Two nights ago I rushed my son to the ER for stiches. It took all my might not to laugh the entire way there. He never heard me laugh. I was sure to show him all the love and compassion a scared 5-year-old boy needs when entering the halls of an emergency room.
Was I worried about my little boy? Of course! But I couldn’t help but find the irony in the timing. He fell and crashed into a sharp corner just as I hung up the phone with my husband.
Timing couldn't be more ... typical.Daddy’s parting words? “The plane is ready to take off so I have to hang up. I love you and I’ll call you the first chance I get but it might be a couple of days.”
CLICK ---BAM! I was on my own and off to the ER!
I didn’t used to laugh or even smirk when things like this happened. No matter the size of the emergency, it was an emergency.
I had to learn to survive without my Active Duty husband. Military spouses all know and come to expect that when your husband or wife is deployed, a catastrophe is coming.
It never fails. On my own, I experienced a country-stopping petrol strike in England. A tree falling onto the house in California. A tsunami (okay two tsunamis) in Hawaii. Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey. I mourned the loss of a pregnancy and survived (and I do mean survived) my own near-death emergency surgery. I’ve spent multiple challenges of “Right Now” chest x-rays for my youngest with all my kids in tow.
As a new military spouse, I was angry that my husband moved me states away from my family. He deployed and left me to deal with emergencies alone. How was I going to handle a crisis of him leaving me to mother four kids under four?
Just a 10 MINUTE CRISIS.Looking back now I clearly see my management techniques. I instinctively dealt with them as if each was a TEN MINUTE CRISIS
All the emergencies were bigger than 10 minutes. I was hospitalized for a week. Hurricane Sandy included prep, evacuation, and clean-up. Just this week I sat in the ER for four hours. I found out that I crumble when I allow myself to think about an emergency in its entirety. Yet I function when I break them down into 10 minute increments.
This clarity came to me when my twins were only a few months old. Daily my husband would call at lunch time (Thank you Honey!) This was my daily 10 minute crisis time. He always managed to call when both kids had exploding diapers, lunch was burning on the stove, and big 3-year-old sister just fell off the swing.
Had he called 10 minutes earlier or even 10 minutes later then the diapers would be clean, lunch would be sitting on the table, and the bump or bruises would be loved and bandaged. But he called in the middle of chaos
Manageable crisis not overwhelming disaster.I learned then that this is how I manage every crisis big and small. I break them into smaller manageable challenges as opposed to one overwhelming disaster.
Tricks I’ve picked up along the way include never allowing my gas tank to go below half. Thank you British Petrol Strike!
Go shopping for food, milk, and toilet paper before he leaves for longer than a week. Thank you Hurricane and Tsunami!
Find a friend who will take the kids at a zero notice phone call. Thank you med. clinics who say siblings are not allowed!
Know the number and don’t be afraid to call your Key Spouse/Ombudsman/First Shirt. Thank you units for having a person to call when I don’t know who to call!
And, Know the number to Red Cross (877) 272-7337 (toll-free). Thank you Red Cross to bring him home even if just for a few days.
When I became a contributing author in Stories Around the Table Life, Laughter, and Strength in Military Life, I learned that each of us authors have our own stories, crisis, and emergencies. We also have our own tricks of surviving. Most importantly, we know that while our spouses are deployed chaos happens; the joy and adventure we have in experiencing the world when they are home make it all worth it!
This past week when I drove my little one to the emergency room, I smiled. I was reminded of all the crazy adventures and stories I now have because my husband in an active duty military member.
Amanda Trimillos is an Air Force wife, mother of four young children, Doctoral student, university adjunct instructor, and former DODDs teacher and Key Spouse. In eighteen years of military life, Amanda has experienced seven moves and five deployments. She says, “I had no connection to the military before I met my husband. When we married, I decided to make our marriage an adventure."
Photo Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs