I’ve learned something about myself as I made my way past my 20s and made peace with the middle of my 30s.
I may be older, *ahem* a little bigger, a touch wiser… I may have a slight better handle on my tongue and a stronger idea of diplomacy, but I am still who I am, and I can’t change her. I’m louder as the night goes on. I talk when I’m nervous. I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable. I rarely cry but when I do, it’s usually because *someone* left the country station on in the car.
I’ve accepted myself for me.
And what I seem to be, more and more, is tired.
I’ve been married to a soldier, the kind of soldier who lives his trade instead of just doing it, for over 15 years. We’ve seen war start and we’ve seen the country call for the ‘end’, the way politicians can call it that when people are still being shot. We’ve been posted across the country, we’ve been to funerals for friends lost in combat and friends lost to their own demons. We’ve spent Christmas’ over sketchy video calls and we’ve completely forgotten anniversaries. We’ve loved, celebrated, cried, fought, screamed until our throats were raw and fallen asleep on the kitchen floor.
This week we are rebuilding our fence. And when our older neighbor commented on Dh’s ‘youthful’ ability to pull out the fence posts himself (hey, those muscles need to be good for something other than looking hot in a t-shirt) I laughed because it’s more to do with stubbornness than youth. Which, now that I think of it, is basically how we are managing life these days. We may not be old, but the body of a 35 year old career soldier is probably in the same shape as the heart of a 35 year old career soldier’s wife.
Sore enough for a few lifetimes.
Friends, we’ve seen before that there’s no average Canadian soldier, but let me tell you. There’s no average Canadian military spouse, either.
Instead, there’s just us. And I bet I’m not the only one, because I see you, too.
I see you spend more nights awake than you care to remember. Sometimes to bring him home, sometimes to send him off. Sometimes because the news was on at the doctor’s office and you can’t remember which Afghan Province he said he’d be in that month but what if it’s that one?
Sometimes you’re awake even when he’s lying next to you, because you dreamed of the doorbell in the night. Again.
You’ve spent more birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas’ and Thanksgiving finding fun distractions for the kids than around the table with him. You’ve been dad at the Father Daughter night. You’ve held little hands at Remembrance Day ceremonies when the image of his dusty tear stained face as he carries his friend flashes on the screen during the montage of ramp ceremony photos. You’ve collected a hundred drawings and tucked them in an envelope even those times you had nowhere to send them.
You’ve gotten into fights over satellite phone call and when you’ve been lucky, over Skype. We’re basically a pro at the distance argument, aren’t we? We still remember the world before text messages and video calls, and mastered the art of the time delay conversation and the paper letters. You’ve memorized a service number and held your own against half the Brookfield agents from Alberta to Ontario. You’ve listed and sold houses, bought houses in 5 days on your own, and taken out a credit limit in his name just large enough to prove you must still love him, because he got back and you weren’t in Hawaii. You’ve even trailered and stored the motorcycle, heaven forbid it makes the list of things to get done before a last minute deployment.
You know how it’s easier to learn to make an entire ghuille suit by hand than it is to learn that when he’s looking for his rifle at 2am you just need to hand him a pillow and go back to sleep. How it’s 100% imperative not to touch the dress uniform, no matter how much easier it seems like it would be to just replace the patch yourself. How his own medals and commendations don’t seem to matter in the least to him, but he has so much pride in those of his brothers.
Maybe you’ve spent entire evenings doctoring patches so they display his unit because Lord knows he can’t go overseas without the Regiment announced on his slip on. Or tackled the 7 barrack boxes in the crawl space before staging the house and making no promises on what was spared from the donation bin, because no man needs 8 pairs of desert boots. You’ve sent no fewer than 300 care packages, give or take. Even more letters. At least one containing ultrasound photos.
While they may fly him back to Canada each time, Heaven knows you’re the one who wipes the sand from his face and patiently leads him home.
When you’ve been posted too far away from his Brothers and the call has come, I bet you’ve been the one to sit at the pub and leave the beer and the name on the bar when it’s time to say goodbye. Or planned the 7 hour road trips to the funeral when you know you can’t be what he needs, but they can. You’ve stood when he couldn’t at the funerals for the brothers he has lost while his boots were still on the ground a world away. You’re the sober driver from the Legion and the little hand inside his big one at the cenotaph when you leave your poppy.
You get the privilege of standing beside him with pride at ceremonies and galas, at homecomings and goodbyes. The opportunity to see far more of our country than most and have made friends who can be found from one coast to the other. You’ve given up the job you finally managed to find when the posting message came. You know exactly how much space all your worldly belongings take up in the back of a truck.
And friends, you’re tired.
Tired of the news hinting and guessing and theorizing which country will be the next to claim his time. They say ‘better the devil you know’ but I swear we never finish with the first before we find the next.
Tired of explaining that being a combat soldier isn’t what he does but who he is and that’s why it’s okay that after 4 deployments you would stand at the door and send him again tomorrow and that doesn’t make you uncaring or him less loving.
Tired of the routine of goodbye.
Tired of the power struggle of each hello.
Tired of starting over.
And maybe you snapped at that one young spouse when she complained about the week long exercise. And you shouldn’t, because you can remember being her though it seems forever ago. It’s just that you’re so tired of putting time into relationships where the friendship ends when the marriage fails and it seems like you’ve been to more than your share of weddings that have lasted longer than the marriage lately. So you’re jaded and you never meant to be. I see that.
It could be that as the kids get older the moves and the absences get harder to explain. It could be that you’re putting more pressure than you should on pretending all the things that used to be hard aren’t anymore. And they are. They so are. You’re just better at keeping it together.
And you’re not done. He’s not walking away from this life yet and neither are you. You’ve got this. We believe you.
But please, don’t think that it means that you have to soldier on 100% of the time as though it doesn’t suck sometimes.
It still sucks sometimes and I see you.
Hang in there, friends.
We’ve got this.