Friday, April 27, 2007

The burden is too big

I’ve been away, it was just too much. I am very happy to say, that my husband is out, he is somewhere between there and home, and I’m ecstatic. Having him out of harms way has afforded me the luxury of peace of mind and the mental capacity to put my thoughts to words. And here they are: I support our troops, I’m conflicted on the war, but mostly I’m frustrated by the isolation.

I know I shouldn’t complain that I get a call from my husband only twice a month, when my grandmother heard from her husband by letter only a handful a time a year during WWII. It’s terrifying that death is a possibility, but I know the numbers pale in comparison to Vietnam. Watching your husband go off to war is as old as time – think of the Spartan saying ‘come home with your shield or on it’. But for this war, it seems different….it’s just that now I feel like it’s only me.

I’m one of the few wives that have the opportunity to live on base, but work in a professional capacity at a leading company, and I can’t tell you the echoing depth of the chasm that separates my two worlds. I walk into the office to talk of stock options, tax cuts, weekend parties, laissez-faire political debates. If I hear about the war at all, it’s typically someone priming me to say that it’s awful, that they should all come home – don’t they know that can be offensive when my husband is risking his life to be there? I’ll never forget they day that Al Zarqawi died and I mentioned the news to a college-educated co-worker at my fortune 500 company and the response was…“who”? Or when a ware-age eligible man asked me if my husband would be coming home for Christmas – nope, unfortunately Iraq doesn’t close shop for the holidays. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that it just doesn’t affect them.

Then I hop the train back to my other life. When I come back home, I pass through the guarded gates of my Marine Corps life into this parallel dimension. Back home, the streets are full of women taking out the trash and climbing on roofs to put up the Christmas lights because daddy isn’t home to do it. Back on base I always have a friend that is about to come home, and another that is about to leave. Back home, women are crying because they’re afraid that their children won’t remember their fathers. On my street, there is a rotation of “welcome home daddy” signs that fill me with pride and smiles, but also make me want to cry because I want it to be my turn. Back home I know not to knock on a friend’s door without calling first, lest she think that that knock is CACO on the other side telling her, her husband didn’t make it. Back home, I have to close my front door, because hearing car doors shut brings up images of men in blue walking up to my door and delivering the bad news.

I don’t want to complain, I have loved many experiences I’ve had with the MC life; it’s fast and furious and always entertaining. My friends on the perpetual cycle of deployments do not feel sorry for themselves, and neither do I. But still, I’m left with a feeling of frustrations and it comes down to this: the burden is just too big to be borne by so few.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Extended? Extended! Extended.

Gosh darn – it strikes again. He’s going on a ship, he probably won’t go into Iraq, MEU deployments are very regular, homecoming dates are very secure, it would take a major, overwhelming circumstance for them to stay longer.

Somehow, despite all this, it’s happened again. My husband is a Marine, which means deployments, especially MEUs, are supposed to be 6-7 months. Last time, also on a MEU he was gone for 10, this time…return date as yet unknown. It was one thing when he was asked to stay longer to battle in Fallujah and to provide security for Iraq’s first set of democratic elections; I was sad for me, but I knew it was important. It’s just a whole lot more frustrating when it’s about politics – he said, she said, I want it my way politics.

The people are saying don’t do it, the legislature is saying don’t do it, for goodness sakes the GENERALS are saying don’t do it, the Iraqi president, who we’re helping, says don’t do it – so…..we’re going to do it? Yes, I read, I’ve heard the comparisons – Lincoln did the unpopular thing, Churchill did the unpopular thing – and I hope history proves me wrong, I do, but somehow I don’t see this temporary hail-Mary surge being the stoic, unpopular, but right thing.

I’m quite sure that I would be willing to say, “sure, one last hurrah, give it a last push – sucks for those 7,000 – 30,000 troops who’s plans are interrupted – but it might just be worth it” (don’t forget about the rest of us, the families that are affected by it too folks). But, since it’s me, my life, my sister’s wedding he’ll now be missing, my summer I’ll now spend with out my husband, my plans put on hold, I can’t quite get there. Selfish? I’m quite sure. But when will it be over? When will it not be my turn anymore? I wish I’d known him way back when, I think I might have tried to tell him to take out student loans for that un-godly private school tuition instead.

