Recently I sat in the airport at Minneapolis/St. Paul for three hours waiting for my connection. Luckily I had a book to read/edit to keep me occupied, and iPod ear buds to keep me from hearing the very LOUD small talk of a group of women who were clearly on their way to some kind of conference.
Immersed in work and music, at one point I happened to look up and to my left, and I witnessed a poignant scene. Standing some twenty-five feet away was a young family just ending their embrace. The woman had long, uncombed hair, wore jeans and a t-shirt and was slightly overweight. It was baby fat. In her arms was a beautiful child, who was about four months old. The woman’s eyes were red, her face pale and she did her best to push back sobs. The child, oblivious to her mother’s pain, looked at every light and shiny thing in the distance. Stepping away, backwards, was a man in military fatigues. The daddy. He hoisted a heavy duffle bag to his back, wiped his tears with the back of his hand, and mouthed the words, “I love you.” With each step he took toward his gate, their expressions became more pained.
“Goodbye,” I thought. “Come home soon. Come home safe.” I went back to my reading; however, for a few moments, I couldn’t concentrate. That child will probably be walking by the time he gets back, I thought. And then I shook my head and wondered, what’s the point of creating a family if you don’t get to be together?
To me, that scene defined the true sacrifice made by the men and women of our military.
This happened in the midst of our annual August to September family separation. Each year my husband and I have to split duty to tend to the business in Wisconsin and the kids’ schooling in Arizona. I take the first half of the month running the business alone while he gets the kids back to school, and then half way through, we switch places. Neither one of us can tell you which is the more difficult job. Going it alone on either end is just plain difficult. And it’s not so much about the actual work—we are good at what we do. The hardest part is being apart. It’s NOT why we created this family.
We have a shorter separation in May at the beginning of our business season and have been doing this back-and-forth thing for going on 14 years. It grew more complicated as the girls got older and their obligations more important. In recent years, cell phones, email, and SKYPE have helped, but each day I wake up truly missing my husband—my partner, my best friend.
I often think of families who are separated because of military obligations and understand they go for far longer periods of time apart then my two-week and five-week sessions. And I wonder how they get through it.
One more week to go. It’s a good thing time flies.