Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sometimes, It Is Different

Today, I had a fabulous (and long overdue) conversation with my other mother. (I loathe the term "step-mother" and all the negative connotations it conjures.)

We spoke of the upcoming trip home our family was making this summer, and she asked if we would still make the (very) long drive if Big E was deployed. I was taken aback by the question, now being fully acclimated to military life. I'd forgotten that in the civilian world our plans were dependent on work schedules. Those were the days.

Now, we make plans and just hope that Big E can be there. The military is full of so many surprise work hours, trainings, and deployments that if you stubbornly attempt to plan around them, your life will remain on hold indefinitely.

People ask me what it's like, being married to a soldier--especially when we made the transition to the military after being married for 13 years. Civilians have these perceptions of how our day-to-day lives are like, a conglomerate of movies, films, books, newscasts all tangled in their imaginations. And the truth is, in many ways our lives often are very similar to anyone else's.

But sometimes, it is different. Very, very different.

I remember a phone call with a family member who was struggling because her husband had been gone for nearly two weeks to help his brother with a remodel. She had reached her limit of being a single mother to their then two young children. At the time of this conversation, Big E had been gone for over two months and the only communication we had with him was a seven minute phone call on Sundays. And sometimes, we didn't even get that. On top of taking care of our six children by myself, I was also doing part-time childcare in my home.

Sometimes, it is different.

I'm not super human. I don't have some hidden reservoir of strength that non-military wives lack. I miss my husband when he is gone. I have rough days and wish I had another parent to take over when it gets to be too much. I get cranky at times when the military interferes with our plans.

What sets us military spouses apart is not a special courage, but that we already made our choice and after signing on the dotted line, there is no turning back. Big E enlisted with my support, and I knew there were sacrifices ahead for us. The choice was made. We gave our lives over in service to our nation. And now, I either make it work or wallow in self-pity. I choose the former.

It's the same answer I give when asked how in the world I handle having such a large family.

It seemed apropos that when I was perusing some of my old poems tonight, I came across this piece I had written a couple years ago (and had completely forgotten!) about what it meant to be a military wife. The words still ring true:

The Proud Wife

She understands that she has only part of his heart.
She watches while other women complain
that their husbands work too much.
that their priorities are askew,
And their marriages suffer.
But she knows that his loyalty to his job
doesn't replace his loyalty to her.
When duty calls him away from her
She never thinks to ask him to choose.
She knows that as deeply as he loves her,
He loves his duty as well.
She cries sometimes when he is gone,
but she understands.

She understands that he gives her as much as he can.
She watches while other women complain
that their husbands don't do enough,
that they don't bring flowers,
but instead merely watch television every night.
But she knows what a precious gift it is
to have him home each evening.
She understands how he can woo her
from halfway across the world,
Sometimes with little more than
a piece of paper and a pen.
She knows that while he is her life,
she can still find happiness alone.
She talks to his empty side of the bed sometimes,
but she understands.

Maybe she didn't enlist, it's true.
Maybe she didn't choose to fall in love
with a man whose heart is sworn to millions.
Maybe it would have been easier
for her to settle with an ordinary guy.
But if anyone asks,
If anyone cares to know...
She'd rather have this life with him,
She'd rather have the sacrifice,
because she understands.

~Randi Anderson


  1. You are still are still a great writer. Great poem. Smiles Danette

  2. The way you described things, is how I think to some extent, I could have considered a life like yours.

    Excuse me if this is going to sound like a telling you how to suck eggs comment, but it isn't meant to be :-)

    Firstly, the partner has to accept the difficulties involved and accept the risks.

    Secondly, the partner is not walking into it thinking, how hard can this be whilst suddenly living in a stargazey world, of just how wonderful and heroic their spouse has become by signing up to military duty.

    Thirdly, the person is committing to hard emotional challenges and a life of uncertainty and consistency in routine and daily schedule.

    You have undoubtedly given a lot and your sacrifices shouldn't necessarily be seen as lesser than your husbands, because to look after many children, six currently as well as yourself is a powerful and heroic achievement, especially when you see your children expressing in photos, ability, intelligence and genuine happiness, I mean you can't fake smiles like that can you.

    You're an amazing, amazing Lady Randi and you humble me in how you have helped to raise six creditworthy children, in circumstances that are obviously at times, difficult, trying and demanding, even for people with regular 9-5 workaday partners and I hope that in time the fruits of labours bear you the just rewards.

    I know that in time, you will find an even greater way, to be a Mother to the seven people in your life who are in your life every day, your six children and you as well, because I know your work will never be done until time calls and end to it and your body will always and should always be a life long work to improve, maintain and protect, how it lives, functions, sustains and exists and I know you are capable of doing these things.

    I have been proud to have known you in my own way for so long now and seen and known how someone so beautiful on the inside, has been through many things and come through to be here now with a strong marriage and superb children.

    GOOD LUCK continuing to be who you have become, because your life is different in many ways to most peoples, but you're no different inside to many, in terms of how you think, feel and respond to your own environment and the people, things and world around you, because you're human too and no matter how often you smile or hurt and feel confused, you're you and it's nothing to ever feel bad about, but it's been a long journey and at times very rewarding and you're someone who can be so, so proud of that journey and how you have evolved and I'm proud of people like you who can continue to recognise thier own worth and in your case, help to develop and maintain children and a marriage of considerable worth.

    Keep smiling, chin up, and no worries okay. Your family are very lucky and just like most of us in this world, for every piece of dissappointment or down time, there are many moments of enjoyment and good times and you have been there providing so much and I'm sure you'll do it in the future, with the same dilgence, care and human emotion you always do.

    WELL DONE on all you have done in your life so far, that has resulted in many positives, not least your married life and children and if you believe anything, then you can believe that you will never be second best and always capable of being a Mother, wife, friend and human being, as much as you are capable of being and you don't need to change to please anyone but yourself, because you're you and where I'm sitting, it would be very hard to try and be anyone better, without potentially becoming less than you already are.

    I hope this year brings many things and for as long as you wish it, it will bring my support and friendship. You've always accepted me for who I am and never judged me for how I think about and view the world and never misjudged me as something I'm not, so THANK YOU and keep on being you, because it's the best thing you could ever be in this world Randi.

    Take care and best wishes.

    :-) :-).