By Bianca Strzalkowski
I laid next to him that night begging not to wake up the next day. I knew once morning hit our windows the rush to the good-bye would have to happen.
Tears streamed down my face to the pillow, crying so hard that it physically hurt. I didn’t want to do this. Thoughts rushed through my mind, picturing everything from what it was going to feel like to have that empty spot in the bed to imagining the worst… what if he doesn’t come home?
My husband has served in the Marines for over 14 years now; I have been on this ride of his military career since the beginning and yet I still do not know “what I was getting into.” That seems to be the going phrase from people who expect “us” to have some sort of robotic response to being separated from our loved ones.
In September 1998, when I first said good-bye as he embarked for boot camp, I did NOT know terrorists would barrel American planes into our buildings, I did NOT know multiple wars would be the response, I did NOT know the pain I would see through my children’s eyes as they each handled separation differently. Nor did I know that even though my military ID card displays the title of “spouse” my heart would not be equipped for time apart. I don’t know if any program or network of support can prepare you at year 1 or year 10 of what you will feel when they are gone.
Today, he is an ocean away. I can’t see him or hold him or touch him until his mission is complete. Some days on my way home from getting the kids I gasp the air as I turn into my subdivision and whisper, “please don’t let that car be in front of my house.” Every moment a car goes by my house late at night, initiating my dogs to bark, I beg it isn’t someone coming to knock on my door.
It probably isn’t the best way to handle a deployment, but I am human. I don’t want sympathy because I know that man loves his job to the very root of his soul. But, I do want to be honest. I don’t care if I appear weak or fragile or a poor role model for how to showcase strength as a so-called seasoned spouse. In fact, I don’t want to ever be good at this. I don’t want the day to come where this becomes easy.
It is natural to want the person you vowed the entire rest of your life to, to be home. Simply put, just because I married a military man does not provide me with immunity for sometimes wanting normalcy. I won’t apologize for my fears or my truths. Rather I will feed off the forte of those surrounding me who seem to hold it together effortlessly.
I watch you from afar and am thankful for the moments that I see a glimmer of you in me. For those of you paddling the boat of deployment, allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel. Maybe you “got this” on the first try and maybe you didn’t. There is no cookie cutter mold for how to be when you miss someone, so just be… who you are, unfiltered. Unconditionally, we will be here for you until you are ready to stand on your own.