Photo: Boys walking with Dad to load bags on Deployment Day.
I think of the entire deployment cycle like some kind of crazy monster roller-coaster. The feeling I get when my Soldier brings home the 'official' deployment orders? Just like how I feel when the amusement park attendant snaps me into my roller-coaster seat ... the moment I realize There's no getting off this ride until the end. It always takes my breath away and causes a mild (sometimes-not-so-mild) form of panic to bubble up in me.
Then the ride starts (slowly, painfully) tic-tic-ticking upwards to the top of the first hill. It's agonizing, really, knowing that it's about to kick-off in full-force and there is absolutely NOTHING you can do about it. No amount of screaming, sobbing, pleading, persuading, or bargaining can make it stop. The top of the first hill comes closer and closer and just when you think you cannot stand the suspense, the waiting, the dreading of what's to come for one more second ... WHOOSH!!! You're off down the first hump in the ride.
All of the sudden, it's D-Day ... DEPLOYMENT DAY! It can't be here so soon, I think. I'm not ready! I was ready and we were ready and the kids were ready ... and it was all said and done, but now, no, not now! What have we forgotten? What did I forget? What is left undone? Unsaid? What if it's really important? What if I need to do or to say or ... what if? What if? What. If. What if?
Whereas yesterday I was firm in my "For the love of all that's holy, please get on a plane and go. Just go! Please! So we can get this show on the road!?!" belief, it's all changed now. It's here! And now I am in a full-blown panic ... mind-numbing, tear-jerking, sanity-tossing panic ... and doing my very best to hide it all behind my "Of course it will be okay, honey" mommy-smile. It's purely exhausting. And it's day one.
Then there are the extreme ups and downs of the deployment; just like every good crazy-monster roller-coaster, there are the unexpected twists and turns and flips and whirls that simply defy logic. This would never happen while he was home! How many times have I uttered these words? It's a seriously warped version of "Murphy's Law" that applies only to military spouses whose loved one is deployed half-a-world away.
I immediately envision one of many examples ... myself and two neighbors in my front yard, clad in our PJs and slippers, trying to stop the geyser of icy water gushing from my (now busted) water pipes early one morning. The water spout was hitting a good 10 feet in height when not thwarted by our pots, pans, and pitchers in our feeble attempt to control it. Who knew pipes froze in Texas in early winter? And who knew where the cut-off valve was located (the ONE thing we hadn't reviewed before deployment!!)? And what are the symptoms of hypothermia, I wonder, as we're drenched and freezing outside?
And, of course, this happens just days after our loving Soldiers left the country. This would never happen while he was home!
So I survive the craziness of the 6 months ... 12 months ... 15 months ... tell me, why is it that the last month of any deployment, especially, is so topsy-turvy crazy? On one hand, it seems that it takes FOREVER ... time slows to a crawl, the kids get impatient, and I feel itchy in my own skin. I can practically hear the clock grinding from one second to the next ... I can see the never-ending list of things to do looming before me like Mount Everest ... I will never, ever, never see the end of this deployment. This is my life. Forever.
On the other hand, it can also seem like a fast-forward roller-coaster ride that comes screeching around the last corner with no time to even catch my breath. My world is zooming by in some blurry version of reality and I cannot keep a single thought solid and still in my head. Everything is in some Hollywood-super-warp-speed that passes me by in a single blink. It's dizzying and crazy and all a part of the process.
Then it's over. The ride is over. The amusement park attendant unlocks the bars holding me in my seat and I can get off the ride. My legs are shaky ... I'm a little disoriented, but happy to be at the end. Was it fun? Was it terrifying? There were elements of both, I think. Why do people do this? Why would I ever do this again?
I shake my head as I walk away from this crazy ride, vowing to never let it get to me again. I. Am. An. Army. Spouse. This is what I do. I can do this. With my Soldier home, it so much easier to talk big and be brave. I can do anything! Hear me roar and all that. So when he comes home with a new set of orders, I know that feeling. We're strapped in, ready for the ride ... well, ready or not.