If my deployed husband, Matt, were to head home right now, it would take days for him to get here. There is no denying just how vast the miles are between us. But that physical distance is not what keeps me up most nights.
There is an emotional distance playing a very significant role in our deployment journey. Of the many deployment dos and don'ts I've heard, one that stuck with me was to not divulge all of the mishaps and pitiful details of my bad day to my overseas husband. Military spouses need to be mindful of the mission at hand. We need to do our best let our loved one focus on their mission — not on the problems at home.
I know Matt worries about us. I know he thinks about what's going on at home, and that's OK. That's to be expected. But I can't have him spending significant amounts of time dealing with our problems. Granted, he reads these articles — Hi, honey! — and I do share quite a bit in this space. I can't spare him all of the drama, or we wouldn't have anything to talk about. But I don't tell him every gory detail. I try to keep our conversations positive.
"How was your day?," he'll ask.
I'm thinking, Do you want the "loving and supportive military wife" answer or the real answer?
Sometimes I give the real answer: "There is no heat. We have no heat. I'm freaking out. WHAT DO I DO?"
Sometimes I lie: "Today was fine! Another day down!"
Matt and I are very close. We can tell each other anything and everything — and do most days during "regular" life. But in the most trying time of our lives, we're keeping our lips sealed. I'm withholding everything I can to spare him worry, and he is doing the same. The most difficult moments of our days go unspoken.
When we are able to video chat, our conversations are usually light. Either the kids are in the room with me or there are people around him. There is little time or space for intimate talks. But I can tell when he has had a bad day. I can feel it in the words of a quick email and I can see it in his eyes. I hate that he can't talk with me about it. I know he can see the same on my end, too. Even though he often asks, "What's really going on?," I try my best to just shake it off and smile.
I look forward to the day when the physical distance between us averages only a few miles. I hope and pray that my heart can sustain the emotional distance I feel growing as the days go by. But at the same time, I feel the distance is actually bringing us closer. As we long for the freedom to speak openly with each other once again, we're reminded that what we have together is special.
I'm afraid, dear husband, that upon your return, I just might talk your ear right off.
Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries of a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.
This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.