They say that the first and last three months of a year-long deployment are the hardest to get through. That seems to be ringing true for me. We’re a little over half way through my husband Patrick’s year-long tour in Iraq and looking back at those first few months I realized that it really was hard.
Certainly there is the initial shock of not having your husband there day after day. You learn quickly to save errands and play dates for the weekends to fill up that space where everyone else’s family is home and busy but yours is incomplete and idle. You have to find a way to pass those long, lonely weekends at first when you are surprised at just how much of your time was taken up by doing things with your husband.
Weekends you can adjust for, but dinner and bedtime, you just have to get used to. In the beginning, I always felt like my two-year-old daughter, Emma, and I were just marking time as we sat down to unimaginative dinners (Patrick is the cook in the family). We would sit quietly at the table; me thumbing through my Newsweek or a catalog, and Emma playing with her food.
For me, the challenge of finding a way to fill up our days ended with the birth of our second daughter in October. Patrick could have probably come home for her birth, but we decided that we would have to wait too long to see each other again if he came home in October. So he came home at about the halfway mark instead and met his 3 month-old daughter, Sarah, for the first time this January.
And now he has just left to finish up the second half of his tour. And here I am, not exactly at square one, but close. It’s amazing how quickly he melded into our new routine. Coming home after dropping him off at the airport, seeing his shoes by the door, his water glass on the nightstand, his still damp towel on its rack, I felt the shock all over again. I took his towel off its rack knowing that it will remain empty for the next five months, put that glass in the dishwasher, his shoes back in the closet, and thus erased the evidence that he was ever here for two wonderful weeks. And it’s hard.
– Lisa S., IWPR member