For those who follow along here, you may have noticed a theme.
Dh has never had a ‘home’ job.
Some military member do. Many have trades or positions that don’t require all that many absences. Some who do will have postings for a few years that aren’t deployable to give them a little break. Dh has never had that. Even when he was posted away from his Regiment it was still to a high readiness unit. And he deployed from it frequently, both on missions as well as training exercises. It makes for some impressive Land Duty Allowance, but it’s also made for some years where he was just a passing presence in the home.
As a result, whether it’s a year with a 6+ month deployment or a year littered with 5 week exercises and 3 month courses, as a family we are pretty adapted to him not being around. There are fewer tears and a few more laughs when he leaves each time. You’d think it was all routine and I’d barely notice.
You’d think, but that’s not how this works.
I AM used to the stuff. A 17 year career in the combat arms means an accumulation of green that is staggering. 2 pairs of desert boots per deployment makes for quite the collection. There are a good half dozen barrack boxes and depending when you catch him there’s a chance the pool table is a draying rack for layers of sleeping bags and liners. There are ranger blankets everywhere. The cot and the rucksack and the dufflebags big enough that I can fit inside.
And that’s just the big items, those are usually tucked away in the garage or at his locker at work. What I notice more are all the little things. The epaulets for every rank so far, in case he might have need one day for a MCpl slip on. Buttons and cuff links and patches from other units. Flag stickers and patches. The 5000 extra pin backings for his medal racks because you don’t know when you might lose one. A minimum of 10 000 brown or green t-shirts, many with his blood type crudely scribbled on with black sharpie as though that’s a normal thing people do, write their blood type on their clothing.
And dog tags.
Dh never wears them unless he’s overseas, he keeps them in a pocket of his combats. When he’s on a combat deployment he has a pair in his boots, too which doesn’t escape me as terrifying but I try not to think about it. But he has a few pair and this weekend when he came home for a 5 day stretch in the middle of an exercise I washed his things and had to dig a pair out from the inside workings of the dryer.
And I fumed because… seriously? Can you not empty your pockets?
So I scooped them up and absently left them on the half wall in the kitchen. And Dh came in with a buddy of his and picked them up and said “why are my dogtags lying around?” and I said “BECAUSE I JUST HAD TO DIG THEM OUT OF THE DRYER YOU DOUCHECANOE” because I’m the best wife and he said “oh, so you finally did my laundry,” because he’s the best husband and I told him to get outside and finish the friggin’ fence like he said he would and his friend laughed awkwardly before we smiled and Dh kissed me and they both went to go build the fence and basically, that’s how our marriage works most days.
Yesterday, he headed back out to the field for another couple weeks, which is not very long to be honest but when he gets home I’ll be gone to Ontario for a week. And even though it’s been 4 overseas deployments and countless month and months of exercises, taskings and courses, I still miss him when he’s not home, whether it’s one night or 200 nights.
The stuff, though, it can make me crazy. Why do we need so many triangle bandages? Can he not take the TCCC pouch with him? How many months will that high readiness bag be sitting in the bedroom, exactly?
And all that money we have spent on gear, air mattresses and chest rigs and rifle slings and boots and heaters and the rank patches that have his Regiment because Heaven forbid it just say Canada, and the write in the rain notepads that go in those FMPs he bought… as though there isn’t enough issued stuff lying around we had to start a private collection as well.
Whenever he leaves as I tidy the house I will come across all the little things he’s left around. All those patches and pins, straps and epaulets and pouches and grey socks and unidentifiable things that I have no clue what they are for but I have to keep them somewhere because who knows if they’re important
Slowly, I start putting them away as I come across them. Bit by bit, I’ll see fewer and fewer things of his lying around. Depending on how long he’s gone, eventually I’ll get to the point where you can’t really see him in the house anymore. Uniforms are gone. Nothing thrown on the couch says RECCE Squadron. There are no DEU rank pins on the computer table or zippered notebooks on the kitchen counter or fan out lists on the bedside table.
There aren’t any dogtags to be fished out of the dryer.
It will feel neater. Less cluttered.
For a while.
Until it feels empty, instead.
And I find myself back in his dresser drawer grabbing that extra set of tags that I put away weeks or months ago, and I move them back to the basket on the kitchen island.
Because the funny thing about being a military spouse is that you only want that all gear gone until it is.