Ick… today starts the “I really hate this part worse than deployment phase” of Army life. After three fun filled weeks of block leave (and some use or use thrown in there too), Army guy is back at work for what I like to deem The Long Goodbye. The Long Goodbye is even longer here at Fort Stewart where field problems seem almost an everyday (not really) thing. But it’s here and I am ready and staring it in the eye like we are in a boxing ring…
If you are like me, which I know most of you are not, these few months are the worse. Army guy and I both find that we start to build those dreaded walls in our relationship to shield us from the real goodbye. While he is working more, I am working more trying to separate and shield myself (and the kiddos) from the real goodbye. It doesn’t really work, but I do it anyway. Because of this, we argue just a bit more and communicate a lot less… and we both hate it. I know this, he knows this and we do it anyway. It’s our defense mechanism I guess you can say and it sucks. In the end, when the day is here, all of the emotions are still the same. All the fears come back and rob me of the reasons I built that wall in the first place. Last time, all sense of reality that I once had and all of those tough girl sensibilities drained like flood waters as I watched my little ladies hold that fence crying for the daddy as he boarded that plane at Hunter. No, he is not leaving yet, but I am trying to prepare myself for the long goodbye.
For me, this is the toughest part of being an Army Wife. I often find that I question Soldier guy about making this sacrifice, and yes I sometimes blame him too… like he is the one who makes the big “Army” decisions. I can’t help it, but I do it often. The other night, as we were sitting outside having a glass of wine, our biggie came out and began asking daddy some questions; tough questions. I sat there trying not to let them see the tears that rolled down my face as she asked him why he was choosing to go, followed by “I just don’t understand why you would choose to leave us to go there and maybe never come home”… I looked the other way, tears rolling down my cheeks and braced myself for his answer. In that moment I did not have the smallest clue how he would, or even could, respond to that. The words that flowed from his mouth seemed so practiced, if with the smallest hint of holding back his emotions… he said simply, “Bug (that’s his nickname for her, bug), if I don’t go, who is going to?” He allowed her time to pout and form an answer which was a cool “I don’t know.” He then sat her down and they had a conversation, actually THE conversation, the one I thought that only I would have with him. About sacrifice… the sacrifice of a soldier and that of his family.
I told you that little private story because in that moment my biggie sounded just like her momma, she asked questions that she has heard me ask soldier guy often; only I didn’t know she was listening. I was proud of her ability to take those answers he gave so maturely, and in that moment I realized how grown she was; graceful even. More than I have ever been. She did not cry… maybe a tear, but she listened and processed and, weirdly to me, maybe even understood why he loves being a soldier. I understand, but I always felt like, for my children, they would never be able to “understand” it because they did not choose this life… we chose it for them. Suffice it to say, I am one proud momma.
So, on we will march. This morning it began. The Long Goodbye. I hope this time I will take a sheet from my daughters playbook, and handle it with grace and integrity. But I know myself all too well. I know the walls will go up. I hate this… I hate it more that the actual goodbye. It’s the longest, most grueling few months of this Army Wife’s life, and in the end when he boards that long, ugly white bus those walls lie in shambles on the ground at my feet.