The Mall

I don’t go to the mall.  I don’t enjoy the mall.  It just seems like a place where bad things can happen.  I guess that could be my PTSD talking (I did mention I went to war, right?) or the fact that the mall is just an uncomfortable place for me.  When my husband was home, he would take the kids to the mall and buy their clothes.  I usually stayed at home or went along for the ride, but never to just walk the mall or even hang around.  It’s not my thing.

Imagine the anxiety I felt when I came to the conclusion that my daughter absolutely needed a new bathing suit.  I’m sure girls her age have plenty bathing suits, but we just moved from North Carolina.  In Charlotte, NC,  you only wear a bathing suit in the summer for a week to go to the pool.  You only wear that bathing suit for a week because the rest of the summer is too hot to swim.  Anyway, I had to venture into the mall with my very active 3 year-old and my fashionista 6 year-old.  I was not very happy about it, but decided to act very happy because happiness, after all, is a choice.

The trip went well.  I even relaxed enough to go look at clothes for myself.  Not only did I look at clothes for myself, but I went into another store and bought a few dresses for my daughter, a few t-shirts for my son along with the bathing suit I initially went to the mall for.  I was quite impressed with myself.  The day was turning out awesome…until we got back into the car to leave.  All of sudden, my son became this maniac.  He demanded quite loudly that he wanted to put his new shirt on “NOW!” and when I told him no, he began kicking and screaming. I would have gotten really angry at this scene if it wasn’t so funny.  Yes, I laughed a little to myself because who does that over a shirt.

Honestly, I saw it coming before we go into the car.  A clear sign that something was wrong was when he was making snow angels on the floor of H&M while looking at himself in the security camera, but I just wrote that off to him being tired.  I was wrong.  He wasn’t tired.  He was frustrated, angry and sad – his words.  I’m glad that I asked him what was wrong because my initial reaction was to yell and slam the door in his face, but his response and my daughter following it up with, “I’m sad too mommy” made me really take in what was happening.  They missed their father.  This was a daddy activity and this made him being gone very real. I could not help but cry.  I told my son, right there in the parking lot with a lady looking at me sideways for my parking space, to scream.  I told him to scream if he felt angry and frustrated.  I told him to cry and let it all out.  I looked at my daughter and told her to cry if she wanted to cry, so we all cried together.  My son and daughter screamed that they were really, really mad and I just stood there allowing them their time to be mad, frustrated and sad.

It didn’t last long. The annoyed woman got her parking space and I did the only appropriate thing one can do in these types of situations.  I gave my children a hug and  then I took them to the bakery for pastries, so we could sit and talk.  My daughter talked and my son ate and I learned something about myself.  I learned that I am pretty freaking awesome and my kids are too.



He’s home!..kind of.

Yesterday evening at around 5 p.m. I got a call from my husband to come and get him from his unit.  To say that I was excited is an understatement.  He has been gone for so long and this last stretch of training included a 2 week period with absolutely no communication. It has been difficult. He told me not to rush in coming to get him and I didn’t because I totally needed to clean this house before he stepped foot in it. My house is never a total disaster, but it can get pretty close to it in a matter of 5 minutes with my 2 children running around. We left an hour after he called and I knew from my own experiences in the Army that just because the Soldiers had returned to the unit didn’t necessarily mean that they could go home, especially my husband.

We got there at about 7 p.m. and my daughter fought the sleep monster the whole way because she absolutely needed to see her daddy.  She also talked quite loudly the whole way there too. We were so excited to see him…well, my daughter and I were excited to see him.  My son fell asleep as soon as I pulled out the driveway and he missed the whole seeing daddy in his element.  My husband came to the car and gave us all hugs.  He took my daughter around to meet his co-workers and then we waited until he was released. He was finally released at about 11 p.m., which was followed by him giving instructions to his Soldiers and then at about 11:15 p.m. I got my husband back.

Technically, I really don’t have him back.  He is still somewhat in limbo.  I always see the military homecomings on commercials or television shows and ours is never quite that way.  It’s almost like he has to warm up to the idea of being home.  I use to think it was just a deployment thing, but I have since realized that if he is away for over 2 weeks, then he needs time to readjust.  Honestly, it sucks.  This is difficult part of being an Army wife.  It was cool when I was in the Army with him because I kind of got it, but now, it just feels like he has checked out.  So, from 7 to 11 p.m. he may have said a total of 12 words to me, which kind of makes me sad because I really have been missing him and want to know what he’s been doing. I want to joke with him, hug him, kiss him, and tell him about everything that has been going on.  I can’t do it.  We’ve been together for such a long time that I know if I don’t give him his time, then it will be weeks instead of hours until I get him back fully.

Like clockwork, he was back to his old self by the time we crossed the gate on post.  He talked about the mission, his Soldiers, what he ate, what broke down, and his confrontations with other Soldiers.  He was officially back.  I have him back and it feels incredible. I really like this dude.  I mean, I love him completely, but I really like him.  I would hang out with him all of the time if I could. The only problem we have is that I also like eating and living in this house and what he does provides us with all of that, so I have to share him with the Army.  I’m kind of frustrated with sharing, especially since I’m typing this blog while he is still at work after being away from home technically since July.  Shouldn’t he be off today? I guess I could look at this as preparation for his upcoming deployment, but I really just want to look at his face for a whole week and settle in to the familiarity of our love again.  I just really want to sit on the couch and ignore the television while watching the kids play.  I want my normal back.  I just want him back.

