Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Deployment Vacation

My latest Blue Star Families post....


I looked around my house. Bags packed. Kids anxious. Boarding passes printed. The scene looked entirely too familiar. But this time, it wasn’t preparation for my husband’s departure. It was preparation for mine. I was going on vacation.

Vacations are never easy to organize when you’re married to the military. Last year I altered our travel plans three times to accommodate my husband’s work schedule, until finally I had to book the plane reservations without him so I could squeeze the trip in before my son started school. But this year was different. Because of my husband’s deployment, I had a wide open calendar. I could hop on a plane whenever I wanted. I had all the time in the world to book the cheapest flights instead of forking over our life savings to fly at the last minute. This was one instance when my husband’s career caused no restrictions.

So I packed up the kids and headed out to visit my parents, as well as my brother and his family who were able to coordinate their schedules with mine. I had a week to reunite, relax, and regroup. We hit the beach, we shared stories, and we filled our digital cameras with memories. But for me, it was more than an annual vacation. It was a vacation from deployment.

Everything in my house reminds me of my husband. Even when I host family and friends who graciously offer some reprieve from the frenzy of life on the home front, I still have to look at my husband’s untouched clothes in the closet and his aftershave in the bathroom (that, yes, I do sniff from time to time). But lodging with my parents was an escape. I was in a different bed, a different house, a different state. There were no reminders of my husband. There were no reminders of deployment. I was able to evade reality for just a little while, to pretend that life was normal.

Of course I thought about my husband, but the thoughts didn’t consume me. And as I lounged by my parents’ pool, reading a book and listening to my father strum his guitar while the kids quietly played, my life as a military spouse was the farthest thing from my mind. During that week, not once did I remove my military id from my wallet. Not once did I flash my power of attorney. Not once did I recite my husband’s social security number. And although I still missed my husband and wished he could have been there with me, I had enough distractions to forget about my typical preoccupation with his absence.

But reality slapped me in the face the second I pulled into my driveway and saw his car. As I unpacked my luggage, I was confronted by those untouched clothes in the closet and the aftershave in the bathroom. My vacation was over, and all of those reminders of the deployment could no longer be escaped. On top of that, I felt overwhelming guilt. How could I have indulged myself with a furlough when my husband wasn’t allowed the same luxury?

It took me a couple of days to recover from my post-vacation readjustment. But the longer I was back at home, the more I realized I deserved a break. I’m proud to be a military spouse, but it was nice to take that hat off for a cleaning. And as much as I enjoyed the vacation, I also realized that I missed my life. I missed my own bed, I missed my own routine, and yes, I missed those reminders of my husband. I spent the vacation seeking a sense of normalcy, but being a military spouse is my normal. It may not be what other people consider normal, but it’s the only normal I know.

I’m now back in my groove at home, resuming my duties as a military spouse. I’m once again brandishing my military id and sniffing aftershave. And I no longer feel guilty for going on a family vacation without the most important member of my family because I know that the next time I book plane tickets, that very important person will be sitting in the seat next to me.

 
 

7 comments:

  1. This is so true. Once you've gotten this whole life down, it is our normal. It is the only normal we understand - so it's hard to go ahead and change that up without guilt, worry and other silly emotions we shouldn't be feeling. I am sure your husband (as I know Al would) would support any personal time you take, especially to see family and recharge the batteries.

    I will say when you said, "saw his car..." I thought you were going to say he came home while you were on your vacation. How devastating would that have been!? Ha ha. Now that I think about that more, I realize that isn't really possible since they notify you and such, but still.

    Thanks for sharing this story, I really like your Blue Star articles. How did you get to write for them?

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  2. Another amazing post. I love your writing style. I sniff the aftershave too and sometimes spray one of his t-shirts or his pillow with his cologne. Those little things we do...It's hard. Thanks for sharing this.

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  3. I agree! I'm going on vacation in exactly a week and while I'm so excited for it, I'm also a little sad because my husband isn't going with me.

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  4. Wonderfully well written post - as always! I think you would in years to come have felt far more guilty about NOT going on vacation and giving both yourself and your children some much needed down time, having fun with grandparents, aunts and uncles etc. and your husband would I am sure hate to think you ever felt guilty about leaving the everyday and military life behind you for a short while. We all need a break from the things we do and the people we spend the most time around now and again - it has taken me over three years to finally stop feeling guilty about taking a break from my daughter.

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  5. Beautifully written! As much as I feel like I don't like "the everyday drudgery" of being a MilSpouse...being on a 19 day hiatus of what was "normal" for us totally made me miss it! You get into your routine and it brings a sense of joy, even if you don't always sense it! I loved reading this today, you are so talented as a writer. I always feel so encouraged and uplifted from your posts! Have a great rest of your week!!

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  6. Vacation for a deployment is very key. It's such a hit and miss for me. I love the getaway from my "reality"...but I also find myself feeling guilty aswell. I can't stop thinking of my hubs and I hate that he is always missing out so much of what we do. BUT...I'm always glad that I go home to visit my parents. The helping hands are so great, being able to sleep in for an extra few minutes while my parents deal with the kids is also nice. But like you've said PERFECTLY...once you pull into your drive way and see the car sitting there, and then look around at all HIS things...reality smacks you right back in the face:(

    Again...your writing is amazing! Love all of it!!!

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  7. I love all your posts! But... you know that :)

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