Either way – I wish I just knew for sure. Perhaps by next week and, maybe, the certainty of at least knowing will provide me with some solace.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Man Food

Man Food

“If you can’t it eat, or you can’t wear it, we probable don’t need it.”

That’s the directive from the CO. So, what does my husband get this year at Christmas for being a good boy? Well, let’s look at the environmental requirements: (Not an easy task, may I add, considering I have talked to him once, for 10 minutes, in the last month).

It’s the dessert and it’s cold. You know – when you think about it – a nice lump of coal might not be such a bad idea! It could help to keep him warm at least. I fret, however, that efforts might be misconstrued and seen as not in the spirit of Christmas, so I guess I’ll pass. Some skiing hand warmers might make a nicer substitution.

Hmm – something he can wear. Well, it must be green. And not Army green, but Marine green – because believe it or not, even their t-shirts have their own distinct shad of drab. I’d send under-armor or some kind of long underwear, but it can’t be made from polyester or other synthetic fabrics that melt when exposed to flames. I don’t want anything melting on his skin – he’s too young to need any sort of skin peel just yet, maybe once he’s a real “leather neck”. What does that leave me? A nice pair of socks. Good thing I live on base and have access to the right kind, in the right shade. Look out cutie – you got a sweet pair of socks coming your way!

Now – something he can eat. Wherever he is, I know he’s eating MREs at least once a day. My husband doesn’t have a big sweet tooth (disappointing I know!), but he does like Sour Patch Kids – so those are in. My mom sent him some canned oysters out of the pantry last time he was in Iraq, and he raved about that. I am firmly against sending him booze – I hear weapons and alcohol don’t mix, so that’s out. My man likes MAN food, but pork is a no-go in the country, so Slim Jims are out. So – oily stinky canned fish, all beef summer sausages, and a can of Cheese Whiz. Sounds terrible to me, but might just beat having to eat another unsavory MRE.

So, that’s about it, my baby has socks and man food coming his way. A few pictures of our house with the lights I put up, a note to say I love you, and a promise to celebrate whenever he gets home. Don’t worry sweetheart, Santa will find you, and we’ll make sure that this Christmas is as merry as it can be.

Salam. Peace.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Things I've done that I might not have if my husband were here

Things I’ve done that I might not have if my husband were here

1) Sep up the TV, VCR, amp, and cable
2) Programmed a universal remote
3) Put my clothes in both sides of the dresser instead of squishing them into just half
4) Assembled a table
5) Slept alone for 39 days and counting
6) Watched Gilmore girls every Tuesday without argument (for once!)
7) Ate cereal for breakfast and dinner
8) Used the power-drill…twice

Being alone provides some unique opportunities and helps you discover new interests. I liked the buzz of the power drill, the burn in my arm from the weight up over my head. I like having ultimate, un-interrupted, guilt-free control of the remote. I like having time to plant a garden, to use the shovel. I decidedly don’t like spending nights alone on the couch, but that has pushed me into new activities, more involvement, and there is nothing wrong with more distractions.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The "Who Has it Worse" game

Between deployed Marines/ Soldiers and their spouses it’s easy to play the “who has it worse” game. Being the even-keeled person that I am, I am ok with saying we both have it hard….an example:

The day he left

Him: riding out on his floating steel chariot, heart thumping, adrenalin rushing, the adventure starting

Me: holding his hand as he prepares to leave, keeping my patience when his superiors come to chat with him, cutting in to our last few seconds together. Waving goodbye as he rides away. Driving home to the big empty house, seeing his dirty laundry, the empty Monster can he’d finished off the night before, not quite bringing myself to throw it away, not just yet.
I’d rather be him.

Christmas Day

Him: probably stuck in the middle of the desert, maybe out on a mission, receiving stale crushed gingerbread cookies in the mail, waiting for a Christmas gift that hasn’t made it yet, singing Jingle Bells in his head to drone out the chanting blasted from every loudspeakers on every mosque in town.

Me: sitting at home with my family, opening up gifts by the fire, making butter-ball cookies with my mom, waking up to Santa Clause-stuffed stockings, clinging to my cell-phone hoping for a phone call from my husband.

