The term "military dependent" is no longer used in polite military society, replaced not so long ago by the far more PC "family member." After a conversation the other night with some other wives from our unit, I think the time has come for military spouses to take the next step and start calling ourselves "military independents."
Sitting around a kitchen table, we talked, laughed and vented. I barely knew either woman, but if you had listened in on our conversation, you would have thought we had known each other for years. Inevitably, the conversation drifted toward the topic of deployments.
It was quite clear we were all well past the point of complaining about it and were all firmly in the "whatever" phase. While it can be a good place for me to be, I wonder if I'm forgetting what it's like for other spouses who have never gone through a deployment. Have I become one of those crusty old Army wives with nothing else to offer but a terse "Suck it up" when someone asks for advice? I hope not.
Over the course of the evening, I realized that dealing with a deployment does have an upside. You definitely find out what you are made of. No, there are no medals on the home front. Nor should there be. But, I'm a much stronger, more confident person as a result of dealing with years of deployments.
Why? I've learned to take care of things myself. If there is a problem or issue, I've got to handle it. What's the other option? Wait for my husband to come home? Car blows a tire? No husband to call. I've got to get it fixed. Bathtub won't drain? I'm the one up to my elbows in soapy water using two barbecue skewers like chopsticks to fish out the mangled remains of a bath poof. Lawn looks like a jungle? I'm the one starting the mower. Fine, I'll admit I finally hired a guy to mow the lawn. Not because it's a big yard, but because it has a high degree of technical difficulty due to the cliff in the front yard. But before Mr. Smith entered my life, I was the lawn service.
It's not just the little things. I've been taking care of the finances for years. We tried once, about six years ago, to have my husband take care of the bills. The experiment lasted about two months. He wasn't reliable. I'm not blaming him; he wasn't around enough to do it. Most of my military friends are in similar situations. I joke that I'm not sure my husband even knows where we do our banking.
I don't think twice about sticking the kids and the dog in the car and driving 14 hours to visit family. Yes, that was me, flying by myself, seven months pregnant and with a toddler on a trans-Atlantic flight. And yes Mr. Business Traveler, I saw the fear in your eyes as I approached my seat. Don't worry about it; I wouldn't have wanted to sit next to me, either. Meanwhile, the last time my husband got on a plane, he had his noise canceling headphones and a fully loaded Kindle. Granted he had to sit in a cargo net for 10 hours, but he didn't have to entertain anyone but himself.
One of the highlights of our last deployment was when my mother relayed a conversation she had with my grandmother. Nana is 88 and not one to mince words. She told my mother that I was tougher than she thought I was going to be.
Coming from Nana, I knew this was a huge compliment. It was my version of a medal.
She's right. I'm tougher than I thought I was, too. But, I'll admit I'm looking forward to the day when I don't have to do it all by myself.