Friday, October 17, 2008

Military Spouses

This past Monday afternoon I got a sore throat. By Wednesday evening it was full-blown bronchitis and by Thursday it would have been pneumonia if my precious wife hadn't dragged me to a local clinic for diagnosis and meds. As it is, I'm still sleeping about seven out of every ten hours, so just the Friday post today, again.

But, gosh, I love my wife.



It was just another harried Wednesday afternoon trip to the commissary (that's a military grocery store). My husband was off teaching other young men how to fly. My daughters were going about their daily activities knowing I would return to them bearing, among other things, their favorite fruit snacks, frozen pizza, and all the little extras you never write down on a grocery list. My list, by the way, was in my 16-month old daughter's mouth, and I was lamenting the fact that the next four aisles of needed items would have to wait while I extracted the list from her mouth, and in the middle of all this I nearly ran over an old man.

This man clearly had no appreciation for the fact that I had only 45 minutes left to finish the grocery shopping, pick up my four-year old from tumbling class, and then get to school where my 12-year old and her carpool friends would be waiting.

I knew men didn't belong in a commissary, and this old guy was no exception. He stood in front of the soap selections staring blankly, as if he'd never had to choose a bar of soap in his life. I was ready to bark an order at him when I noticed a small tear on his face.

Instantly this grocery aisle roadblock transformed into a human. "Can I help you find something?" I asked. He hesitated, and then told me he was looking for soap.

"Any one in particular?" I queried.

"Well, I'm trying to find my wife's brand of soap."

I reached for my cell phone so he could call his wife and as I pulled it out he said, "She died a year ago, and I just want to smell her again."

Chills ran down my spine. I don't think the 22,000 pound mother-of-all-bombs could have had the same impact. As tears welled up in my eyes, my half-eaten grocery list didn't seem so important. Neither did fruit snacks or frozen pizza.

I spent the remainder of my time in the commissary that day listening to a man tell the story of how important his wife was to him; how she took care of their children while he served our country. A retired, decorated World War II pilot who flew missions to protect Americans still needed the protection of a woman who served him at home.

My life was forever changed that day. Every time my husband works too late or leaves before the crack of dawn, I try to remember the sense of importance I felt that day in the commissary.

Sometimes the monotony of laundry, housecleaning, grocery shopping, and family taxi driving leaves military wives feeling empty; the kind of emptiness that is rarely fulfilled when our husbands come home and then don't want to or can't talk about work. We need to be reminded at times of the important role we fill for our family and our country. Military wives aren't any better than other wives, but we are different.

Other spouses get married and look forward to building equity and putting down roots. Military spouses get married and know they'll spend years in temporary housing so the roots have to be short for frequent transplanting.

Other spouses say goodbye to their spouse for a business trip and know they won't see them for a week. Military spouses say goodbye to their deploying spouses and know they won't seem them for months, or a year, or even longer.

Other spouses get used to saying "hello" to friends they see all the time. Military spouses get used to saying "goodbye" to friends they've made in the past couple of years.

Other spouses worry about being late to Mom's house for Thanksgiving dinner. Military spouses worry about getting back from Japan in time for Dad's funeral.

I will say, without hesitation, that military spouses pay just as high a price for freedom as do their active duty husbands and wives.

[abridged from Mikey's Funnies]


To tie up another loose end: Those of you who wrote to say my car trouble was the alternator can now schedule guest host appearances on NPR's "Car Talk" show. It was SO my alternator. $321 later, the car runs like a top.

I see my three hours out of bed are just about up, so I'll see you on Monday.



WEB SITE of the WEEK: List member and retired police officer Lloyd D. suggests we all take a look at for all things Sherlock Holmes. All 60 short stories can be found there, as well as photographs, games, a guide to Sherlockian Societies, and much, much more. And it's all ... elementary, my dear Watson.


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WORDS for YOUR WEEKEND: "I want to hang a map of the world in my house. Then I'm going to put pins into all the locations that I've traveled to. But first, I'm going to have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won't fall down." (Mitch Hedberg)

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