There’s a lot going on in that word. And it’s happening more and more, between downsizing and years in service, we all now know people that have recently retired, are getting ready to retire, or are looking at retirement.
It’s a big change. And at times a very scary one. There’s a lot of unknowns when you make any major life change, and that brings emotions that don’t always make sense.
Tricia talks the unknowns, and the changes they are facing as her husband approaches his retirement. Let’s talk about the three Rs that shape our lives.
Just a little over a year ago we were preparing for redeployment and reintegration.
I was ready for it but anxious about it. I still get those nervous flutters when he comes back and massive amounts of anxiety that inevitably mean that I forgot to clean the carpets or some nonsense.
This wasn’t our first rodeo, far from it, it was our last and we knew it.
It was a long nine month deployment.
Don’t get me wrong, it is always long but when you have children especially teenage and adult children, it is ten times worse. If I were to tally it all up, I probably could have strangled someone at least once a day. I dealt with constant drama and lost count of all the fights that graced our home. I was just like every other spouse during a deployment.
The day of redeployment finally arrived after many delays and layovers in Germany.
The man I love was back in our arms.
For the first time ever, we were given the green light to make signs for his welcome home and proudly display them along with everyone else. We made really cute posters for each of us to carry and we hung decorations around the house. It was so nice to be able to show him how much we love and missed him. He is a low-key guy and never wanted the attention that he deserves. We finally got to bring him home at zero dark thirty and life was good, for a little while at least.
Within a few weeks, the honeymoon phase was over and we were sharing a house with a stranger.
You forget that part.
You forget how it feels to share a bathroom, have boots and ACUs lying around the room, you forget the snoring.
Suddenly you have a stranger in your house who can’t remember where any of the dishes go or how to work the washing machine without turning everything pink or shrinking sweaters.
You forget that part.
Luckily this was something that we have become used to after all these years.
I won’t lie, there were plenty of arguments but most were just a minor venting session. Most of the time, we were laughing at each other and with each other in a matter of minutes.
This year of reintegration has been hard with many moments of anger on both sides and depression and a few moments of second-guessing if this marriage was going to make it. Only a few had me asking myself if I could keep doing this. Only a few times, did I think maybe we have grown too far in opposite directions. In those moments, I would look back to the moment 24 years ago, when we vowed to never give up and always keep fighting for this marriage and then those moments of doubt would quiet for the moment.
This past year was hard and life wasn’t done throwing us curve-balls. Damn life!
Just as we were settling into our groove and adjusting to each other, I spent some time in the hospital and within a week of getting home, my mother-in-law was hospitalized with lung cancer and given a couple of days to live. With a kiss and a hug, I sent DH off to Georgia with our youngest child and became completely dependent on two teenage girls. Bless them, they were fantastic but I deserved to have my husband there to help me walk again, didn’t I? After all these years at his side and raising his children and dealing with illnesses, attitudes, deployments, and everything in between, didn’t I deserve to have him there to care for me?
I remind myself that it was his mother and I would hope that my boys would do the same for me one day and it was important that he be by her side. However there was this tiny part of me that was jealous of that attention. I have always had to be HOOAH strong and I just needed that couple of weeks to try and process everything and heal. Thankfully and miraculously she pulled through and continues to get stronger every day.
That summer was the summer of recovery and finding our strength, finding my strength.
Seven months into the reintegration, we were together and life was good. DH moved to a new job and finally the stress that was going to kill him was gone. His job had changed to more administrative and operational duties and I could see him relax enough to think about the future and finishing his degree. I was going back to school to work on my degree as well since life had thrown us another curve-ball.
Reduction in Forces meant people lose jobs and suddenly I was a stay-at-home mom again. It was strange and fun and for a person that has a love of learning, I was right in my happy place and just as we were getting into a groove and figuring out schedules, life threw us another curve-ball, I was called back to work.
Again, there we were trying to figure it all out. DH started his final class for his degree and I went back to work and all was right with the world, right? Sure. Kids were happy, daddy was home, mommy had a job and was healthy and all was right with the world. So why did it feel like something was just not right? Why did something feel off?
Just as we approached the one year mark of his redeployment, the frustration level was rising.
This was normally the time that he is ramping up for a move or training or another deployment.
This was normally when he is in his zone, doing what he does best after 26 years in the Army.
This was different; we weren’t moving anywhere so the kids could finish high school. He wasn’t deploying anywhere with this new job and I think he felt old and useless for the first time.
Suddenly a new “R” word was in our vocabulary: Retirement.
Wait! We aren’t ready for retirement, are we? It really seems like just yesterday that I became an Army wife.
I look back and wonder where 24 years went.
Too many years spent apart and missing milestones in our family and then it hits me, those were years that he missed and milestones that he missed.
He was done missing life with his family and honestly I am done missing that time with him too. So now a new chapter has started in our lives and together we are beginning to muddle through it. He has begun his various tasks to prepare for retirement and of course we still argue about stupid things but arguments are a part of communication, at least in this house. Together we are walking this new path.
Our next milestone will be the actual request for retirement getting turned in and then he will concentrate on his own personal challenge: the Masters Degree and mastering golf, not sure which will come first.
This next year and a half can be looked at as a journey, whether it will be riddled with landmines or a smooth path I don’t know. I do know that my little family will be making the journey together and that will be the adventure.
Yes, more curveballs are coming, but I am prepared to duck, catch, and occasionally swing for the fences.