It's hard to forget that living this military life and loving a soldier puts you in a day to day life that most people don't understand. But some days the differences are clearer than others. Today, as I had to put my own work aside to deal with yet another household crisis I was annoyed by the fact that DH can't help me deal with it because he is essentially out of reach of all communication for the next 10 days. Non military affiliated spouses simply have no understanding of what it's like to have your partner suddenly taken out of your life, and then dropped back into it after a certain period of time. Oh sure there are men and women who have spouses that travel a lot but the two situations are not even remotely the same.
I have a brother who travels 40+ weeks out of the year, and has for many years. I also have a sister in law who is an absolute saint. But their marriage works because my brother can still be her partner even though he travels. He can still make phone calls to the gas company, pay bills, or read the kids a bedtime story through the miracles of webcams and WiFi. My DH can't do any of those things. When he's gone, whether it's a 10 day field exercise, a 30 day school, or a 12 month deployment his head is totally in his job. And it needs to be, or people will die.
DH was gone on my birthday, and now ironically he's gone on his. One more of life's milestones that we don't get to celebrate together. And next year he'll be deployed, so we'll be apart again. Birthdays, holidays, special events spent with the people you are love are what defines a life, and a marriage. Shared experiences and shared celebrations are the bedrock for a relationship that will last forever. How is our relationship ever supposed to be a true partnership when we cannot be together for the most basic milestones of life? How am I supposed to switch gears from having a partner I can depend on to having to shoulder everything myself? And then switch back to including him in the life I have built for myself so that he doesn't feel left out?
When I try to describe to my non military affiliated friends what this is like they say things like," Well you need to demand that he shoulder his share of the responsibilities. He chose to be in the service and he chose to be your husband so he has to find a way to do both." Which is probably exactly what I would say if I wasn't "on the inside" of the situation. But the fact is I can't ask him to do both. I would never ask him to do both. Because I couldn't live with knowing he took time away from his training to make a phone call I could have made, or spent time dealing with a household matter when he could have been learning a technique that would save someone's life. When it comes to matters of life and death it's just not important anymore whose turn it was to call the credit card company.
So I try to swallow my resentment at having to put my work on hold and disappoint my clients or miss another deadline to deal with a household problem that my partner should have been able to handle. I try to fill the deafening silence at night when we are usually watching TV together or discussing the events of the day by turning up the TV or calling friends. I try to disregard the loneliness that comes with missing the small intimacies we're developed through our relationship like him kissing me on the nose in the morning before he leaves or my leaving a Post It "I love you honey. Go save the world" message on the coffeepot every morning. I look at a picture of him, sent via text, in the field in all his gear as he learns how to save lives and administer justice and I pray that my pride in his accomplishments will make it easier to accept his absence from my life.
And I hang onto the moments that make it all worth it. Like the moment when, after he called a hospital to check up on a kid whose life he saved in Afghanistan, the kid's mother grabbed the phone from her son and sobbing so hard she could barely speak thanked my husband over and over for saving her son's life. The sacrifices we make, as well as the sacrifices our spouses make, have a much bigger impact than we can see on a day to day basis. Which makes this life of great joy and great fear and great sorrow truly a life like no other.