Whew. Congratulations. You did it. The tearful farewell. The lingering hugs at the airport. Those endless good-byes. Time-Magazine-worthy military departure images will forever be seared into your brains.
As the cliché holds, it only gets easier from here.
Wait a minute. What am I saying? I totally just lied to you.
Oh, I’m definitely not undermining the emotional turmoil of a farewell. We cry beyond what is capable for “splash-proof” waterproof mascara, we cling to proverbial life rafts of memories and yearn for future phone calls, and we cope with Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” on repeat for eternity. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve done it.
But, my friends, I’ve got to warn you. The farewell? Just the beginning.
Grab on tight because I am going to rock you with some need-to-know info. Whether it’s for a deployment, a military school, a training course, a TDY, or a four-day golf trip with friends, you need to prepare yourself for the stuff that happens after the farewell. No, I’m not talking about managing finances, parenting alone, or missing a daily Skype date. I’m talking about something waaaay more serious.
You ready? Here goes.
1. According to some unwritten yet dastardly policy, the minute your partner leaves, your plumbing WILL break. And I mean BROKEN. DESTROYED. And/or PULVERIZED. No little leaks for you. Ha! Wishful thinking. I know, I know: “Who is this screwed-up girl, and why would she wish such evil upon me?” I’m just telling you how it is, friends. While my husband was gone on four separate occasions AND in four different homes, my crawl space flooded and filled with three feet of hot water -- whoo! That was a bill. The pipes burst inside my home and flooded my brand new carpet, my water heater exploded in the garage and, again, ruined my drywall and carpet, and water seeped through my garage ceiling from a flooded washing machine. Hey, don’t feel bad for me; just plan on yours doing the same. Stock up on towels, tell all your friends and neighbors about your premature flood-a-palooza, make sure your home warranty is up-to-date, pick out some new shag carpet, and get out the popcorn and wait.
2. If you have children, on the night of your spouse’s departure, one of them will throw up all over your side of the bed. After you’ve cleaned it up, the other child will pee all over your comforter. Of course it’ll be on yours. Why would they be considerate enough to do it on THEIR stuff? So, duh, you’ll be left to sleep on an uncomfortable air mattress while your linens wash and dry, all the while comforting two little ones who need water and ginger ale and YOUR pillow because “yours is fluffier, Mom.” Plan on several nights like this: Stock up on chicken soup, replenish the Saltines, and prepare yourself psychologically for endless hours of Jake and the Neverland Pirates reruns.
3. Your spouse will not get paid. Oh, I know. You’ve had a very steady paycheck for years now. There’s no reason that the money would not ... wait, I’m getting a call from my bank. What do you mean, there are insufficient funds? Oh, come on now, quit whining. It’s not THAT big of a deal. Just wait, oh, 51 days or so, and then the money will hit, and you’ll be good to go. In the meantime, just charge a bunch of grocery trips to an unused credit card, mooch from some soon-to-be-not-so-good friends, or just consider it an intense weight loss plan. And who cares about that mortgage of yours?
4. Please understand that tearful and dynamic emotions will drive many of your daily decisions and will cause drastic reactions and that the man at McDonald’s wasn’t trying to harm you psychologically when he told you that it was past 10:30 a.m. and breakfast was no longer served when all you wanted was a d*#m breakfast sandwich to clog up your arteries. I would also recommend NOT screaming at a malfunctioning ATM machine because a) it doesn’t have feelings, no matter how hard you are trying to break it down emotionally, and b) the cops will undoubtedly be at the nearby Subway restaurant and feel the undeniable need to come and have a little looksee.
5. Again with the children, plan on having the oldest, most responsible of your children actively respond to peer pressure and jump off of your carefully enclosed trampoline and break her arm in half, requiring a trip to the emergency room in an ambulance, immediate surgery with pins and screws, and a mass response text to the 4,000 text messages from concerned neighbors. Furthermore, invest in a couple more trips to the orthopedic doctor when said child dips her entire cast in the bathtub because she was “tired of the purple cast.” Clearly, her wont for fashion is more important than what Tricare covers.
6. Your check engine light will come on and the battery will die in your trusty but dying-a-slow-death Honda Odyssey. And, duh, your warranty just expired. And where’s that spare tire?
7. Lastly, when the day is done and, with utter exhaustion, you collapse on the couch for an episode of Chuck on Netflix and your need for solitude and personal time is desperate and all you can think about is not having any more children, plan on sitting up hurriedly when you smell that unmistakable stench of poop. On the new carpet (sorry you had to find out this way, babe). You will also learn that those darling girls who you birthed and raised have been using the deafening nighttime silence to trick you into thinking they were sleeping while they used your expensive concealer as lotion.
But breathe, baby. I’m here for you. WE are here for you. Call a friend, a sister, another spouse with nerves all frayed. Get a babysitter, and hit up six different fro-yo shops. NO ONE WILL KNOW. Hit your local Target for some clearance retail therapy. Take out some aggression on a mini-golf course -- I’ve dinged a few lighthouses in my time (not suggesting actually destroying property, people).
My point is, find your community. Your connections. Your peeps. Find those people who will support you after the farewell when it will undoubtedly get harder.
It’s all good, friends. We’ve all got your back.
Now, together, let’s go clean up that spilled tomato sauce on the inside of your van.
Kiera Durfee is a spunkalicious Army wife and sassy mother of two equally spicy girls. She gratefully represents Utah military spouses as Armed Forces Insurance's Utah National Guard Spouse of the Year, clearly illustrating her never-questioned maturity. Actually, she's more comfortable on the floor building Lego forts or perpetually playing the villain Captain Hook in dress-up. She enjoys dance parties in her living room, yummy Pad Thai, avoiding working out, baking treats (she has to maintain her lovely curvaceous figure somehow), being funny, and writing about human foibles that she herself exemplifies. Check out her blog for more Durfee-tastic adventures.
Image by Slettvet, resized and reused under Creative Commons license on Flikr.