I know we have not talked in a while, over a year in fact, but since you were such a big part of my life there for a while, I thought it only fair to write you one last time. You and I have most certainly had a love-hate relationship. The hate seems stronger... but I must admit, there are things about you that I loved.
When I first heard that you were going to be taking my now-husband way for 8 months, I admit, I was mostly indifferent. Coming from a civilian family with grandparents that never shared their experiences in the military, I knew very little about you. But as the time grew closer and closer, I hated you more and more.
During those first few days, the days when my count looked like 1 day down, 290 to go, I hated you. I hated the fear of not being up to your challenge. I hated the jealousy I felt in having to relinquish the love of my life to you, knowing that you would not take care of him like I would. I hated the unknown; would it be a week before you would let him call, or would it be a month? I hated you for the things I knew you would put him through... long hours, months between port calls (ie days off), endless nights in a rack too small for his strong body. I hated the numbing isolation that came from suddenly realizing that I lived in a non-military town, surrounded by so few who understood the difficulties you were going to bring. And although I loved the growing appreciation that you brought over the simplest thing, like hearing the beautiful sound of my lovers voice, I hated you and that stupid female recording who would come on and warn us that we only had a few short seconds before his phone card would run out... and the dread that came knowing that it would most likely be weeks before I would hear that sound again.
But very soon, I began to love you. I loved discovering the instant bond between military significant others, bonds that transcended race, background, political and religious views, and even great swaths of the country. I also loved learning that one of the IT guys at my office was an "ol' salty sailor" who loved to tell his stories, and help me understand what was going on.
I loved the things you taught me. I loved learning that I am significantly stronger than I ever imagined I could be. I loved learning what I like to do if given an entire weekend to myself. I loved learning to tackle challenges head on with tenacity and grace, for I am a Navy Wife, what could life throw at me that was more difficult than a deployment? I loved learning that simply surviving wasn't enough, for I wanted to THRIVE in spite of and because of you.
I loved the many ways you taught me that balance is so important in life. I learned to strike a balance between allowing my love to still support me, and not burdening him with tails of difficulties he couldn't do anything about. I learned to live my life to the fullest, while making sure he knew that I missed him and would give anything to be with him. I loved the way you taught me to document my life both through blogs and photos so that my love could feel more connected.
I loved the memories you gave me... the ritual celebrations that my friends and I would participate in to mark your passing, the 2am cookie baking in order to get the Christmas package out by the cut off date, and celebrating the half way mark by riding the Soaring Over California ride at California Adventures and yelling "GO NAVY" as it soared over one of the aircraft carriers stationed in San Diego. Above all though, I will never forget the memory of standing on the pier that early morning in May… with thousands of other just like me… watching the carrier pull in, trying to see if my sailor was one of the many fulfilling the age old nautical tradition of manning the rails. I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of anticipation, excitement, and joy that came when the bows were dropped and after what felt like a lifetime, liberty was finally called. The memory of seeing the love of my life coming through the crowd is something that will always be on my list of most memorable moments of my life.
But above all, I must thank you for the sense of appreciation that I would never have had if it weren't for you... an appreciation for the small things in life, like the joy of finding a gem of a donut shop walking distance from my apartment, or the excitement of finding just the right candy that won't melt on its way to the other side of the world, or the overwhelming joy of seeing the yahoo email alert pop up to tell me an email had come in from my love, or the excitement of getting a picture taken in a far away port and being able to see with my own eyes that my love was still in one piece. Thank you as well for an appreciation for the larger things in life as well… an understanding of the privilege it is to simply be with the love of my life, the understanding that every day is a gift and that holidays are nothing more than days on the calendar and the days you have to spend together are truly the days to celebrate, and finally an appreciation for the strength of our relationship and knowing that no matter what life throws at us in the future, if we survived you, we will be able to survive anything.
So, although ours has been a love-hate relationship, and I hope you and I will never meet again, I am forever in your debt. For the things you gave me and the things you taught me, thank you.
Forever IC2 (sw/aw) Stafford’s Girl
Until they all come home!