Thursday, September 6, 2012

What we've learned on patrol

Over the course of our navy time I have learned a few things.  I have learned that the navy will do what it wants with my husband.  I have learned that my plans will change and that I can do little about it.  I have learned that my husband will be removed from me for months at a time with little to no communication between us.  I have also learned that Chad and I have an amazing marriage.  I have learned that distance, emails once a month, and not being able to hear his voice aren't enough to hurt our commitment to each other.  I have learned that through patrols we can grow as children of God and as spouses to each other.

Chad left shortly after we arrived in Washington.  We had just received our belongings from the moving company.  The whole house was in boxes and we were scrambling just to get him packed and on the boat for our first patrol.  It all happened so fast, we didn't really have time to realize what was happening.  Then Chad was gone.

For the first few weeks I unpacked the house and put it together.  It's odd, putting together a house for you and your spouse by yourself.  Where should I put his things?  Is there anything I can get rid of?  Luckily, in a couple of emails Chad was able to let me know what he wanted done with some of the items I was having a lot of trouble with.  The whole time before he left I kept joking with him that I was going to put things in crazy spots just to confuse him when he got home.  Things like coffee cups in the bathroom and linens in the kitchen.  Of course I didn't though.  It'd be too confusing for me!  Eventually the house came together.  I even got the spare room ready so that we could have company over the summer.  Then I got to start in on the yard.  Vegetables were planted in May and are just now starting to produce fruit.  Flowers and herbs were put in the back yard.  We are very fortunate to have a neighbor with a lawn mower that they are willing to loan us now and then so that we can keep up on the yard work.

I have been very fortunate to also meet a lot of good women during this patrol.  When I arrived I had several ladies make contact with me to help me with the transition.  They'd check in and see how I was doing with Chad being gone.  There are all kinds of navy wives.  Just like there are all kinds of civilian wives.  But I've been very fortunate to make friends with the navy wives who love their husbands like I love Chad.  These ladies made me feel welcome and gave me company when I missed Chad the most.  It's hard to miss your husband.  To not hear his voice, see his face, hold his hand, or kiss him for months.  When you are at home by yourself you can feel like you are the only person in the world going through this.  The only one who hurts like you do.  I would find myself sliding down that path so many times.  I thank God that he placed those women in my life, because when I was lonely and hurting I knew I could call them.  I also knew, that they felt exactly like I did.  There's something comforting in knowing that I was one of dozens of wives in this situation.  That I wasn't alone, and that there were ladies who I could talk to, who understood what I was feeling and who needed support just as badly as I did.  It also meant that I had someone to celebrate with too.  When we'd get emails, text messages would race between us so that we would all run to check our inboxes.  When a very precious phone call came in we were able to share that.  Finally, when homecoming came, we were all able to stand there together on that pier and share in each other's joy at being reunited with the men we had missed for so long.  Community is everything here.  It's how we make it through.

This was a hard patrol for Chad and I.  Not only was it our first, but it was long, and it was quiet.  For a boomer (ballistic missile submarine) patrols are generally less than 90 days.  Ours was longer.  Granted, we are very lucky that it isn't the length of carrier or fast-attack submarine deployments, which can be 6 months to a year.  But what makes ours seem so long is the communication.  All we have is email.  All we have is email when they are not on alert.  This patrol had unusually long periods of alert time.  That means that Chad would receive my emails pretty regularly, but I didn't receive his.  They went into a "holding tank" while the boat was on alert and I would only receive them when they went off of alert...which ended up being every 4 to 5 weeks.  Four weeks without a word from my husband.  How was he doing?  Did he have any questions from me?  Is there anything he would like in the mail (which happened twice)?  I didn't know.  Oh the sweet relief it was every time the emails went through.  Little things become very precious.  Here's the amazing thing to me though.  I feel like Chad and I got closer to one another in a way through all of this.  Since communication was so limited and precious, we used them to the best of our abilities.  Building each other up, praying for each other, and sharing our lives.  We still have so much to catch up on, but at least we weren't completely in that dark the whole time.

Adversity comes to everyone.  Hard times, and struggles.  It's easy to give up or to say it's too hard and that we don't have to deal with it.  But it's worth it.  I know that Chad and I have plenty of hard times ahead of us.  We have almost 4 years left in the navy, and the rest of our lives after that.  But on this patrol I learned that we can make our marriage stronger when we have hard times.  I've learned to appreciate him more when he's here.  I've also learned who my support system is and who I can rely on.  We are both stronger, better people after  it all.  That was worth fighting for.