Facebook told me that yesterday was Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Who knew?! Obviously some people on Facebook. While I would have loved to use this as another gift-receiving occasion, I was a little late to the party to drop the requisite six months worth of hints to my dear husband. Which is fine, because for the most part I feel appreciated as a spouse and I rarely think of myself as a military spouse. But this occasion also happened to coincide with something that had me thinking about being a military spouse. Sean was asked to do an interview for his grad school alumni publication recently. He sent me the background paper he wrote for them, in which he discusses how his grad school education and experiences influenced his last deployment, to proofread and edit. I read it and was amazed and proud of everything he and those he worked with were able to accomplish. I am proud of Sean period. But after telling him that via email (the army has put us in another geographic time-out), I kept thinking: So what did I do for a year?
What did I do for a year while Sean was deployed doing important work? Did I organize the house? Nope, it looks pretty much the same. Did I become an integral part of the community? Well....I know two of my neighbors and all of Sweet Girl's therapists. That about does it, so I'm going with a 'no' on that one too. Did I do anything tangible that would warrant an alumni publication to want an interview? Uh, no again. Well, that's a little depressing. Did I waste an entire year?
Eventually I came up with an answer: No. My year won't show up in any publication (with the excepion of this wee blog) but it wasn't wasted. What I did was every.other.thing Sean was unable to do. Please understand I'm not trying to "win" some sort of important-job-off. This isn't a competition. Comparing what Sean does to what I do is akin to comparing apples and antelopes. There are no winners or losers in this post. This is just a way for me to salute everyone else doing every.other.thing for whatever reason they find themselves doing it and a reminder of what I did do: that I won't get a parade out of it, but it's still important. That the everyday normal duties of life are important and necessary, and they are not always easy.
While Sean was gone, I paid bills. I washed, folded, and put away every load of laundry. I washed every dish. I made every meal. I bought groceries, hauled them inside, and put them away. I fixed everything that broke. What I couldn't fix, I called the property manager or my dad about. I made appointments. I filled out every necessary form. I made sure the car was serviced. I pumped every gallon of gas. I took the trash out. I mowed the lawn, or I waited for a lawn guy to show up and mow the lawn. I checked the mail. I kept the house reasonably clean at best. I marched forward with time while holding the past close. Sean was busy at work and so I did every other thing for our family.
I was a mother. I was a father. I was a chauffeur. I switched car seats. I carried our kids. And when he couldn't walk, I carried our dog. I made countless doctor's and specialists appointments. I took our kids to those appointments. I desperately tried to make those appointments OK for our kids. (Still working on that one.) I wiped hands, faces, noses, and butts; sometimes in that exact order. I hugged our kids. I cleaned up bodily fluids. I cared for sick kids. I held them tight. I gave them my love and more for the love their dad couldn't be here to give. I read books to our children. I gave them every bath. I put them to bed every night. I got frustrated. I yelled. Then guiltily, I cried because I yelled. I apologized. I was their one person. I was both the drop-off and the pick-up. Some days, I broke. Some days, I kicked ass. I told Sweet Girl and Little Man that I loved them, Daddy loved them, and he's at work but wants to be here. Daddy was gone, so I did every other thing he couldn't do.
I checked my email obsessively. I waited for phone calls. I watched national news with one eye open. I put my heart back together despite missing pieces every time I read the national news I only half-watched. I developed a fear of government vehicles. I lost sleep. I held my breath for weeks at a time. I prayed a lot. I cried more than I like to admit. I cussed way more than I should. I looked at pictures. I slept in his tee-shirts. I tried to make new memories for our family while marking time so he wouldn't miss too much. I thanked God that my family wasn't far away. I got mad at God that I had to thank Him for that. I apologized to God for my temper. I refused to look at the calendar. I kept a countdown. I daydreamed about holidays together while celebrating holidays apart. I wrote blog posts to keep Sean informed. I didn't write half of what I wanted. I stood in line at the post office. I stole extras of the long form from the post office. I checked my email obsessively. I waited for phone calls. My husband wasn't here to talk to, so I did every other thing that needed to be done.
That's what I did for a year.
Here's to the men and women fighting abroad. Here's to the men and women fighting at home. And here's to the men and women doing every.other.thing.