Thursday, October 16, 2008

What have we been up to?

Well, if you read Tim's blog you have probably figured out that things were a bit crazy around here.
Two weeks ago, Tim got orders to go to Afghanistan with only ten days to prepare. So we cried. A lot. Then shifted into high gear to get ready. Many of you readers are not military. So please take a minute to stop and think, if you knew your husband would be gone in ten days what would be your priority? Family time? Of course! But wait, there's no time to take off and spend at home.

Too much to be done, and only two weekends to do it, because late nights are spent at the office completing 'work' tasks to be ready to go. So there's the second half of the garden that needs to be tilled, the satellite dish that needs to mounted and tuned, the mound of stuff broken in the move waiting in the closet to go to the recycling center, additional loaner furniture (bunk beds, an extra dresser or two) we had planned to request and pick up, the budget that needed to be adjusted (for the additional expenses involved with operating a single parent family and the additional pay and benefits associated with deployment to a war zone), the appointment at the auto dealer's to have the window motor on Tim's car replaced, the family care plan needs to be tweaked since we are overseas, visits to base legal to get Powers of Attorney and Last Wills written up, phone calls to make asking new friends (whom we have known less than six months) to care for and (home)school our children in the event that I, their primary caregiver, end up in a coma, or in Japanese jail, or, more likely, a mental institution. This is a just a snap shot of the little, tangible details that we spent an entire week focused on.

Tim's unit even scheduled a pre-deployment brief which we attended with the children. We introduced ourselves and children, and explained why they were with us, and not in school. The battalion commander asked what we were learning today. Well, sir, actually... Afghanistan. [small ripple of nervous laughter shudders through the group] Later this guy actually went through the small crowd, from wife to wife asking us how we were doing. Yeah right! Do you really wanna know? Do you really want me start an uprising right here in the conference room? I think I said something like, there's never enough time to prepare emotionally for a separation, we have managed to get all the technical details sorted out, we just wished there was time for Tim to take leave. I get the impression from this guy that he doesn't really listen when you answer his question, he's the kind who is already forming a response or his next question before you even start talking.

So they briefed us on quite a few programs, old ones we are familiar with, and newer, shinier ones, designed to attend to the needs of the family while the men are deployed. Now there is even a club card, which provides generous discounts at Marine Corps Community Services facilities. Gives new credibility to the phrase 'join the club'. They really have come along way from 'if we wanted you to have a wife we would have issued you one' to really focussing on caring for families as a way to ensure readiness on the part of the Marines. It's really self-serving, if you think about it. But at least they realized it had to be done. They try, they do what they can, and they do a lot for families. But there is no substitute for having the leader of your family present and attentive.

And the emotional work that accompanies the transition from present to absent is a process which can take - depending on many factors like who you are (adult or child or infant) and how many times you have had to do it, and how long since you have had to do it (3 years for us), how far you are away from extended family - anywhere from, well, 24 hours to several months. Ten days was as short of notice as we have ever had. And of course, on top of all this there is pressure to hold it all together, and not give the impression that you won't be able to handle it. Where does this pressure come from? Hard to say... a large part of it is not wanting to worry relatives, or anyone at the unit. Nobody wants to be 'that wife'.

So there's your sneak peak into half of our last two weeks here at the Lewis' household in Japan.

The second week? That would begin with the evening after the full day I spent at Tim's base for the predeployment briefing and budget counseling session. We had spent some time visiting at Yoko's house. As I was leaving I thought I would call Tim to meet us for dinner, as he was working late anyway. When he met us at the front gate, he pulled me out of the driver's seat so he could hold me. Ugh. Last time he did this, it was exactly a week earlier and it was BAD NEWS.

They canceled the trip. It seems, he was able to appeal to the right people that the hastiness with which this trip was being thrown together felt dangerous. I'd like to leave it at that. But I will say this is one reason why I felt such pressure to 'keep it together.' I knew all week that Tim was making his voice heard, appropriately, about his reservations. I didn't want to appear as though family issues were prompting him to try to shirk his responsibilities as a Marine. Family and Unit relations can be very delicate. As I have probably already said more than I should... get your screen shot now, I may be editing this later today. moving on...

So after being unceremoniously jerked in one direction for 7 miserable days, believe it or not, the second week was just as difficult. This is very hard for me to explain. We were thrown in one direction, and never feeling 'comfortable' there, but... adjusting. Quickly and dramatically. Then, thrown in the other direction. It takes some time. Disclaimer: The following list of fun and cool stuff that comprised our second week doesn't not include all the gory details of my emotional state during stated week. I have two words for you: roller. coaster.

We had Tim's small team/shop/whatever, over with their families, for barbeque on Monday (oh and it was a 4 day holiday weekend) which was very nice as this was the day Tim would have been 'wheels up', as he likes to put it, and not with this team of guys, but another team whom he didn't know (well enough to trust, I suspect). A delivery of lovely flowers from my mom also arrived Monday. And then an extra day off work Tuesday. Tuesday night, Tim and the kids came along to my knitting group at the Starbuck's at the mall up the hill, and they went geocaching while I knitted and guzzled legal addictive stimulants with a friend. Tim's birthday was the next day, and we ate at McDonald's, sorry Tim. He was home too late that night to cook the steaks and latkes we had planned. And we tried to thaw the frozen cheesecake I bought, but it was getting later, so we abandoned that too. Maybe we'll do all that this weekend. We are planning to go to a few geocache sites, maybe a bull fight, maybe the beach, maybe bowling, maybe church... It's our 11th wedding anniversary this weekend, and 13th anniversary of the day we met. Many new friends have offered to babysit. And we have promised to return at the end of the evening, and not run away. It's an island... where would we go? Most of you readers know I love my kids, and we choose to homeschool them for lots of different reasons. But boy oh boy do I need a break sometimes.

Oh and we are counting the days until our dog arrives from the states.
So it's nearly back to normal. For now.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am so glad everything is getting better. My imagined emotions for all these events are very difficult so I am sure they are much more so in your real life. Enjoy that anniversary together and don't offer an excuse to anyone--celebrating and strengthening the reason your children are here is the best thing for them. Much love from the states--Cousin Kelley

Joelle said...

Awful and awesome all at once. So glad he'll be staying with you. And I totally understand that the second week could have been equally as hard. Enjoy the anniversary!

bashtree said...

Those paintings on Tim's blog are amazing. If we ever make it to Okinawa, we are paying him a visit :)

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, bro. Are we visiting Hawaii this January?

Love,

Butthead

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