So, this is the second time the Good Chaplain deployed during the holidays. The first time I did not handle it nearly as well.
Picture a cold, dark frontier with snow piled up on the sides of the roads. Now put that on an Air Force base 25 miles from town in the dead of winter in Alaska.
That’s how it was when the Good Chaplain deployed to Brindisi, Italy. Yep, the girls and I were stuck in the frozen tundra while he basked in the sun of sunny Italy!
It didn’t really bother me that he was in a warm place. But it did bother me that he wasn’t home for Christmas for the first time since we were together.
I don’t know why I had such a hard time but I did. It may have been the combination of the darkness, the cold and the fact that he was gone for Christmas, but the whole four-month episode was a new lesson in misery.
I often say now that if it hadn’t been for the girls, I would have never gotten out of bed for those four months. But, alas, I had two children to attend to, so I did get up.
During the day, I put on a happy, cheerful face, but at night I cried. Not many people knew that.
Everything I saw or read said we must not bother our deployed spouse with our problems at home. They need to believe that we were coping so they could concentrate on their jobs.
Well, that’s true to a point. But when my best friend, my soul mate, is gone for a while, I am not necessarily happy about it.
I tried to be brave and not let him know how miserable I was, but since he is the person I tell everything to, I couldn’t hold out for long. I let him know I wasn’t coping well. It wasn’t anything specific, just the whole separation in general.
In Alaska, the Good Chaplain counseled many spouses for what is known as Early Return of Spouse — those who just couldn’t handle the rigors of Alaska and being that far from family. I told the Good Chaplain, and I quote, “Just slap them and tell them to buck up.”
During one memorable phone call, when I was having a particularly rough time, I told him I was acting like all those women I hated and I told him to just slap me and tell me to buck up.
Sometimes I was able to put it all in perspective. Here I was moping about how lonely I was and especially during the holidays when it suddenly occurred to me that it was worse for him. I had the girls. He was all alone in a room with no family around as he opened his presents. I had the better of the deal.
I would say that deployment was the pinnacle of our Air Force tour. The Good Chaplain even offered to get out if I was that miserable. I couldn’t let him do that. My misery was fleeting, but we were talking about his life, his career. I knew he would get out if I wanted him to, but I also knew he wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.
As I struggled with my emotions, I finally confided in a colonel’s wife. Not on purpose. She happened to be at the right place at the right time and asked me how I was doing. The waterworks turned on and I talked about how miserable I was.
And I learned the most important lesson — don’t suffer in silence because others before you have felt the same way and others behind you will as well. Tell someone how you are feeling. Chances are they can help. Just telling someone is the biggest help.
And also, it is OK to let your deployed spouse know you are missing them terribly. They are missing you too.