Deployments are hard. I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you. Suddenly, no matter how long you have prepared for it, you are both Mom and Dad, husband, and wife. His chores become your chores, not as a replacement, but as an add-on to things you already do. If you work outside the home, you are now working two full-time jobs, often with no relief in sight. Deployments made me appreciate how much the Good Chaplain did around the house and for our family.
And, remember, once your spouse leaves, everything that can go wrong, will. Often in the first few weeks. Mrs. Staff Sergeant is experiencing that right now. Staff Sergeant deployed a few weeks ago. But because of COVID-19, he is secluded in the states for two weeks. Of course, the deployment doesn’t start until boots hit the ground in-country. Also, he might be quarantined for another two weeks once he arrives at the deployed site. He could quickly be gone an extra month or two. Uffdah!
In the few weeks, since Staff Sergeant left, one cat is pregnant. The other cat got bit by something and got an infected paw. Mrs. Staff Sergeant came down with COVID-19 symptoms and is confined at home with Tony B. and Gaby Baby. She tested negative twice, so we don’t know what’s going on with her. And, oh, by the way, a tropical storm hit her area — tornado warnings included. I don’t think she is having fun yet.
She also hasn’t been able to establish a routine, which is essential to survive the long months of single parenthood. When the girls were younger, to take their minds off Daddy leaving, Mrs. Staff Sergeant, Illinois Girl, and I had a “chick flick” night the first Friday into the deployment. We would put on our pajamas and curl up for a good movie and sleepover in the living room. Since they were young, the film was probably something Disney, not quite a chick flick. But it gave them something to look forward to when Dad left. Most of the time, we quickly set up a routine and carried on with our lives. Side note: the Good Chaplain was gone so much during the first three years, the girls called him “the guest.”
We’ve gone through eight deployments and numerous temporary duty assignments in our 31 years of service. My worst was at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, when he left right after Thanksgiving for four months. We’d never parted during the holidays before. We were thousands of miles from home, and it was dark and cold. If I didn’t have the girls to take care of, I don’t think I would have gotten out of bed for four months. I was a basket case, and this wasn’t even our first deployment. I don’t know what was wrong with me.
The bright side of that deployment was we got to talk on the phone every day for 15 minutes. That was new. In the past, we could talk for a spotty 15 minutes once a week. I split the 15 minutes with the girls most days. But Friday nights were date night when I got to talk to him the whole time. Even the operator commented on it being date night.
My favorite deployment was our most prolonged separation. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? The Good Chaplain deployed to Eastern Africa for seven months. Not only was the mission exciting, but he got to see all sorts of great things. This deployment was the first time I was alone. Both girls married the year before and lived in other places.
What made that deployment so good is I was free to do what I wanted when I wanted. I had only myself to look after. I thought I might be lonely, but I maintained my volunteering and social activities, so I was plenty busy. But when I decided to visit Illinois Girl, I could. I drove the 13 hours a couple of times. When my mother got sick while I was in Illinois, I drove the three hours to her house and stayed for a week. I had nothing else pressing to do at home. If I wanted to go to the movies, I could go and see what I wanted to see without taking someone else’s schedule or opinion into mind.
Sure I missed the Good Chaplain, but by then, Skype existed, and he had a single room, so we talked frequently and emailed all the time. One Saturday, when he was particularly bored, he Skyped me three times. I finally told him I loved him, but I had other things I needed to do than spend the whole day in front of the computer talking to him.
So, while deployments are hard and take an adjustment, they are manageable if you keep yourself busy and make some fun memories with the kids.
Until next time,