Posts Tagged With: #militarymomma1

“Thanksgiving” #3

My aunt and uncle’s house was filled beyond capacity with ten tame adults and what seemed like 117 wild children running around screaming, laughing, tattling, crying and snotting up the place. Like many family-filled homes, the heartbeat of the house was in the kitchen. My aunt doled out home-cooked food, hugs to everybody, and goodies to the grand-babies (everyone under 12 was a grand-baby, related or not). “I love you’s” were given as comfortably and casually as a glass of sweet tea and an arm thrown over your shoulders. I spent most of that first night half-present. Sometimes, I was catching up with my cousins, who, in my frozen picture of them, were still little girls, but, with the snap of time’s fingers, had somehow grown into women with husbands, children, mortgages, and college educations. I tried to just be with them, enjoy their quick wit and easy laughter. Too often, though, I was pulled back into the darkness of having only 34 days left in the States and the process of accepting the death of this future I had expected as a wife. Thankfully, my Arkansas family was impossible to ignore, and they made it impossible for me to stay in darkness.  Drinking seemed like the best way to move from walking zombie to some semblance of normal. My uncle had rum; my aunt had Coca Cola. Bring on Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving handled itself in the way that most Thanksgivings do:  juicy bird, buttery rolls, mashed potatoes with lumps in all the right places, sweet corn, green beans, a hangover from the night before, and pants with lots of elastic. If food could fill cracks in a heart, than mine was benefitting from some of that spackling with my aunt Linda’s cooking. I almost felt ordinary that day. Not too sad. Not too miserable. The memory of being once content, of being okay, was with me. My boys were enjoying the kid-time and the freedom of being able to squeal and run, laugh and jump. I guess our house in Illinois had turned into a sort of hospital waiting room after their dad moved out–everything hushed and grey.  Waiting for news. The boys appreciated the release of fun they were allowed to express in this house without feeling sad because mom was sad and crying, again. My oldest gave me a lot of hugs that weekend. I remember that so clearly. He must have been starved for the unspoken permission to simply touch me, to give me love, to wrap his arms around me and feel safe. Over the past year, I had walled myself in as a means to protect myself from spilling out in an uncontrollable, slimy mess of psychosis and mental breakdowns. But I had, regrettably, kept my sons outside those walls, too.   My sons began to get their mom back that holiday weekend.

The time spent in the company of unconditional love on Thanksgiving gave me drops of hope in an otherwise empty cup. And my cup spilled all over the place when I let my family talk me into braving the crazies, and joining their ranks, on Black Friday.

Categories: Military, Motherhood, Moving On, Personal Story | Tags: , ,

“Filling in the Spaces” #2

“Do you need me to drive?” My aunt was concerned with my breakdown, and she probably wasn’t expecting to die on this holiday drive to Arkansas because I was sobbing and couldn’t see the road. My tears didn’t surprise me anymore. I had grown used to sobbing. I guess that’s what happens when your marriage is dying, tears become normal and peace becomes strange. “I’m okay,” I tried to reassure Debbie, and then I started talking through it. 

I needed to deal with the facts and place each one where it belonged.  I’ve been called to Afghanistan. I’m in the military. It’s part of my duty to serve wherever I’m called to go. I had deployed four times before. I wasn’t afraid of the danger. Dying in Afghanistan didn’t scare me; I wasn’t really alive in this season of my life anyway. But as soon as I stepped foot on the airplane to take me away from Illinois, I would mark the end of my marriage. I did not have the strength to fight for it from Afghanistan. I talked through all these facts, giving them shape and calming my nerves with the reality of each of them. 

And then my youngest son said something, or did something from the back of the rented mini-van, and he broke through the compartment in my mind where I had placed the boys. I broke again, a fresh wealth of tears where there should have been none remaining, and I thought of my children and everything I would miss while away. A sad movie highlight reel of moments streamed through my mind: my oldest starting kindergarten and mom wasn’t there; my youngest learning to potty train and mom wasn’t there; my sons’ birthday parties, at least one for each, and mom wasn’t there. I could not process the loss yet. Not yet. NOT yet. 

After four hours on the highways between Illinois and Arkansas, we arrived in Rose Bud, a small town of about 400 people situated north of Little Rock. Thanksgiving was the next day, and our family was excited to spend time together eating, drinking, and laughing. But for me, I didn’t think laughing was possible. I was still trying my best to compartmentalize the different disasters in my life as we pulled into my aunt and uncle’s driveway. Be normal, I reminded myself. I didn’t know yet that normal wasn’t needed, laughter was a must, drinking was inevitable and Black Friday shopping was mandatory.

Categories: Military, Motherhood, Moving On, Personal Story | Tags: , ,

“Notification” #1

I was driving down the highway in a rented mini-van, my aunt Debbie in the passenger seat and my two young sons situated in the back.  The bricks of my 10-year marriage were crumbling underneath me more and more with each passing day, and I was trying to maintain some façade of being fine.  Get out of bed.  Brush my teeth.  Put on my military uniform.  Get the boys dressed.  Smile at them.  Hug them.  Feed them.  Take them to daycare.  Go to work.  Speak to people.  Speak.  Speak to them.  I was a cat hanging from a tree by the tips of my claws, terrified of a strong wind.   On this day, we were traveling to Arkansas to visit some of my family who I hadn’t seen in years.  It was the day before Thanksgiving.  We had been on the road for about an hour when my cell phone rang.  It was a work number, the deputy commander for my squadron.  “Hello, sir, is something wrong?”  Even in the military, we don’t typically get calls while we are on leave from duty around the holidays unless it’s less than great news.  This call was no exception.   “Hello, Capt,” his voice was low-toned and matter-of-fact, “you’ve been selected for a 365 to Afghanistan, and the report date is 5 Dec.”  He was rushing to get all the unfortunate information out in one breath.  He didn’t want to give my brain or emotions any hope that good news was just around the next phrase.  “Sir, I’m on my way to Arkansas now, do I need to turn around?”  I was proud of myself.  My military bearing was intact.  The dam in my throat held strong.  No tears.  No hysteria.  No guttural screams.  Not now.  My aunt began listening with curiosity and concern.  “No, no,” he continues, “Don’t do that.  Nothing will get accomplished over Thanksgiving anyway.  The report date will have to be extended.  We’re asking for a new date of 5 January.  Go to Arkansas and enjoy your leave.” 

Enjoy my leave.  January 5 was only 34 days away.  I had 34 days, minus the Thanksgiving holiday, minus the rush and bustle of Christmas, which always made the time go faster, minus the survival needed to get through New Year’s with Dick Clark struggling to continue the countdown and me hoping that 2011 couldn’t possibly be worse than 2010.  I had 34 days to say goodbye to my children for a year.  To say goodbye to so many things.  And I had another four hours in this mini-van to think about it.   I hung up the phone and the dam broke.

Categories: Military, Motherhood, Moving On, Personal Story | Tags: , ,

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