By Selena Conmackie
“Babe, I’m deploying!
I was getting a facial and my phone kept ringing with my husband’s ringtone letting me know he was either: 1) really bored and didn’t care I didn’t answer the first 3 times, OR 2) something serious was up.
My skincare specialist was a military spouse so she said let me answer it as I said to her, “I’m so sorry.” When she heard him say “deploy,” her body tensed up just like mine. She knew where I was heading emotionally and stepped outside the room to let me chat privately with my husband.
“Are you joking?” I asked him.
He was heading into his retirement year and was slotted for a unit that was nowhere on the deploying radar when he checked in to report for duty.
“No, they’ve re-routed me,” he confirmed.
My mind went a zillion places. The drive back home had me in a mental state of needing to prepare him, me, us. Even when you know this is part of the gig, you always hope they aren’t moved into a deploying unit.
In my short seven years of being a military spouse, I have learned that the mission comes first. There’s no, “Can you request not to go?” “Can you tell them we are getting married?” “Can you tell them your wife doesn’t have family close by?”
But that drive home after finding out, well… I can’t tell you because I don’t remember the drive home.
Understanding That Plans Always Change
The change in his deployment status resulted in our dining room filling up with his duffle bags and every bit of camo-something that needed to be put into them. Looking at it every day until it was packed raised the anxiety that I had and the many stages of “What The Heck?!”.
We realized we wouldn’t be together this holiday season and I made a mental list of things to do so we could still celebrate. My in-laws jumped on a plane to come to visit so they could see their son before he left. We had Thanksgiving in October and pulled the Christmas tree out in the beginning of November.
My husband joked as we put up the tree that I just didn’t want to have to deal with pulling all the Christmas bins out of the garage by myself. We laughed and continued our banter and smiled at the explosion of the holiday cheer that now sat in our living room because it’s what I needed to help me cope with his leaving.
He was able to stay for Thanksgiving and we got to enjoy a lovely evening with our friends. It was the end of the night when they all wished him a safe trip that they said they’d keep an eye on his family. I remember their goodbyes caused me some pause in the loveliness of the holiday we were partaking because I understood what was coming.
I’m a grown woman. I had been a single mother and worked really hard to support myself and my daughter. I’ve been through things. I know we spouses hold down the fort like the rockstars we are. I knew these moments would be happening when I married him. But I love the crap out of this man and even if I rolled my eyes daily at something he said or did, it didn’t mean I would be high-fiving my spouse group saying, “Whew, he’s gone.”
That drive home from Thanksgiving, I remember holding his hand and just soaking it all in.
When the day he was leaving came, I found myself sitting in the waiting area of the gathering zone for the soldiers and their loved ones. I watched faces looking sad, maybe a little scared, some maybe irritated (because it was pretty late), children clinging on to their mom or dad who was getting ready to go, and last-minute laughing at whatever made them happy. I felt stable and was proud of my control of emotions. We chatted about what seat he may get on the plane and hoped (joking) his long legs wouldn’t get stuck in a fetal position.
Then he said, “It’s time. I’ll walk you out to the car so we can say goodbye there.”
We got to the car, and the control I thought I had decided to bail on me. We hugged as long as he could and I just cried into his jacket, saying all the things: “Stay safe, don’t do stupid things, stay warm, don’t get athletes foot.” Yes, you say the strangest things. “Get me a Starbucks mug.” Again, this was probably my way of trying to get out of feeling so heavy and make the moment light.
I finally got into the car. He shut the door and gave him my last trembling smile and he waved me off with his eyes just telling me, “Goddammit, I love you, woman.”
Now, the drive home.
This is the time when I’m my rawest. I’ve done this drive now three times and it still affects me the same.
The first mile driving away from him was me bawling like a kid who dropped her most favorite ice cream on the ground. I pleaded to anyone “upstairs” to keep him safe. I looked at the empty passenger seat next to me and decided I hadn’t cried enough out. Driving past his favorite restaurant where we ate earlier in the day, my tear ducts rallied for another round.
I pulled into the driveway of our home and thought, “How did other spouses do it more than I’ve had to? I don’t think I could. How has my mother-in-law done this EVERY. SINGLE. TIME since he’s been in?” Sigh. I guess it’s what we military spouses do.
This season, when you drive home and are with your loved ones this holiday season, I hope you’ll raise a cup of joe or a champagne toast with me to the troops who aren’t with their families and to the families that aren’t with their servicemember!
About Selena Conmackie
Some call Selena their Social Media Gal, Website Designer Extraordinaire Guru, Genius (their words, not hers). But she’s also a Military Spouse following her husband with her kid and dog in tow to wherever the Army sends them. So, just add Rockstar Mom and Ah-mazing Wife to her list.