It’s late. Very late. I just tip toed up the stairs and took the extra covers off my youngest. She always over does it with the blankets and pajamas. If she gets too warm, she has night terrors and will sleep walk. I then peeked in on my soon to be 14-year-old. He is the opposite and kicks every cover off. He looked huge sprawled across his queen size bed, making it look like a child’s toddler bed. At 6ft tall, he looks down at me, but all I can do is smile up at him. They both are sound asleep. A deep, uninterruptible peaceful sleep.
The house is still. Our three dogs which usually don’t leave my side, are already tucked in. Yes, tucked in. My Chocolate Lab, Seanna, and my Chocolate Cocker, Emma, sleep on an extra large dog pillow at the foot of my bed. Every night I tell them to, “lay down” and I cover them up with a fleece blanket that they happily share. Maxim, my 4 1/2 pound Yorkie sleeps next to me…under the covers and against my left leg. He’s already in the bed, probably on my pillow, waiting for me to move him from his throne.
My husband is home and asleep as well. So, why am I not with him? Because… emails. This sounds silly to most, I know. But, most of the emails I receive are not about the latest spam sale ad or from family. They are from complete strangers, yet I feel like I know them. Like I am them. Once a week, I stay up late and read my emails. These are the emails that I read the first few lines and know I should stop. Not because I don’t want to read them, but because I will want to write them back in that very moment. If I did that every time I got an email like that, I’d always be writing and my family wouldn’t have a wife or mother. So, I give myself time to read them and respond. Every time I do this, I tell myself that I won’t stay up too late, but I can’t rush through the stories.
Many just want to share their life with me. I put myself out there and they feel a connection. I love that. I love when I get an email about nothing. It’s just a story line of how they became a military wife, where they lived, who they are and a comment or two about my writing. This makes me smile.
Some want to share how something I wrote touched them. Maybe they thought they were alone in how they felt or they were inspired to do something differently because of something I said. This makes my day.
Then, there are the emails that keep me up at night. These are the ones that touch me. The ones that haunt me. These women have opened up their soul to me. They are reaching out to me. I can tell they are crying while they write. . .
Stories of loss, heartache, and stress fill my head. They know I’m not a therapist. Most, don’t even ask for advice. They just want to share with someone who has been there. They read something that I wrote and instantly connect with it. They want to connect more. . .
Their words move me. They change me.
“I am overwhelmed with emotions now, the fear of everything that could happen… if it’s so bad now… how much worse will it be when he’s gone? Does every wife have this bundle of anxiety and fear and longing right before deployment?”
“He’s gone and the thought of never hearing his voice again is more than I can bear. . .”
“Our daughter was born with (severe complications). They wouldn’t let me tell him…When he finally arrived, I fell into his arms and my Mother had to tell him, because I wasn’t strong enough to speak. . .”
“I’m alone and I’m scared. . ”
“What if he doesn’t come home?. . .”
“I cried for days. . .”
“I stood there and watched him walk away, not knowing when I would see him again. . .”
“I held her hand and told her it was going to be alright, but I didn’t know that it would be. I was terrified.”
“The phone rang and he was gone. . .”
“A woman asked what my husband did and when I told her he was deployed she said, “Well, he’ll be home soon, They are all being brought home now!” It took all I had not to cry.”
“I gave birth to our first and third child without him. . “
” I thought I could do this, but I can’t.”
“How do I stop crying?”
“The news…I can’t stop watching the news…”
“The protestors outside the gate brought my children to tears…”
“You make it look easy. I want it to be easy. Is it really easy for you or are you just making it look easy? I’d love to at least make it look easy…”
“I know I need to be strong, but where do I find that kind of strength?”
“I was standing in the kitchen, mad because I didn’t have enough milk, when “they” knocked at the door. . .”
“I just miss him. . .”
“Does it get easier?”
“When does it get easier?”
“How can I get him to miss me?”
“It became real when he handed me an envelope and told me it was, “Just in case.””
“I miss him…”
The words swirl through my head. There are many times I cry. I’d like to think they share the weight with me. That they feel better in writing me and let me carry it for a while. I want to believe that my responses matter. There are so many emails. There are so many woman sitting in front of computers writing. . .reaching out. . .just looking for a connection.
I can’t walk away from it. My heart is heavy with their emotions. I will wake up tomorrow with a sore neck, a headache, and emotionally exhausted. But, I will wake up next to my husband. He will kiss my forehead before leaving at O’Dark thirty and I will smile. The heaviness I feel will go away. My day will go on and my biggest concern will be what we are having for dinner, that the kids are arguing or that I forgot to turn the sprinkler on.
I won’t be “that wife” today. I won’t be watching the news. I won’t hit refresh on my email 50 times. I won’t be anxious because I haven’t heard from him in weeks. I won’t force the fake smile when a family member or friend says, “I understand.” And, I won’t be climbing into an empty bed.
I don’t have to be that wife today, so I happily carry something for you.
Feel free to write me. It does take me at least a week, if not 2-3 to get back to everyone, but I do. And if at any time you have written me and haven’t heard back (especially if it’s been over a month) please, resend it.
On this note, I would like to thank everyone who writes me. My heart is never far from where you are. You are my inspiration to keep writing and the emotion behind my words. I’ll be that wife…soon enough. And with that will come my own stories that I will candidly share. It’s not all happiness and shore duty. I know, because I remember. But, Deployments are like Child Birth. We all know it’s bad…it’s painful and God knows there are moments when we question why, how and if we will make it through….but we do. Life goes on. We remember it was bad, but details fade with time, only so we are strong enough to do it again.
My details are fuzzy. Shore Duty for me is like holding the new baby. It all feels worth it in this moment. Does that mean returning to Sea Duty will be like going through the terrible 2’s??? Oh Lord. . . .please let that just be a funny thought and nothing more. I guess only time will tell. Right now, I’m resting and regaining my strength to do it all over again. I must be crazy.
To all the spouses,
Stand tall and carry on. You’ve got this.