I survived, but only barely. Two weeks ago Mike left for leadership training in Alabama for his job. It was a long two weeks which made me count my blessings (1. Mike, 2. Mike and 3. Mike, etc.). I survived mostly by feeding the children cold cereal and letting them do whatever they wanted. My goal was to keep them loving me after having to spend 24/7 together. I was trying to reverse the syndrome of Absent Parentitis- a disease wherein kids love the parent who is gone and despise the parent who does all the mean, cruel things like make them go to quiet time and brush their teeth. I think the Disney On Ice bought me some love and then the nights I was so tired and said, "Sure. Eat chocolate for dinner. Whatever you want. Just leave me alone," bought me some good love. And those ponies I bought them at the thrift store, that was a good Parentitis-fighting move.
Mostly I survived by spending as little time at home as possible. I went to my mom's. I went to Mike's mom's. I ate with friends. My sisters visited. As long as I didn't have to face dinner alone, I wasn't too lonely. It was hard to sleep alone. But I knew it would end. I knew Mike was coming home in just a short two weeks.
Really, in the scheme of things two weeks isn't unbearable. My thoughts were often with the wives of men who leave often. I can't imagine being a military wife. Millions of women sacrifice so much. They say it's the men that are sacrificing to go and fight the wars. Yes, that's a sacrifice. And their women are sacrificing so much as well.
I asked Mike half jokingly, since he was a civilian at a military training, if they were trying to recruit him: "Are you sure this isn't some elaborate and expensive scheme to get you to join?"
Mike gave up a dream of flying for the Air Force when we were dating (or maybe it was before, he just cemented it as we got serious). I still remember asking him on our second date what he wanted to be. We were driving in his parent's van up to a mountain for a hike. He had just told me he liked my glasses and somehow we were talking about what we wanted to do when we grew up.
He said that he wanted to fly F-16s for the Airforce, but he didn't think that was a very family-friendly occupation, so he was still trying to decide. Maybe, he said, he would do something with engineering.
Before I was even close to marriage, my view of raising children was, "Hey, I didn't sign up for this alone." I am decidedly anti long business trips and other long absences. His answer fit in with my vision of what a family should be like. But part of me mourns the loss of a dream. And I know I'm partially to blame for that dream-killing.
I know if I said to Mike, "Hey, I want to dedicate my life to becoming a world class 800 meter runner," or some other crazy scheme, he would support me and do whatever it took to help me achieve that goal.
Sometimes, after a visit to Mike's childhood room draped with model airplanes and clearly labeled pictures of every airplane under the sun, or after Mike says something about always loving the sound of jets taking off on the runway, I tentatively shake out the old-linen dream of him wanting to fly; "Are you sure that's not what you want to do?"
And he always smiles and wraps me up in his arms, and says, "No. I like my job. I like how it is with us." And I quietly fold the dream back up and place it in the drawer next to mine, taking care to not let the moths get it, or the dust become too streaky.