There’s a silver tea set sitting on my buffet table in my dining room. It is an heirloom from my beloved grandmother, left from an era where army-wives’ “coffees” were literally poured with great ritual and tradition. It is a reminder to me that I am not the first woman to love a soldier. I am but the latest in a long, distinguished line of strong, courageous women. When I polish it, I always wonder how many ladies it has served. Who were they? Did they sigh in acceptance when PCS orders moved them thousands of miles from family and friends? Did they drop to their knees in thankfulness when their husbands came home safely from war? Did they feel this heart-wrenching fear that seems to be my constant companion of late?
As my husband prepares for his third deployment, sometimes it feels like we are the only ones in the world who feel this pain. I feel like no one understands the fear I have that this time, when I kiss him goodbye, it will be the last time. The paralyzing fear I have of Class A’s at my door and folded flags. But realistically, I know that I am not alone. There are thousands of wives who are kissing their husbands goodbye every day and praying for their safe return. If you add to that the hundreds of thousands who came before us, we’re in outstanding company. We are a remarkable family of women whose love endures the harshest of circumstances.
Sometimes, I get downright whiny. I hate the PCS’ing. I hate the deployments. I’d personally like to chain my husband to our couch and forbid him to leave me again. Forbid him to leave our sons again. Maybe I’d let him up to eat, or even fix the washer. But mostly, I’d keep him chained up and with me. I’d like to experience “normal.” You know, plant a garden that you get to see grow? Perhaps even be so bold as to write my friend’s addresses in pen? At times like this, there’s only one woman I want to talk to – my grandmother, the owner of that beautiful tea set.
My grandmother was the epitome of a gracious military wife. She stood by my grandfather’s side through World War II, patiently waiting while she raised the eldest of their four children alone until he made it home from the war. She made countless PCS’s without complaint and supported him through all of his commands, knowing that while he shined, it was only because her light lit him. She waited at home for years, with nothing more than letters to keep her company. She did not have internet, or phone calls to hear her husband’s voice. When she had a problem, she solved it in a no-nonsense way which inspires me long after her death. So when the “whiny’s” get the best of me, I remind myself that I am not the first to feel this agony and I will not be the last. But what would she say? Knowing her farm-girl sense, she would have hugged me and told me that she was sorry I was going through this. Then she would have told me to get my big girl panties on and quit my blubbering, there’s work to be done. She was one of a kind to me, but she was just another in a long line of American military spouses.
So when I feel alone, I try to remember watching my father lift my mother’s letters to his face to catch her perfume when they were at separate duty stations. I think of my Nana who waited for my other grandfather to be rescued from a POW camp in Nazi Germany, and I remember that we are not alone. We are the heiresses of a rich legacy of pride, honor and love. Sometimes that legacy comes with misery, loneliness, stress, and earth-shattering grief, but it is our inheritance to carry with a steady heart.
For those of us who have washed BDU’s, DCU’s and now ACU’s, I can only thank you for your love and support. Though I may not have ever met you, you are my sister. To the newest of the sisterhood, I say that though at times you may feel you are alone, you never are. Welcome to the legacy, I’d be happy to have you over for coffee.