It began with a letter, you know – the old fashioned kind, paper and pen, that opened with “You don’t know me but we have a mutual friend…” when we were outbound from our one and only port visit (Singapore) on our 1980 deployment (CVW-7/CVN-69).
From there it grew – a whirlwind relationship with precious moments snatched between squadron dets, workups and deployments. We found the end of one path and the start of a new one on a humid Virginia Beach evening in August, twenty-seven years ago. That evening I married my best possible friend and love of my life.
Life didn’t give us much pause as we ended up on another coast shortly thereafter (a new experience for her as she had never been West of the Blue Ridge). We were faithful to the biblical dictum of being fruitful and multiplying with the birth of our first son not long after our first anniversary – on that distant coast.
And again, it was off to sea all to soon…and as she had done before, once again she stood on the tarmac, at the hangar’s edge watching the aircraft disappear and wondering, hoping – praying that her beloved would return whole and alive all those months hence. Again and again the scene wold be repeated, the seasons changed and the family grew. Soon she was ‘The CO’s Wife’ and thrust into an ex-officio position.Â Though not mandated (at least formally) by big Navy, she nonetheless found herself watching the departures once again, only this time she was the POC, the confidant, the font of wisdom and knowledge for a host of young spouses – she was their advocate and with the ombudsman, with whom she developed a fast friendship, she was the “go to” person for “the word.” The holidays alone, the meals with the kids and the empty chair at the head of the table, all reminders of his absence and aching heart – and now she also shared all this with those who were experiencing it for the first time because she thought of them as family.
And she endured.
Of course there were the reunions to look forward to – when the specks in the distance expanded and grew into the oh-so familiar shape of the mechanical steed that kept whisking her beloved away and even now, in this one bright, joyous moment, lurked in the background – an ever present reminder that duty would call once again and soon, oh so very soon, and he would be gone.
It really didn’t make that much of a difference when he went off to be ship’s company. Now it was to the crowded pier as she drove to drop him off the night before the great ship got underway, for he wasn’t one of the lucky ones who got to linger on the pier until it was final call. And so in the dark at the foot of the brow, with the hustle and flow of the night before deployment all around them, they managed to find a few moments of peace, a quiet understanding passing between them as he left to climb the brow to his position so many stories above.
And as she watched him go, she wondered if she would see him again and uttered a silent prayer.
The years passed, and as his career changed directions, the planes and ships that snatched him away receded into the past and with it, her worries of not seeing him again did too – until one terrible fall morning when for a moment in time she was united with thousands of others who were suddenly confronted by mere mortality. Later, very much later when he final got through to tell her he was OK, only then was she relieved, but it passed in a flash as he related all those from his office who hadn’t.
But she endured.
Through twenty-seven years of late or missed dinners, weekend and holiday duties, deployments and dets too many to count. All that time when he was gone and she was left to deal with the inevitable car/washing machine/homework “issues” while he was gone – she endured.
The challenges were many and at times seemed insurmountable – but together, with her at his side and he at hers, they both endured and forged in the fires of adversity and challenge, their love for one another grew. And when she found herself sitting with him in the neurosurgeon’s office, trying to make sense of how a simple follow-up appointment was suddenly turning into short-notice surgery with all the attendant risks, she was unwavering in support and love, then and afterwards in recovery.
Happy Anniversary sweetheart – I love you like no other. ‘Twas ever so and will always be…
P.S. Hope you liked the flowers 😉