28 August 2008

Finding out. (its a long one...)

So my previous post got me thinking about when we found out that Swiss was going to have to deploy. I remember that very moment so clearly. We were in a government van driving out to Fort Lewis. We were in Wyoming. We had just left Devil's Tower National Park and it was raining. And his phone rang. We pulled over and Swiss answered it. I knew it was someone important. I knew it was a serious matter. And then Swiss said "I understand Sir". And I knew exactly what was happening.

But let me back up a bit. Swiss was, and still is, at a ROTC position in the Midwest. He's been there for almost 3 years, the norm for this post. He had asked for an extension since he is so close to retirement and this current post has him close to his family and his 13 year old son. I was hoping beyond all hope that he would get it. Actually, I was sure he would get it. The power of positive thinking is what I told myself.

When he said "I understand Sir" I knew he didn't get the extension. And it was like a punch to the gut. In that very moment I knew that my life as I knew it would forever change. I would have to fumble through a whole litany of emotions and experiences that were totally new to me. And I knew I would have to do it alone for the most part since no one I knew was military and we live nowhere near a base. I knew I would have to put MY most precious commodity in harm's way. I knew I would experience fear like I had never known it before. I knew I would have to be stronger than I ever had before. But all I could do was cry. The tears came and they wouldn't stop.

Swiss got off the phone and told me what happened. We knew he would go to an Infantry unit, one that was sure to deploy. It was little consolation that his rank would keep him "safer" than he was the last time he went to the Sand. I cried, quietly, staring out the windshield into the rain (that sounds so cliché, doesn't it? It's the truth, I swear!). I tried to make the tears stop but they just wouldn't. Swiss asked me why I was crying, we knew this was coming. I didn't know what to say. My chest felt tight, my voice wouldn't form the words I wanted to say. I just cried. Finally, I was able to say that I didn't know it was coming. I was avoiding it, I wasn't prepared, I thought it wouldn't happen. Swiss didn't understand why it hit me so hard. But he had been through this before, I hadn't. We talked for a bit, he began to understand where I was coming from. My tears slowed to a trickle. We pulled back on to the Highway and drove to Montana that night. There were still tears during the rest of the drive, but I tried desperately to hide them from Swiss. I knew it was already hard on him, seeing me so upset would only make it worse. I got my first lesson on taking one for the team, for being strong when it was the last thing I wanted to do. I sucked it up as best I could.

We went out to dinner and a movie in Billings that night. We pretended like everything was okay, ignoring the deployment that was now looming over us. But that night I began to look at my time with him in a completely different light. Now those tender moments together weren’t just blissful, they were a commodity that was now soon to be fleeting, something to be coveted and cherished. We then did the only thing I know to do when things get hard. We got analytical. We sat down and made a list of all the bases, all the units he could possibly get assigned to. We looked at all the pro's and con's of each base, each unit, each potential choice. Light versus armored Infantry, Bradley versus Stryker, etc... We narrowed down the choices we would prefer, were we given a choice. And somehow that made me feel better.

We drove on to Missoula the next day, like nothing had happened. When the conversations slowed, my thoughts always went to the same place, and the slow, steady tears returned. I wore my sunglasses a lot those last days of the trip, even though it was always cloudy and rainy. Nothing was different, except that I held his hand tighter, I gazed at his face, his hands, his being longer, trying to sear every last detail into my brain, I held on to hugs longer, I drank every detail of every moment in. And I started praying again. I prayed that God would bring Swiss home safe and sound, get him and everyone else through this, bring him back the same man I will send away, keep me strong through it all.

We drove on to Seattle, filled our days with sightseeing and picture taking. We had a wonderful time. Then I had to leave, I got to the airport, said my goodbyes (which I have never been good at, I am a cryer, I can't help it). I went to my gate, sat down, and suddenly had nearly 8 hours of time to think ahead of me. Thoughts ran together, raced in my head. I was scared, I was clueless about the whole process and I knew it, I was terrified of what might happen, I was maybe even a little bit angry about losing so much control over our life.

When I finally got home, I did all I could think to do, call my mom and cry. Then I went to the library and did what any self-respecting scientist would do, I researched it. I got "While They're at War" by Kristin Henderson and it was a lifesaver. I started looking online for other military spouses and thankfully found SpouseBuzz… I say thankfully because they introduced me to the term "Anticipatory Greif" and let me know I wasn't crazy. I found Butterfly Wife and LAW and realized that I wasn't in this alone. I learned as much as I could about what I would need to know… and I am still learning.


Linda said...

You found some of the best support you could. Being a member of SpouseBuzz is having a milspouse family right at your fingertips...you can come there for support, commiseration, a shoulder to cry on, a laugh when you need it most, and a place where you can reach out to help someone with the knowledge you have or are gaining. Too soon, you'll be an experience milspouse with notches cut into your belt and will be where BW and LAW are for you today.

slightly salty said...

Just found your blog through Butterfly Wife and look forward to reading more.

You are not alone in this.

When I read this post and your reaction to his deployment news, I would have reacted the same way. It doesn't matter how much you mentally prepare for a deployment or the possibility of one. When you find out that one is going to happen, it still hits you in the gut and it takes time to regroup. Even seasoned wives, or slightly seasoned, in my case, still have a hard time hearing our spouse will deploy. It doesn't get any easier, that's the truth, but you will learn more coping skills as time goes by. Hang in there - you have a virtual support group at your finger tips.