Army 101 / Deployment / Histrionics

Patience is a virtue

I’m home from my impromptu trip to Fort Campbell, which, if you haven’t guessed yet, means that Jonathan has officially deployed. A month earlier than he was supposed to.

I can’t pretend I was hugely surprised when he called last week to inform me that I had to cram a month’s worth of freaking out into roughly five days. Since freaking out at those levels would likely cause several of my internal organs to fail, I decided instead to eat my weight in Twizzlers, which is a coping mechanism that was totally warranted. (Not warranted, however, were the SEVEN TIMES that Band Perry song about dying a young, untimely death came on during my 13-hour drive home, WHICH IS A GREAT SONG, BUT IS REALLY DIFFICULT TO SING ALONG TO WHEN YOU’RE CRYING LIKE AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD WATCHING “MARLEY AND ME” FOR THE FIRST TIME, WHICH, OKAY, I’VE NEVER ACTUALLY SEEN, BUT I KNOW HOW IT ENDS AND I TOTALLY WOULD HAVE CRIED A LOT IF I’D WATCHED IT WHEN I WAS EIGHT, BASED ON MY REACTION TO WHEN SHADOW GETS STUCK IN THAT MUDDY DITCH IN “HOMEWARD BOUND,” SO YOU GET WHAT I’M SAYING.)

The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make for a life with Jonathan has been learning to listen to country music. The second biggest adjustment has been bending to the mercy of the army’s often unpredictable schedule.

When Jonathan was on R&R during his first tour, he told me he had 13 full days of leave—this meant we had 13 full days to test a real relationship for the first time, and watching the days count down as they passed was my first small taste of what it was like to be with a soldier. On the 10th day, he informed me that his 13 days had suddenly been cut to only 11. For those of you who also aren’t good at math, skip to the part where I spent that whole last 11th day crying.

In addition to the crying, the first few times this happened I responded with a lot of huffing and puffing, and with they can’t just CHANGE shit like that with no notice; tell me who I can call to have this fixed immediately. When Jonathan stopped laughing at me, he told me that patience is a virtue. Which is a really annoying thing for someone to say to you when you’re pissed off. Since then, Jonathan has been sensitivity-training me to the phrase; after a year or so I stopping hanging up on him when he repeated it.

“Patience is a virtue” has become somewhat of a meditative mantra that Jonathan spouts off to me when these unexpected schedule changes occur. And they do occur. More often than they don’t. Which, apparently, is totally normal.

For the Fourth of July two summers ago, Jonathan had planned on flying up to Arlington to see me. He bought his plane tickets, and, like I always do, I started planning all the different places we could go to eat pizza (pizza is in my top five favorite foods, but it’s not in the top five healthiest; I use Jonathan coming to town as my excuse to indulge).

The day before his flight, he called to tell me his pass to leave Fort Campbell hadn’t gone through.

By the time that Fourth of July rolled around, I’d been through this brand of disappointment enough to avoid bursting into tears the second I realized I’d be spending another holiday alone (I waited until a few hours later when one of my roommates got home, but I had a bunch of cave crickets to smash so I would have been crying anyway). I silently added “always having someone you love close by” to my list of reasons army guys get married when they’re 18.

That Fourth of July I learned two important things: 1. If you have to cancel a flight because of orders, you can have the army fax those orders to the airline, and then all of your problems are magically solved by customer service people who thank you for your service to this country repeatedly for a half hour; and 2. Despite the fact that it is constantly trying to GET IN THE WAY OF OUR LOVE, Fort Campbell is pretty good at the Fourth of July.

Third important lesson learned on my Fourth of July trip to Fort Campbell: Never ride the Scrambler with somebody who weighs twice as much as you and doesn’t care that you bruise easily.

Jonathan’s second deployment was inevitable, so the blow of its suddenness is somewhat softer than I expected it to be. He mentioned being proud of how elegantly I was handling the quickened transition, which I’m convinced I was able to accomplish by forcing my body to digest all that candy, and being therefore too consumed with the sugar shock to bother with all the emotions until it was over and I was safely in a car with satellite radio for a whole day. I’m a really patriotic ad campaign for Twizzlers and Sirius right now.

I’m still a little sleep-deprived, but I’m back at work and trying to remember how it felt a few years ago when Jonathan deployed for the first time. When the reality of war was more a figment than a reality to me, and when the only part of it all that I could truly understand was the part about why he always asked me to send him baby wipes, and that part alone was upsetting enough.

Send more Twizzlers.

Notable progress in my army education: I now sort of understand the difference between ACUs and MultiCam. THERE ARE SO MANY KINDS OF ARMY PANTS.

Notice how my right eye is feeling okay about the deployment, but my left eye still has reservations.

0 thoughts on “Patience is a virtue

  1. This is a great post, Aileen, and really showcases the reality of being the one “left behind”, as it were, to those of us who have no idea what it’s like to be with someone in the armed forces. (Albeit, in your hilarious and cleverly wordsmithed way!)

    I do give you a lot of credit for having the emotional wherewithal to get through this — I really don’t think I would be able to handle it. Also, Twizzlers solve a lot, it’s true, but I know they only soften the blow of being apart right now.

    Anytime you want a Gretchen-related distraction, just let me know! My Hunger Games bluray arrives in a couple of days… just saying. 😉

    • Although in very different ways, I know we both have LOTS OF EMOTIONS this week, so I know you understand the turmoil. (Twizzlers probably wouldn’t work as well for your situation, though, so I might be better off!) I smell a Hunger Games party in our future.

    • I drove Jonathan’s car back up to Maryland. It’s much nicer than my car. Not because it’s American. Just because it’s more expensive than my car.

  2. Pingback: The fastest way to a man’s heart is not through quinoa | Army Pants and Flip Flops

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