So there’s this thing. The thing that I don’t talk a lot about, but is always on my mind. Such a big part of my life right now. But it is only a chapter in our story.
I don’t talk much about him. He isn’t in many of my photos.
He is there every night for dinner, but he isn’t at the table. He is on the other side of the world, getting ready for work (thankfully, he is exactly 12 hours ahead of us). But he is with us. His face on the iPhone screen fills the void at the table. He asks how our day was. He tells us about his. I show him my growing belly and we count down the days until he can feel his baby move for the first time. Avery pretends to feed him bites of her dinner, and shows him her latest boo-boo. She cries when he has to hang up and begs him to come watch her take a bath. She kisses him goodnight and tells him she loves him. It adds normalcy to our day. How families survived long separations before the days of FaceTime and Skype is beyond me.
Before this year, I thought that there was no way I would be able to do it on my own. But here we are, doing it.
When your husband is a soldier, people understand. That is the life of a military family. Deployments. Waiting. Homecomings. There are resources. Support systems. Because it is normal for them.
We are not a military family. And yet here we are. But without the understanding, the resources, and the support.
Preschool events, ballet recitals, swim lessons, neighborhood gatherings are all the same. I go alone. I know people wonder, sometimes they ask. I would rather they just ask. But when they do, they don’t know what to say. They fumble for the right words. I don’t know how you manage. I could never do it. I feel myself getting angry. Yes, you could manage. I am. You are stronger than you think. And then I say that I actually feel blessed. Because during the year that he is gone, he will get two visits home. When soldiers are deployed, they usually don’t get any visits at all. So we are lucky. That shuts them up.
We are a government family. A Foreign Service family. We are in the middle of an Unaccompanied Tour. Meaning that he is serving in a location that is not safe enough to have his family accompany him. He is sacrificing. He doesn’t get to come home to his family every night.
For a long time I didn’t know if Avery could really understand why her Daddy wasn’t with us. I could see it affecting her in so many ways. Sleep issues. Tantrums. Separation anxiety. Problems expressing emotions. It was hard to decipher what was normal 3 year old behavior and what was the effect of this Unaccompanied Tour.
When people ask where he is, she says that he is working at the Embassy, keeping the nice people safe from the bad people. She gets it. She understands. And she is proud of him.
But that doesn’t make it any easier for her. Every time she makes a wish, it is the exact same words… I wish Daddy could come home. Every penny she throws in a fountain, every ladybug that she catches, every dandelion she blows away, she wishes for her Daddy.
This is hard. But it is only a chapter. We are counting down the days until we will all be together again as a family.
This is only a chapter in our story.