So, I called my husband the other day.
“Hi Hon, so what’s up?” I asked.
Now, before I go any further with this story, I need to set the scene:
My husband, bless his heart, has been at Naval Station Mayport on the sunny Atlantic shores of northFlorida, for almost three months. He went ahead of the rest of our family to start his new job there, and to live in the oceanfront base hotel, with daily maid service.
I, on the other hand, stayed in our stairwell apartment on Patch Barracks in chilly Germany with the kids so they could finish school. Our seemingly fool-proof plan included me arranging and managing our household goods move, the shipment of our dog “Dinghy,” meaningful travel with the kids at spring break, inspection and shipment of our minivan, checking out of military quarters, arranging hotel and airport shuttle, and other tasks associated with moving a family across the world.
As a military spouse, I am used to handling things while my husband is away, so I thought this little three-month separation would not be much different from the rest.
I was wrong.
When I made that fateful phone call to my husband, I had endured a grueling week of shocking school progress reports, driving around base for two hours in search of my teenage son who had failed to turn in his final Biology project, a malfunctioning oven and resulting visit from the grumpy German Fire Department, a broken dryer and resulting shameless display of underclothes hanging on radiators and windowsills, and lots and lots of overwhelming move details. I was out of patience, energy and dignity.
“Well, I rented a movie last night,” my husband responded, “it was no good, but I got another great pizza from Sal’s.”
“Oh, that sounds nice,” I offered weakly, wondering if the kids would be OK eating cereal again for dinner.
“Today, Dinghy and I needed a little change of scenery from our daily beach walks,” he continued, “so we hopped in the car and went to the Riverwalk area for a nice long run and lunch at an outdoor café.”
I had fallen silent, but my husband didn’t notice.
“The folks at the café were so nice and gave Dinghy three bowls of water to drink since it has been so hot and sunny here.”
I stared out my window at the dark clouds that hadn’t lifted in days.
“And after that we headed back here to the homestead for a quick swim and to watch some boob tube. . . .So what’s been going on there?”
I began, slowly at first, to relate the details of my agonizingly stressful week. My rant picked up speed, leading to some crucial information about our move I needed to go over with him.
“Ooo, hey Hon, can I call you back in like five minutes?” he said.
“Uh, sure,” I agreed, believing the delay to be due to some minor urgent matter relating to our dog. Our 110 pound labradoodle was prone to gulping water and then spontaneously vomiting it all back up on a whim. I wondered if that was the problem.
Five minutes later, I answered on the first ring.
“Hey, so what happened? Is Dinghy OK?” I asked.
“Oh, heck yea, he’s fine. I just had to run down to the beach real quick. Right before you called I had come up from the beach to grab another beer. I left my beach chair and book down near the water, and wanted to go grab it before the tide started coming in.”
That was all it took. The floodgates opened and a veritable tsunami sprang from my tear ducts. Within 10 seconds, I was a wailing, blubbering, snotty mess.
Stunned, my husband had nothing much to say, offering only, “Hang in there, Hon, you’re doing a great job.”
My husband and I learned a dual lesson that day. I learned that long-term military separations are so much easier for the spouse to handle when the service person is somewhere icky like on an aircraft carrier floating out in the Pacific, or living in a tent in some God-forsaken dusty hot climate, or at least behind a big metal desk working day and night to support the family.
My husband learned that, next time his wife asks him, “What’s up?” he should definitely respond, “Oh, not much, what’s up with you?”