If we had been living in a movie, our last week would have been filled with clingy-ness, a million kisses and "I am missing you already"'s. In the movies, we would have spent every last moment together, been touching in some way constantly, and crying every time we thought of the time we would have to spend apart.
Yeah, we are so not that cheesy.
Not even a little bit.
Reality: I don't know what it's like to see a loved one off to a deployment. Maybe it is just like that above. I have seen some newlyweds act like that a few times. But Ben and I? We've been married for almost 8 years now, and that just not how we roll.
This is how it really goes:
Phase 1: The mental prep for a long separation due to military training, (last long one was 9 months, then we had some 3 week ones, this year it's 8 weeks) starts a few months before the big departure. I start setting goals of things I want to accomplish while he is gone, we start gathering things he will need, and we start budgeting and setting up finances and bills. We aren't super stressed and come to accept that there is going to be a separation and that we are going to be alright. I feel strong and confident that things will go smoothly and that the boys and I will be just hunky dory! In fact, I feel at this point, that 8 weeks will fly by and I might not even miss him that much. After all, I tell myself, this is what we signed up for, right? All part of the Army life...
Phase 2: A week before departure. Now, it kind of hits us that it going to happen because Ben's Army gear room has now exploded into the rest of the house. Army gear EVERYWHERE! He keeps going over checklists and we rush to order those few little things that we forgot and crossed our fingers that they would get here in time. This is where we start to feel a little stress that we might not get everything done in time, and I start to worry that he won't finish his honey-do list and I will get stuck with changing the oil in the car myself or dealing with Metlife (our new dental) payments, or something equally as stressful.
Phase 3: 2 Days before departure. This is where you think I would be clinging to his muscular body like a the cover of a cheap romance novel, begging him not to go and professing my undying love for him! Yeah, so not happening. This is where we start getting snippity towards each other. I start getting on him for his messes, staying up too late sewing Velcro on his uniforms, using all my printer ink to print out a million copies of his orders, and not helping me at all with the kids or the housework... all the while looking for more reasons to be mad at him. He is doing the same thing, giving me the stink eye when I nag, asking me all rude like to help him with stuff I really don't want to help him with like going over stupid checklists for the millionth time. Why do we look for reasons to be mad? It makes the separation easier when we are fed up with one another... it's all psychological.
Phase 4: The day before departure. This is where it all hits me that he is really leaving! Eight weeks all of a sudden seems so much longer than it did before!! Now, I start crying about every little thing! The kids are wondering what my problem is, and Ben is sighing and shaking his head. Then it all hits the fan, when the baby throws my Kindle Fire in the toilet. This was VERY upsetting. But then after 5 hours, Ben manages to save my Kindle Fire from a fate worse than upgrading to an iPad... by using a blow-dryer and strategic sun drying. It isn't in perfect condition, but it works!
Phase 5: The morning of. Phase 3 kind of re-happens. We snap at each other over stupid things, I tell myself that I will laugh in glee when I drop kick his butt off at the airport. I tell him he is driving wrong. He tells me to shut up with clinched teeth and nicer words. He gets snappy at me because I ran into Walmart and got him a cheap digital camera (to surprise him) but I forget an SD card which makes me angry and I tell him what he can do with his blasted SD card. Then I get mad at him for getting a parking pass rather than pre-paying... and he tells me where to get off. We have both only had 3 hours of sleep that night, and we are just anxious for him to get off and get this training done! We've been "looking forward" to it for 3 years now, and after it's done we will know what our future holds in the military. So it's a little nerve racking and we only have each other to take it out on.
Phase 6: The hour of. This is where our hearts are softened... a little. There are no tears, just smiles and some hugs. I am a little worried about how the baby will handle it all. He is REALLY attached to his daddy, literally. When I tried to take him away so Ben could go through security and off to board his plane, little guy was clinging to the straps of Ben's backpack. I had to peal him away. He cried a little. And I was suddenly the bad guy. The other two boys could care less... they just go with the flow and couldn't wait to ride the escalator again, so they were like: "See ya pops!" We stood on the top of the balcony and watched Ben line up for security below. I showed Baby Jake how to wave goodbye... and that's when the tears came. Not from me, of course, but from Ben below. No one melts his heart like little Jake.
Phase 7: The aftermath. First off, it's like a huge chunk of stress is gone. It's the beginning of a new chapter. We know that now, things will never be the same again. Our future depends on this training. And things will become certain once it's over. Not so much limbo land. I feel tired and ready for a nap... and hungry! After getting some breakfast with Ben's mom and brother, we head for home. The boys snooze a little and I am downing 5 hour energies to stay safe on the road. It's a two and a half hour drive home. I have a good feeling about things. Everything is going to be alright. Then I start getting excited as I wonder how much weight I can lose before he gets home if I work really hard... I think about cleaning the house and getting rid of some of Ben's less attractive clothes... Once in a while I will peek at the clock and think, I bet he is flying over Idaho right now... It's at this point, that if a civilian friend or family member was watching, they would think I was crazy! How come I am not wallowing in a puddle of tears and totally losing it! Come on eight weeks?! Really?! I know this because I was a civilian friend/family member once upon a time... and these were my thoughts! Truth: to a military wife, 8 weeks is nothing. And seriously, just because I am not crying my eyes out doesn't mean I love him any less than any other wife. I am strong for him. I am strong for the boys. I have a choice: I can either have a bad attitude about it and make these days longer, or I can look at it as an opportunity for personal growth and make the time fly by. I choose to be positive!
Phase 8: A few days later. This is where I may have this overwhelming sense of missing him. I will probably cry a little, especially when I am putting the last of his dirty laundry in the washer and folding and putting away the last of his clean stuff. That's a really sad moment for me. But hey, after a week, we will settle into a routine, I will start getting used to stretching out across the bed at night and not having my covers stolen. I won't have to cook for a hungry man. And the laundry just got a ton easier!!
Don't think for a minute that I don't miss him. I think about him every other second. He is in my heart and prayers every moment of every day. This is who I am. It is how we behave when times are the hardest that define who we are. I hope that I can make the best out of this time and be a trooper for both him and my boys. Besides, if I start missing him too much, I can always roll over in bed and sniff his pillow... that's one thing I just can't bring myself to wash.
Here's a to a speedy summer!
PS A special thanks to my dear friend who left a bouquet of flowers and a jumbo bag of paper plates on my door this morning for a super awesome surprise when I came home from the airport. It was, seriously, one of the most thoughtful gifts EVER! Only a best friend would know how I truly LOATH to do dishes :)