As my husband gets ready for his second deployment, barely a year after his first, I am trying to find a way to not let the knowledge that he's leaving overshadow the time we have left. It's not an easy balance to strike.
Sometimes knowing that DH will be deploying in just a few months is a gift. The calendar I have on the wall marking the days until his departure serves as a constant reminder to let go of the little things that might have caused fights under normal circumstances. It's also a constant reminder to say ," I love you" more often than usual. I appreciate every night we get to spend watching a movie, or eating dinner together in the comfortable silence that comes with marriage, or debating the sins of the military and the efficacy of military policy while watching DVDs or TV shows about politics, religion, or the military. When I wake up and he's still sleeping I look over at him and thank the powers that be that we found each other and that he's here with me. Little things are no longer insignificant.
But sometimes, on holidays or birthdays or other important days, it's a curse. It's so hard to not let the joy of the day be overshadowed by the knowledge that next year he won't be here and the fear that accompanies sending someone you love into a dangerous situation where the risk of grave injury or death is fairly high. People who are trying to be comforting and failing miserably say things like," Well he could get killed in a car crash on the way to work tomorrow, so him going into combat isn't really a big deal." Really? Not a big deal? Send your husband into combat, more than once, and tell me that.
But my worries and fears aren't so much for him as they are for me. My husband was born to be a medic. He is damn good at his job. The guys he serves with are too. They will watch out for each other and protect each other. I have every confidence that he will do his job to the best of his ability, and people's lives will be saved because of it. I have always known that my time with him is borrowed, because it's his job and his life mission to help people who are injured, save lives that are ripped apart in an instant by a gunshot or IED blast, and make sure that all of the brave soldiers he serves with come home. He will be brilliant, because he always is. He will help the local Afghans by healing their wounds and providing medical care. He will take care of the soldiers he serves with everyday. He will make a tangible effort to make the world better every day, and he will love every minute of it. Even when things are bad, even when he can't save everyone, even when he himself is hurt and exhausted and ill he will relish every moment in the field because it's who he is. Military spouses know going in that loving a soldier means loving someone who has a higher purpose to fulfill and that we will have to take a back seat to their call to service. But that doesn't make it any easier.
My sorrow and uneasiness and worry are for me, because I know what's coming. The ache of celebrating holidays, birthdays, our anniversary alone. Waking up without him every day. Spending long days and nights afraid to even plug the cell phone in more than an arm's length away so I can instantly reach it when it rings. Feeling the knot in my stomach tighten when it doesn't ring, or feeling like I'm going to throw up when it rings and I recognize the number and know that a red message is going out that means someone's husband isn't coming home, or is coming home hurt. And I know other spouses struggle with the same thing, and the unacknowledged partners of gay and lesbian soldiers who suffer in even more silence than legal spouses. But even knowing that I'm not the only one experiencing the delicate but constant anticipation of the pain to come, like knowing that a band aid is about to be ripped off your life or like a bone is going to be broken to be reset, doesn't lessen the dread of what's coming.
The knowledge that he is leaving, and that time is ticking, is like a needle pricking through little moments everyday that I feel much more keenly on holidays, like today. Last Valentine's Day he was deployed. Next one he will be deployed. So the pressure to make this one count, to make everyday count, is intense. It was a great Valentine's Day. He made me my favorite breakfast and coffee and served them to me in bed with one of my favorite magazines and my iPhone so i could read the news online. There was a rose, and a card that I will re-read a thousand times while he is away when I'm feeling lonely or insecure or just desperate for some type of contact with him. But I can still feel the needle in the back of my mind and hear the clock ticking and I can't help trying to remember all the details of this day as sharply as possible because next Valentine's Day it will be all that I have.