My throat felt tight. I hugged my soon-to-be long distance friend one last time in the parking lot of a local breakfast joint. I chocked back the tears as best I could, but it was a losing battle. They started to stream down my face, mingling with the sweat from my morning run.
My friend and I half-smiled as we watched our kids play together for the last time in who knows how many years. It was bittersweet to the nines. The conversation between the two kids sent me into full blown ugly cry.
“You’re my best friend,” her son said to my daughter.
“I love you,” my daughter said to her son. “I’ll come over tomorrow to play with your trains?”
We both desperately wanted to stretch our goodbye as long as humanly possible, but only a few minutes remained.
Saying goodbye to my friend was imminent.
Walking away from a deep friendship, or any friendship, because the military is moving you (again) is never easy or pretty. In fact, I have more long-distance friends than some classrooms have books.
And whether you are a friend from pre-military life or someone I have discovered along the way, there are a few things that all long-distance friends need to know.
1. I won’t forget you
It doesn’t matter if I met you 20 plus years ago, or we just met five months ago, you are in my heart always. Each person, each friend, is a gift that I treasure and hold close to me for years and decades.
I remember the early mornings and late nights, the ice cream sundaes and bottles of wine. I remember how quickly you came when I needed someone right that second, and how you stayed to hold me close. I remember that you made me laugh on the darkest of days, and that our times together bring me tears of joy still.
You are there every time my child calls for yours. You are there whenever I prep the recipe you shared with me. You are with me. Always.
2. Distance means nothing
In the age of Facebook, Instagram and FaceTime, we are never far apart. We can still watch our families grow and blossom together, through photos and videos posted or shared. We can still connect, it might just take more coordination of time zones and schedules.
Sure, we might not be having our daily cafe au lait together anymore, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t immediately think of you when I take my first sip. Or wish like crazy that you could roll your eyes at me for being such a sentimental fool.
I love seeing the things you post about yourself, your journey and your kids. And I always have my fingers (and toes) crossed that our next moves with bring us together again.
3. I’m sorry if I forget sometimes
You know. Life gets crazy. With kids, job(s), military deployments, trainings and just stuff, sometimes it gets out of control for a minute or a month.
If I forget to wish you a virtual happy birthday or don’t comment on a thoughtful post or double tap your latest Instagram, I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. I promise I looked and noted, and then my mom brain took control. I was drawn into a tea party or washing that uniform for the one billionth time.
It is not because I don’t love you. I promise, I do.
4. Reunions are so, so sweet
Reunions after a long separation are probably the best things ever. You will laugh, cry and relive all of the moments that passed between good-bye and hello.
We can catch up, face to face, and get enmeshed in each other’s lives again. Even if it is only for a few hours, days, weeks, months or (blessings!) years.
Yes, that farewell will be hard. Life will continue for both of us in the meantime. Luckily, we can still be active friends, in spite of the miles between us. When we reconnect again (and again and again), knowing that we have a wonderful friendship to pick up and continue is glorious.
5. Flexibility is key
My life is lived on the fly, with three year increments of relative stability. I might make it “home” to my pre-MilSpouse area once in a blue moon, and even then could only be staying for a hot minute.
I will make every effort to find you, hug you and tell you all the things. But if I can’t, please don’t be mad. There might be a reason, a really good one.
Recently, I was:
- without a personal vehicle
- had a sick toddler
- down with my own bug
- coordinating an OCONUS move
- waiting on a spouse to arrive from the opposite coast
- coordinating visits to two families in two different regions of a state
When you combine these factors, it can be hard to see friends on occasion. I get that you have your own life and concerns and complications. Trust me, if anyone gets that life is challenging time wise, it’s this girl right here.
If you can, and I just can’t, please try to come to me. Or meet me halfway, or a quarter way. I’ll take you anyway I can get you!
If I have to cancel plans last minute, please understand that much of my life is not on my schedule. Uncle Sam tells my family where to go and when. I have very little say in it, and try so hard to make time to come home or visit far away friends.
I want you to know, even if our plans get nixed or I can’t travel to you, I am still thinking of you and hoping that we can pull all the strings to make something, anything happen.
Friends, near or far, it’s what we are and always will be.
Whether we just met or I know your entire life story, our long-distance friendship is something I treasure, cherish and love to cultivate. If you are just around the corner or halfway around the world, you are in my heart and on my mind. Always.
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger, and freelance writer/editor. She is published on Homefront United Network, National Military Family Association, NextGen MilSpouse and the Education Tourist. Meg currently writes about all things education at MilKids Education Consulting.
Want more posts on military life?
- 21 Long-Distance Friendship Truths Only a Military Spouse Will Understand
- The Real Reason Being a Military Wife is So Hard
- 10 Things Military Spouses Won’t Tell You About Deployment
- Military Base Gate Etiquette: 10 Small Ways to Avoid a Giant SNAFU