One of the “issues” that I’ve developed over my years as a military spouse is a close relationship with certain superstitions. I don’t mean the *spit-spit* thing my Mother-in-Law gives to keep away evil (I have managed to keep my spitting to a minimum; and besides, sometimes I think she just does that because she wants to hawk a glob on people), but I do feel like it is very important that I follow certain routines.
I don’t think this is such an unusual bit of learned Obsessive-Compulsive behavior. The stories of good-luck routines in sports are well known, and I don’t think my issues with it are really any different. Well, except for the life and death aspect involved – it’s not just losing a game when your spouse is in a war zone. I definitely have routines when Air Force Guy is in a war zone.
The thing is, even when your spouse returns from a deployment, that feeling of the possibilities – the possibility of loss – never entirely goes away. I may have more control over the situation when my husband is home, which means that I don’t feel the necessity to invent pseudo-control behaviors like not washing a few things my husband left in the hamper when he left for his exotic all-expense-paid vacation in the sand, but because the knowledge of that possibility never really goes away I still have certain routines. And when those routines are interrupted…
A few days ago I got to bed late and I was absolutely exhausted. I had spent the previous week fighting a chest infection that was always on the verge of developing into something awful, but never quite progressing beyond the coughing-when-exercising stage. As a result, when AFG got up to leave at o’dark thirty in the morning, I was still completely exhausted and wiped out and didn’t wake up. Because I didn’t wake up, I didn’t get to tell him what I tell him every morning before he leaves the house (which is the same thing I tell him every time we end a phone call during a deployment), “I love you, Hon. Stay safe.”
Really, thinking back on this it sounds ridiculous. It’s only six words and I say it every single morning. I’m pretty sure the man has the idea by now, and missing a morning isn’t going to change that. And besides that, I was absolutely exhausted. The reasons for it being an acceptable lapse all made sense.
Except I could not make myself see that. I woke up with a start about half an hour after I normally get out of bed and noticed first that AFG wasn’t in bed any longer. Then I noticed the time. I realized that he had obviously left for work long before. I also could not remember telling him that I loved him and to stay safe before he left. I began to get very agitated.
I kept telling myself that I was being ridiculous, because he knew those things already. The man is old enough to know to stay safe, even when driving during morning rush hour in the DC Metro area. Intellectually I knew that my growing agitation was completely silly. But emotionally? There was no slowing that roll. I called AFG’s phone on the off chance that his commute had lasted longer than the usual insane amount of time it takes for such a short distance, but of course he wasn’t able to answer. I texted a few times. I knew that he wasn’t usually able to call me until lunch. And I went on about my day, doing what I had scheduled, with the uneasiness of a thwarted superstitious routine bundled tightly into the back of my head.
Luckily for me, AFG had forgotten something in his car. When he hiked out to grab it, he noticed the text messages and missed call on the phone and called me right back to ask if anything was wrong.
“No,” I told him. I just forgot to tell you I love you.”
“That is very sweet. Thank you!”
We chatted a few more minutes before he had to head back in, and then said good-bye.
“Stay safe,” I said.
Later when he got home, we talked about my little superstitious fugue, and how such a small part of an everyday routine can be so important. AFG completely understood, because he has his own little routines and symbols that are an absolute necessity during deployments. It may seem strange to some people, but there isn’t a lot of individual control over the macro-curve of the life of a military family. We can ask to go, or not to go. But in the end, that decision isn’t up to us.
We can’t control the missions, we can’t control the deployments. But we can control our reactions. And even though AFG is old enough to know that I love him and that he should be careful, it doesn’t hurt to remind him. It certainly does make me feel better, anyway.