An installment in the New York Times Deployment Diary
And just like that, he’s gone, again.
We had him for eight days straight, long enough to get a Christmas tree, to make lasting memories, to get into a routine. I can’t remember a time I laughed harder than watching him climb through the window of our S.U.V., after accidentally rendering the doors inoperable by tying twine on the inside handles to secure our 10-foot pine on top. My heart warmed as I watched him enchant our daughter with stories of his favorite Christmases, before hoisting her up on his shoulders to place the star at the top of the tree. As I passed by our son’s room during bedtime, I paused to listen to their conversation about excavators and cement trucks. I stood in the hallway, beaming, knowing I married a good man and a wonderful father, and simultaneously wishing these eight days wouldn’t end.
The time between work-ups and the number of days that he’s gone vary with each mission, and until just recently, the mood while he’s home would too. There is a steep learning curve when it comes to reintegrating every few weeks and for generally only days at a time. Occasionally, the hellos can be almost as daunting as the goodbyes, as the break in routine is challenging.
I cast a vulnerable line at the command Christmas party last week, when talking to a few of the other wives (all of whom I’d just met) about the aggressive schedule. “This has been really difficult on all of us,” I confided. A collective, audible sigh of empathy from the hushed circle. “This is so stupid hard,” one agreed. Another said, with a laugh, “I told him I’m moving back in with my parents until this is all over.”
All relationships, especially marriages, take work, and military couples are certainly not exempt. We’ve often thought that so long as this lifestyle doesn’t break you, your bond with your spouse will be indestructible. Our motto when we moved as newlyweds to Guam was, “You and me against the world, kid.” While I would put our marriage up against the best of them, we are far from flawless. The time before last that he was home, the flaws, and the claws, came out.