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.