Why didn't you tell me that I would remember? I remember some moments like they were yesterday, don't you? I remember standing at the air terminal with the kids in their carseats and trying not to lose it completely.
I remember knowing that if I did breakdown, there would be no holding back the forbidden words--Please don’t leave. You just don’t say those words. You know your husband or wife doesn’t want to leave. Duty demands they go.
I remember how I held it together long enough for the quick goodbye, eyes bloodshot from the rivers cried the night before. After I’d driven out of the base gate, I lost it behind large sunglasses and loud kid music to drown out my choking sobs.
I remember the deployments before the kids. They were hard, and I remember thinking it was excruciating. But I had my own career and friends, and a support system in place. It wasn’t fun, but it also wasn’t unbearable.
The two little people we added to our family during shore duty brought a whole new dimension come deployment time, that I felt ill-equipped to handle. It seemed as if my insides were being ripped apart by the torment of both my own sorrow, but feeling the agony for my children as well.
They’d never known a day without daddy. How would my son cope? My daughter was just 18 months, I took comfort in the fact that later she wouldn’t remember him being gone. But, I remember.
I remember the Groundhog Days that seemed to never end. I remember the overwhelming responsibility of parenting solo for the first time. I remember how these two little people were entirely dependent upon me. The routine of laundry, dishes, and diapers set on repeat until I thought I would go mad.
I remember guilt about letting them watch too much television, because I just needed a break. I remember feeling the simultaneous exhilaration and bittersweetness of their milestones, knowing their daddy missed yet another one.
But I remember other things, too.
I remember stepping out of my comfort zone to meet other moms and making friends. That’s not something so easily done when you are used to having a career.
Meeting friends at the playground is like speed dating. You never know what you’re going to get, and you go through all the same mental gymnastics wondering if they like you as much as you like them, wondering about their parenting styles and if they are compatible with yours.
It is exhausting, bumpy, and socially awkward until you find a couple of keepers. Down to Earth and like-minded these soul sister friends are what get you through. I remember kind words, commiserating visits, and joyful all-mom get togethers.
I remember the first time I fixed the car. ALL. BY. MYSELF. No, I didn’t take it to the repair shop, I did it. That feeling of euphoria is crystal clear and one that comes back full force when I’m feeling inadequate or uneasy about trying something new. I remember that I not only survived, but I thrived, despite how it may have felt at the time.
I remember the bedtime whispers in my ear, “You are the best mom in the world!” I remember the utter satisfaction on the good days when things went well.
I remember slipping into the sheets alone and despite missing him, still thinking ‘It was a really great day.’ I remember the halfway mark, and all the other big dates we mark off of the calendar. Each time I wrote up the next month’s activities on the family white board, so happy I was ticking off yet another month done.
I remember taking the time to enjoy my passions, even while he was gone. It was necessary. Crossing a half marathon finish line mid-deployment was worth way more than a hundred hours on a therapist’s couch.
The tenacity of the military spouse that overcomes whatever life throws our way is beyond inspiring. As you look at a seasoned spouse who seemingly “has it all together”, takes it all in stride and looks good doing it, remember that she feels all the same things you do. She just has a few more deployments under her belt and knows what to expect. But believe me, she remembers. We all remember every deployment, every kiss goodbye, and every single homecoming.
You’re doing a great job. On the tough days, the really awful ones, remember that you aren’t alone. It’s tough, but you will get through it. You are doing it. The you who starts the deployment will not be the same person who finishes it.
You’ll be better. And you’ll remember.
Lori Stoffers is a runner, a writer and a Navy spouse currently residing in Washington State but headed to Texas with her husband and two kiddos. Read her blog CurlyMamaof2 here.
YDU: Why Didn’t You Tell Me is a weekly feature that gives our readers a space to tell their own story. If you have a story for us, please submit using the contact button above. All stories must be original and unpublished.