The Military Wife

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I haven’t just fallen off my extraordinary woman of the day wagon, I fell off into a mud pit and the wagon ran me over. Extraordinary woman of the day…at this point it should be call extraordinary woman of the month. Since March I have fallen 27 days behind and I have been thinking of a way to save face and play catch-up. Is it possible to think of 27 extraordinary women to combine in one post!?!

Does the Pope wear a funny hat? …Course.

Today’s extraordinary woman of the day is, The Military Wife. I am blessed to know many more than 27 of these fine ladies successfully catching me up on the blog. Today’s blog is dedicated to military wives all over, especially the ones I have the privilege to call friends.

I remember the morning of his first deployment. He was running around the house collecting his things, checking everything over to be sure he had what he needed. As he moved from room to room I followed him around like a lost puppy, tears teetering on the edge of my lids ready to pour out. I wanted to say and do the right things, not knowing what the right things were. I was so overwhelmed with the situation that I just became numb. When he was finally ready to leave we stood in the doorway for our “goodbye” moment. Hollywood makes this moment precious; the music begins to softly play while they hold each other and say Hallmark-worthy one liners with the camera at just the right angle. The wife in these movies looks flawless, crying with one perfect tear rolling down her cheek…Oh Spielberg.

My “goodbye” moment was a bit different. I stood in the doorway in front of him with a raging bed head and an old t-shirt. As I hugged him my mind went where we all fear it will go – “I am going to miss him so much. How am I going to do everything alone? (And of course), Could this be my last hug and kiss from him, ever?” Then, like a floodgate temporarily opening, the tears that had been teetering on the edge of courage and dismay came pouring down, soaking my face, turning my eyes puffy and my nose red. In an effort to not get snot on his uniform I worked to gain composure and relax my tears. We laughed at the awkwardness of the situation, exchanged ‘I love you’s’ and he walked out the door. That was it. Life went on.

It is always interesting to me when people who aren’t married to the military say things like, “I couldn’t do it”, or “I’d go crazy if I didn’t see my husband for a year at a time.” We weren’t born with super powers or any less of a need to see our husbands every day. We deal with the cards that have been laid out to us. We take the good, being married to the man we love, with the bad, his absence and the worry we have for his safe return. We cry, we eat, we pray, we laugh, we go on. Lemons to lemonade I suppose…

The extraordinary women for today are the military wives who have taken the little moldy lemons they’ve been given and made sweet lemon pastries topped off with little dobs of crème fraiche for gigglies. While I sit and complain to anyone who will listen they find strength in being strong for others. They look the Army straight in the eye and create positivity and contentment amidst upset and angst. They have their moments of anger, frustration, impatience and sadness, but they don’t let it consume them. They have found a way around resentment and bitterness and found peace and solace in their own silent ranks. I suppose we’ve all been this wife at one time for one another.

I have been blessed with a mixed bag of extraordinary wives in my life. Not all of them have the same strengths or turn lemons into sweet pastries the same way, but, they all have found their own gifts
and applied them in the best way they know how. Some of them are great listeners who always offer an ear when I need to vent, not to pass judgment, just to listen. Others are always present with solid advice, able to see the situation in a way I may not. Some of them have been willing to roll up their sleeves and spend 48 hours helping me pack up my stuff for a last minute move, or help to repaint my entire house in a weekend. When my husband’s gone they have helped to make things special for my kids, attending their graduations and events or coming to their birthday parties with a generous gift. And maybe most importantly, most of them have a really good recipe they bring to my house when a good bitching session with munchies is needed. They are the shoulders I rely on.

We’ve all been alone on holiday’s, birthdays and anniversaries. We’ve said goodbye to our husbands for huge chunks of time wondering if the months will ever pass; we’ve been to memorials and funerals and cried until we’ve run out of tears. We’ve seen women have babies with their husband’s thousands of miles away, or been with friends when they receive serious news about their own husband. We all understand the worry, the stress and of course, the loneliness; it’s a mutual understanding.

Beyond my own circle my job gives me the unique opportunity to read through hundreds of award nominations for infantry wives all over the world who have been extraordinary under difficult circumstances. I’ve read about women who are left alone to care for their children with special needs for 12-15 months at a time, far away from family and loved ones. I’ve read about women who have moved homes every 24 months for decades leaving friends and memories behind starting anew, over and over again. I have read about women who go through 5 deployments not for the happy ending of retirement and a second honeymoon, but to care for their husband as they slowly die after long years of the middle eastern sun breathing cancer into their skin. Their stories are a source of courage for me and a constant reminder of the overwhelming strength of women.

Military wives are a special group. They experience life, love, family, and marriage in a way that is totally different from their civilian counterparts. From huge acts of sacrifice to small acts of kindness these women have helped one another get through. Not everyone is friends, not everyone gets along, but if you’re lucky enough to surround yourself with a few wives who have a good recipe for lemons you’ll be okay. Because as a military wife, beyond the loneliness, frustration, and fear there is a life full of extraordinary women and experiences to enjoy.

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