I had something all typed up and almost ready to post, and then changed my mind and decided to do some reminiscing instead.
One of my favorite guys deployed last weekend. Mike, someone who has been in my life since my Broadway Kids days, is off to Afghanistan. He's been a dear friend for nearly as long as I can remember. He was my first love, my "boyfriend" in 8th grade. The first guy I held hands with. The one I was too shy to kiss. The guy that gave me the teddy bears I still have sitting in my room at my parents' house. Someone that I've stayed close with through the years. I went to visit him my first year away from home, when I was going to school in Idaho. I remember a big fight Kyle and I had on New Year's Eve, the first year we lived together. Mike was the one who talked me through it. When I drove up to the airport to pick up Kyle when he got back in town, Mike was on the phone with me. Last February when I was going through a rough time, I picked up and drove out to Oceanside. Mike was the one I stayed with. The one who re-instilled my faith in men. I saw him when I was in Oceanside again in July. And I'm a huge asshole and stood him up for his birthday when I was in SD in December.
Anyway. He means the world to me. His little brother calls me "sis." I call his mom "Mom." And now he's gone to the sandbox. It isn't a big deal to me in the "omg we talk so often and now we can't and I miss him terribly" sense, because we don't. We've chatted maybe once or twice since my trip out there in December. Maybe. But the facebook posts from his girlfriend and his mom these last few days, coupled with the photos, threw me back to August 2009.
I found myself messaging Whitney, Mike's girlfriend. She's having a hard time (duh.) so I offered an ear when she needs one, and sent her a link to MSOS - the forum I spent way too much time on from the day Kyle was recalled until... well, I still do. Less than ten minutes later, I had a response. She doesn't know what to say. How to work through her emotions. How to make this easier on the both of them.
So I talked about our deployment. How she shouldn't bother hiding her emotions from him to make things "easier" for him, because he's going to figure it out anyway. So if she has a bad day, let him know. I found myself back in the old apartment - in the tub with a glass of wine in one hand, my notebook propped up on my knees, and a pen in my right, bawling my eyes out and writing Kyle a letter. I was back at Wells Fargo when I was working nights - walking out of the computer room, taking a left at the end of the hallway to go home, wiping away tears because I missed him so much. I was lying in bed on the phone with him at 3AM. I was in the kitchen making no-bake cookies to send out in a care package. I was at Costco trying not to buy everything there to send to him. I was driving home - in the car just south of the 60 on Mill, when he called. One of the first calls of the deployment. I was so upset about something, and he was apologizing. I was back in the Computer Commons, sitting in my BME200 class - totally ignoring the professor, talking to Kyle on GChat because it's one of the few times we were online together. I was back in Alaska, sitting on the couch of some place I was house-sitting, talking to Jenn about how I didn't want to lose him. I was down at the pool when my phone rang with an 808-number. I answered, but apparently the call didn't go through properly on his end. I could hear him on the satellite phone asking someone he must have been standing next to how long it was supposed to take to connect, or if it was working, because he couldn't hear anything. Sobbing into the phone, saying his name, hoping it would miraculously work. I was in the laundry room, sitting there with my laptop trying to get wireless before I left for work, because I knew he'd be getting up soon and I wanted to talk to him for just a few minutes.
When I think of deployment, that's what I think of. The morning after the huge helicopter crash at his base, when I was at work, but Tami let me talk to him on my cell phone for nearly 30 minutes. That awful night sobbing in the tub because of something his mother had either said or done. Being told that he had downloaded Outlook onto his laptop so he could save my emails to read and re-read them when they went into River City. Hearing him say he woke up early every morning hoping to find an email from me, and how much it made his day when there was one.
It was far from perfect, but maybe that's the beauty of deployment - you remember and cherish the good times so much more, and let the bad ones go.
And so, in a 'round-about way, that's what I told her. That deployment will bring them so much closer together and even though it doesn't seem like it now, she will some day cherish, or at least appreciate, this experience. Because as challenging as the distance and communication issues are, deployments are such a rewarding experience for a relationship.
To Whitney and Mike, and every other couple going through a deployment - don't be afraid to share that you had a bad day. Lean on each other. Laugh together, cry together, and enjoy the ways in which deployment changes your relationship. Apologize when you need to, and start and end every conversation with love. Not only does a deployment shape where you are going as a couple; it also molds you as an individual. Make it an experience that you will look back on fondly.