He feels like a ghost

My husband came home!  He was here with us for all of 48 hours.  He is starting to feel like a ghost to me.  He’s been gone since July and he’s come home twice now, but the time he was home was so short that it seems like a dream.  This is difficult.

He is doing all that he can do to keep the lines of communication open.  I know some father’s who aren’t Soldiers and they don’t make a point to call their children everyday, but he has yet to miss a day talking to the kids and me.  I appreciate him trying his best, but phone calls don’t make up for his presence.  We have managed to remain loving to one another during this time even though we are both frustrated with the circumstances.  He is probably a bit more frustrated than me because his work has too many obstacles with the major one being handling personnel that don’t feel the need to listen to him and question him at every turn.  It is hard for him.  At his last unit, we knew outright that racism was a factor, but with this unit it appears that it is just a few people with really bad personalities along with being scared to go to war.

When he came home, I let him decompress and tell me about everything he has been going through.  The thing with listening is that you always take some of the stress in as your own, especially when it involves someone you care so deeply about.  I heard his concerns, jokes, the different characters that have entered into his life now.  I feel like I know these people which is one part endearing and another part frightening. I know that these people will replace my children and me and become his family while he is deployed and although I get it, it still makes me feel like the distance has already begun and he hasn’t even left yet.  The beauty is that there is no jealousy because I’ve been there.  I know how it feels, but I also know that when one returns from war the family you left seem like strangers and it takes a number of months to feel any sense of normalcy again.

My daughter appears to be taking it the worse of us all.  When he left this last time, she cried the whole way home.  Today, her teacher pulled me to the side and told me that she was preoccupied most of the day and seemed at the brink of tears. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for her.  She is only 5 years old. I doubt that she even knows how to express how she feels, but I talked to her after school and let her know that it was okay to miss daddy.  I told her that I missed daddy too and that I cried too.  She looked shocked when I told her that I cry and it dawned on me that I have been holding back all of these emotions in an effort to be strong and forgot that I am my children’s biggest example on how to deal with things.  I’ve decided that if she wants to cry, then I will cry with her.  If she wants to talk about how she feels, then I will share with her how I feel too.  We made a calendar together so she can visually see when he will return.  The activity seemed to cheer her up, but my heart broke when I asked her what she missed most about daddy and she said, “his face”. Can you imagine?

He really feels like a ghost.  I can feel him here as if he’s right by my side, but physically he isn’t here.  I can smell him. If I close my eyes, I can see his face.  I hear his voice when things get overwhelming, telling me to take care of myself.  I miss him terribly and I absolutely cannot wait until he gets home.

Resentment, love, and strength

My husband has been gone since July.  Okay, that’s not entirely true because he came home for 32 hours in August, but even now that short bit of time we had with him seemed like a dream.  I miss him.  I noticed last week when I was walking up my stairs to go to sleep that the anxiety that I usually feel being in this house all alone had gone. I had somehow gotten use to being here by myself and the reality of it all made me a bit sad.  I consciously know that I should be able to do everything by myself, but I don’t want to do it all by myself.  I did not sign up for this…

So, resentment set in last week.  I was beginning to get short with my husband.  I didn’t want to sit on the phone with him.  In the beginning of this set of training, I would ask about what he ate and if he went into town.  When he went to open up about his day last weekend, I cut him off quite quickly and told him that it must be nice to have some free time all by himself.  His response was that as soon as he got home he would find a way to take the kids and let me have some alone time and although I could still feel the resentment, my mood lighten up a bit…until he informed that he would likely be extended after we saw him for one day this month, which puts him home for good (not really, for good) in late October. I was pissed and instead of pushing my feelings way down inside of me and continuing to be resentful, I let them out.

Thankfully, he listened and listened and listened.  I didn’t take any digs at him because he is only doing his job.  A job that affords me the opportunity to stay at home with our children. I just needed to stop being strong for one moment and be vulnerable with this man that I love. I am thankful that our marriage has grown enough that I can be vulnerable without him taking it personally. My husband is a fixer and when he can’t fix the problem, he gets frustrated with everything. He told me that my feelings were valid and I can’t even express how awesome that is to me. He also shared with me that he feels like he’s missing out and it makes him feel bad.  He missed the first day of school, our son’s first soccer practice, our daughter’s first ballet class here in California, our son mastering the potty, our son finally riding his bike, and the biggest thing, not being here for our daughter when someone said something mean to her at school.  I could not feel any resentment after that. He is missing out and I know with everything inside of me that he would rather be here than there.

Being an Army wife is hard.  It was much easier when I was in the Army and when we didn’t have children. I worry for him. I want him home. We need him here with us.  I don’t want to get use to him being away.  He leaves in February for his third deployment and this is the first time I have been scared. I know that I must continue to be strong, but I now know that love and strength can include vulnerability.  The road is long up ahead, but we will make it.