accept that deployment is coming. Help him finish up, hug him a little harder that night, snuggle a little longer, and try to sleep. It is coming, it is almost here… but it is not tonight.
Deann Gurley is an Air Force wife currently stationed on the East Coast.