Pillow Talk That Sticks

pillow talk

It’s funny how one mundane memory can reappear, and make you laugh and cry, all over again.

A week or two before Husband left we had a quiet moment alone at bedtime. The room was dark, and I didn’t expect it, but as he moved very near me I just started crying thinking about his departure – really crying. It was the kind of semi-quiet crying where you bury your face in your own hands. It was the kind of quiet crying where your throat constricts so tightly that it practically cramps. It was the kind of involuntary chest-heaving sobs where the air rushes out in bursts as the crying comes out, and you think you might not be able to breathe. It feels so sad to cry that way.

Nobody needed to ask why I was upset and Husband was not asking for an explanation. But he looked at me as if to wonder about the specific thing making me cry. I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t explain it myself. He just drew me in closer.

Eventually I managed to offer the only explanation that seemed to sum things up succinctly. “I’m tired. I’m tired of being strong,” I replied – to the question that had not been asked. And I looked up at him.

Last April when I turned 39 I had a crisis birthday weekend where I decided to take control of my life. I was really ready to stop letting life just happen to me, and I was resolved to take things head on in order to master what I wanted out of life. I was going to start writing more, practice law less, focus on the kids more, and do everything that was really important and beautiful and satisfying. And in rapid-fire succession over the next five weeks my uncle died, a sweet angel lost his battle with Leukemia, my mother was diagnosed with a rare cancer, and we recieved word that Husband was being mobilized for fifteen months. It was dizzying.

So naturally, when I said, “I’m tired of being strong,” I really meant it, and Husband knew exactly what I was saying. He knew he was the stalwart that kept me grounded and sane and justified. He knew that I counted on him tremendously, and that his absence was complicating things, and that there was nothing either of us could do about it. I would still need to be strong. In fact, I would need to be stronger.

In a milisecond, he responded. He is wise in ways even I will admit I do not fully understand. And he understands parts of me better than I understand myself. I remember it as if it were slow motion, now (that’s how I remember things when I look back on them). The more I think about it, the more I can fill in the details. There was the taste of salt, the sting of the air, the smell of our sheets, and the feel of his skin as I moved my hands away from my face. He released me and looked directly into my eyes. He wiped away a tear and he delivered his words with compassion, and heartfelt concern … “Strong smelling?”

I stopped breathing. Then, I laughed pretty hard. I’m sure snot came out, followed by some drool. And we laughed together, and he laughed because I thought it was funny, and we laughed sweetly some more.

And tonight, I laughed again. What a luxury to laugh at a joke twice. Really laugh.

I was coming home from playing soccer and seeing a movie with friends, and the car radio was off. It was very quiet, and very dark, and the kids were not with me, and I was missing him. I thought to myself, “I’m just so tired already, and it’s only been a few weeks. I’m tired of being strong.” Just then, I caught a whiff of myself. I had just played soccer, and I was pretty strong smelling, and there it was, a-la Obi Wan Kenobi: “Strong smelling?”

I’m sure my fellow drivers thought Iwas texting and driving, as I weaved and heaved with laughter, wiping the tears away.

So, here’s to Husband, and here’s to his brand of humor. Because he was right about that response. What am I going to do? Quit? I’m walking this road, and no matter how I walk it, the destination there at the end will be the same. I might as well have some fun along the way whenever I can.

Yay for strong-smelling memories.

What memories do you carry with you that help you positively handle things that are out of your control?

Lori’s husband is a Naval officer currently deployed to the Middle East to wear an Army uniform on an Air Force base. She posts weekly at www.wittylittlesecret.com  and is a new SpouseBUZZ author who started contributing here in May 2011.

