If you could see my living room floor right now, mere hours before my husband leaves for an extended training mission, you might cringe.
Sea bags leaning against the sofas, empty magazines piled up on the coffee table, extra blouses strewn across the floor—all hiding the cherry hardwoods underneath.
Crossing into the kitchen requires the most intense game of hopscotch ever played as stepping on flak jackets and sweat-soaked gear is practically unavoidable.
But let’s be real—if you’re part of the military spouse tribe, you’ll laugh and offer up a knowing smile. You know the drill.
That time has come again.
Another early morning spent standing in a lonely parking lot, waving goodbye to the long white bus carrying my husband away for weeks, sometimes months.
Another drive home before the sun comes up. Another day of comforting the kids who don’t understand why their daddy is leaving again. Another night wistfully cleaning the stubble from his 4 am shave off the bathroom vanity, trying to erase the things he left behind so it doesn’t sting quite as much.
Yes, we military spouses know the drill.
My husband sits cross-legged in the middle of the chaos, huddled over a waterproof pouch he’s attempting to stuff with two extra sets of cammies.
He is leaving tomorrow, and I’m not prepared.
In the past, I’ve spent the time leading up to goodbye trying to make every moment perfect.
The end result isn’t a memorable last few days. It’s a stressful attempt to fit everything we’re going to miss for the next months into two extremely busy days when all my husband really wants is to stop and memorize the feeling of relaxing with his family.
Honey, we have to take the kids out to do something fun. Honey, you have to give the baby his last bath. Honey, we need to find time for a date and a romantic evening and we have to play our favorite game and watch the end of that TV show and—what are you doing? We have to make the most of these last 24 hours!
One day my husband stopped me in the midst of my flurry of activity mixed with stress and pre-goodbye rage cleaning.
“Please, my love,” he begged, “I’m still here—I haven’t left yet. Please, focus on me.”
With his simple plea, I realized that my frenzied preparation was only ruining the time we had left together. The mental energy I was expending was leaving me withdrawn as I started to steel myself to be alone, again.
My husband doesn’t want to spend his last days with us like that.
He wants me to be present, with him.
When I spend our last days together doing nothing but imagining the final kiss, the hug, and the hurried goodbye before he throws his bags over his shoulder and boards the bus, I’m not focused on where we are now.
I’m not able to enjoy our family time due to the looming goodbye shadowing every moment; and the more I try to force those perfect last hours, the more I stress:
He’s leaving soon. The goodbye is coming. I must enjoy every single second because tomorrow I’ll be alone again.
This time, I’m not preparing.
I haven’t emotionally or mentally equipped myself—will the moment come when the weight of another goodbye falls on me and I’m left crushed and entirely caught off guard? Only time will tell.
I don’t pretend that it isn’t going to happen; instead, I refuse to focus on it. There is no emotional preparation, no bracing myself for that last kiss. The goodbye comes and it always hits hard.
Separation isn’t supposed to be easy.
Tomorrow I will drive home with my little boy sleeping sweetly in the backseat, the morning sun will peak over the forest lined road, there will be a sigh of relief. We will have made it through another goodbye. We will have done it, as us military spouses always do.
I can focus on all that later.
Not while he’s here, though. Not while sea bags cover the living room floor and grimy, oil covered gear sits piled up on our sofa—reminders that he is still here.
The goodbye will come when it comes, but it hasn’t come yet. And until it comes, I’ll hold his hand and memorize what it feels like to be sitting quietly next to the love of my life, because we are still together.
My husband is leaving tomorrow; the sea bags littering the floor are proof. And here I am, not ready. Here I am, un-preparing myself for him to leave.
Want more on military life?
- Why Deployment Meltdowns Are Actually a Good Thing
- 47 Things No One Tells You About Being a Military Wife
- 7 Bootcamp Graduation Gifts That Will Make Your Service Member Smile
- 10 Things Military Spouses Won’t Tell You About Deployment