I’d rather be me.

Yes, we’ve both have it tough – we’ve been separated from each other before our new marriage has even had a chance to solidify, for holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries; if we speak, it’s in the middle of the night in 15 minute increments, forcing us to trust that the other is thinking about us, loving us, even if they can’t let you know.

But let me also tell you why we have it good. We have a little more perspective. We squander our minutes together a little less, knowing that they are limited. We have an opportunity to write each other love letters. We learn to be proud of one another, and proud of ourselves. And when we say ‘I love you,’ the small crack in the voice shows that we really mean it…and, for me at least, the silver lining that I don’t have to watch a single football game this whole season.

While I don’t always love this life, while I wish that I knew right now where my husband is and what he is doing, while I sometimes feel alone, sacrificing so much for something that most people find an inconvenience to their pocket book or a nagging annoyance on the evening news, while we both have it hard and it’s easy to slip into the “who has it worse” game - I find it helps to focus on what I have learned, how this has helped us, and how lucky I am to really know it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"The Depression"

“The Depression”

During the up-tempo of Combat deployments, marriage rates in the Marine Corps have unsurprisingly spiked, typically corresponding to deployment cycles. Getting married to a Marine provides you with a whole new life in ways unfamiliar to most civilian brides: quit job, leave family, marry Marine you haven’t seen in 6 months or who plans on leaving in the next month, move to a new city, have no friends... After the excitement of getting engaged, planning the big day, moving to a new place to start a new life in your new role as a wife – that’s when “the depression” sets in.

Like most of the cycles the military teaches you about – “the depression” is normal and should be fleeting. The best antidote is to except the new intimidating role of Marine Wife and get involved: contact your KV, take a LINKS course, become a member of the KVN, go to seminars on base, take advantage of tuition advantages on base, and most importantly – come back with at least one person’s e-mail from each of these events. A lot of friends and taking advantage of the many support programs available is the key to surviving the Marine Corps, and if you can believe it, you may just find yourself out of the depression and actually liking it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

TV Timebombs: the emotional battlefield of ER

Who knew watching the television could be such an emotional minefield. I don’t mean an accidental channel surf passed Steel Magnolias, although it does make me cry every time, or even a flip past the news, with all it’s death, depression, and destruction. I’m talking about the programs that are much more mainstream; the most dangerous ones are the ones that hit you unexpected.

The latest installment of “your life is fodder for prime time’s sensational heart wrencher” was last Thursday’s ER. My husband was gone for a month of pre-deployment work-up training and I was about to treat myself to an early night when it came on. My finger was on the off-button, but I just hadn’t quite pulled the trigger yet, when a young female doctor, still in her pajamas despite the midday light pouring though the shutters, is crying. Still unawares, I figure her boyfriend left her for a man or she’s pregnant and hasn’t told the father yet, or some other trite trauma. And then, just as I raise the remote to turn off the ‘drama’ in my life, whuh, a punch to the gut. Two men in full-on dress blues, sparkly gold buttons and spit-shined shoes, asking for Mrs. X to tell her of her husband’s untimely expiration. Just like that, there it was, for the pre-bed time entertainment of millions, is my worst nightmare. Cut to next scene – her handsome young doctor husband is cruising around in the back of a truck, donning his deserts, flack jacket, Kevlar, all the right goods, when his convoy found a buried blast of scrap-metal death.

One person’s entertainment is another person’s emotional minefield.

I have no doubt that there have been many storylines that have made me laugh, or cry, that I turned off, and tucked myself in to, falling right asleep feeling tired and entertained. Take Steel Magnolia’s – I love the movie - but I bet there is a mom out there that can’t stand to look at the cover of the movie, with it’s singly white magnolia stem, because it reminds her of the daughter she lost. I can’t blame anyone for making entertainment out of my deepest fears, out of our troops’ trials and tribulations, hey, I even commend the industry for reminding the public that there is a war going on. But just this once I wanted someone to realize that this is my life, those are my deepest darkest secret fears, and you got to warn a girl before you blitz those images of bursting roadside bombs and pools of our men’s blood.