About the Author

Lori Volkman
Lori Volkman is a Deputy Prosecutor, mother of two, and wife of a Navy reservist. She is also an award-winning writer at Witty Little Secret, a military family blog about her experiences as a military brat, active duty wife, and now reservist family. She volunteers as the Communications Director at www.MSJDN.com, an organization that advocates for military spouse licensing in all 50 states. She was voted the 2013 Navy Base San Diego Military Spouse of the Year by her peers.
  • SemperSteen

    This article is beautiful. It makes me think of my own husband and how he just…knows. Knows when to hold me, what to say to make me smile, and when not to say anything and just kiss my tears away. If marriage was a quilt, those quiet little moments would be the thread.

    • wittylittlesecret

      That’s a beautiful sentiment and a good visual for how I think of moments sometimes. I’ve become convinced that these are the snippets of life that mean more than the specific memories surrounding an event or a holiday. It’s the moments in our lives that really stick with us!

      • Sarah

        My husband “knows” too. I had two miscarriages over the years while he was gone, and he returned shortly after the second to find me a hormonal mess. He gently tried to help me for days and then finally while I was sobbing, he looked me in the eye and pleaded, “I want to help you, but I don’t know what right looks like.” It made me laugh…it was such an “Army” way of saying it. It was sweet…and also funny. Good on your husband for knowing when a chuckle was needed.

  • sheofthesea

    These are the kind of memories that get us through. I’m glad you have it!

  • Thank you…I needed that! I sat here reading, and laughing and crying at the same time. My husband does those things to me all the time, and is one of the things I miss the most with him being gone right now. *sigh* R&R SOON…I CAN be strong until then….

    • wittylittlesecret

      R&R is right around the corner for us too, Laura! This R&R is new stuff for Navy girls like me. We are used to the old “ship ’em out and send ’em home.” None of this midterm visit, which I have to admit is very strange psychologically. Be strong!

  • redlegmeg

    I had to hold back tears while reading this. I love the humor at the end, but it was your description of your crying jag in the beginning that got me. I’ve been there, but could never have explained it the way you did. Thanks for sharing!

  • wittylittlesecret

    Aw, thanks Meg. Don’t hold back the tears. We’ve all been there I think! Thanks for commenting.

  • Your description of crying at the beginning is exactly how I cry—or try hiding my cry, rather. And when my husband is home he knows and does the same thing by pulling me close and letting me cry. Then, just like your husband, he’ll say something that will make me break out into laughter. Thank God for those moments and for husbands who continue to help us even when they’re not physically there with us later. Great post.

  • i’m not one to comment on blogs, but felt compelled to here: thank you for posting this. i’m going thru my first deployment right now and everything leading up to this dreaded limbo of solitude i’m in was, as you said, dizzying. i’ve often told my husband the same thing, “i don’t want to be strong, i want to be happy,” but since i’m not gonna drop dead anytime soon what choice to i have but to carry on? that’s all we can do, and while i’m still trying to figure out whether or not i’m enough to make me happy, at the very least i can choose to appreciate the journey for being uniquely mine. thank you for reminding me of that.

  • Kristen

    “Tired of being strong”. I’ve thought and said those same words myself. Thank you for writing article. :)

    • writing “this” article – couldn’t read while I was tearing up!

  • Jenna

    I typed “preparing for deployment” into google search for maybe the 4th time in two weeks and I came across this. I am newly married and new to military experience and my husband is about to deploy for the first time. I’m am so scared. And it seems like military wives are so strong and put together; I’ve been afraid and felt alone even amongst other military wives. But this article…thank you for it. I get my strength from the Lord but, I’ve wondered how I’ll deal with the missing my husband that I feel even now, before he’s even left. And I am happy to see something so honest, that actually helps. And I’ve realized, you can be strong and sad/weak at the same time. In fact, the Bible says, His strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9). :)

    • RMMac


      Thank you for sharing the Bible verse. I am going thru my first deployment and wanted to throw a smalli pity party for myself. God reminded me that He loves me and He loves my DH too. Take comfort in Him! And, it’s okay to be sad.

      • ahh825

        I do throw a small pity party for myself every once in a while. But just a small one. And then I count my blessings and push it back down.