Confessions and Memories…

I discovered today that there is actually a National Day of the Deployed.  Never heard of such a thing, and yet, when I looked, there is actually a day for those who are currently deployed, or have been deployed as a day to honor their sacrifice and commitment.  So, to make it official, I thanked my hubby and son-in-law for their service, and then I got off of Facebook and started to do my ironing.

As I was ironing, I figured I would write and wax poetic on how wonderful these two men are in serving in the Navy.   I would try to make it sound great and noble and I could feel good about writing that.

Then, as I was in the middle of ironing hubby’s shirts, reality hit me.  I like ironing.  In fact, I like doing most housework.  As my daughters used to tease me, I am a 50’s housewife.  Not like Donna Reed, with heels, dresses, aprons and perfectly coiffed hair, no, I am more of the likes of Roseanne.   I prefer tennis shoes, jeans (the old ratty ones), stained tee shirts (sometimes with holes in them), my hair is all over the place and please, make-up?  No, not around the house…

I truly became a 50’s housewife while my hubby was deployed.  When you spend months at a time on your own, raising a family, you have got to start to fill your time somehow.  I started cleaning.  Scrubbing down walls in frustration and anxiety when I didn’t hear from him for weeks.  Back then we did not have e-mail or video chats, we had snail mail and yes, sometimes a snail was faster than mail arriving at my home.

I could watch the news and worry.  I could read the newspaper and wonder.  Or, as I often did, I would pull out the bucket, and scrub walls.  It was therapeutic, it was exercise, but most of all, it was a stress reliever.   Windows would come next.   Washing windows, like cleaning toilets or ironing is a perfect exercise in instant gratification.  You immediately see results.   It’s rewarding.

After months of deployment, this all became a habit for me.  I guess I owe my habits to the deployment rotation of my husband.

Weekdays were okay, I could clean, I could do laundry, I could keep busy.   Weekends are a killer for those whose spouses are deployed. Weekends are the fun times for families.  Those are the days of togetherness.  For us, my daughters and I, it was just another day.

Sundays were the worst for me.  We would go to church, and afterwards hear everyone making plans for lunch.  I would load the girls back into the car and fight the lone-lies, you know that feeling sorry for yourself and wanting to wallow in it.    Each Sunday, as I drove down the freeway,  my pity party would begin.   That was the season that began going to the malls in the areas to look around.  We would have lunch, mostly at home, and head out to a mall.  Sees candy shops were my salvation.  These stores, then, had sugar sticks, all different flavors.  They sold them 3 for a quarter.   So, for less than a dollar,  we could go window shopping and the girls could pick out their favorite candy sticks and have a bag to prove they had been shopping.  Plus, with the free sample they gave to everyone who came into the store, we could each have our chocolate fix for the day.   I loved it when they passed out my favorite, a Mayfair, with milk chocolate, a white creamy center with cherries and walnuts.

Days do pass, and eventually deployments end.  The spouse arrives home to much fanfare and pomp and you head home.   A family reconnected and yet, there is a time of adjustment.  For us, hubby’s voice was deep and louder than ours.  It took a day or two to recognize and remember the comfort of his voice.  Schedules that I had in place were disrupted.  Meal times changed with his schedule.  None of this earth-shattering, but different.

Videos of returning troops make me cry.   They are honest and true.  I have been on the waiting end.  I remember being swooped up in hugs and kisses and tears.  These are the initial moments and they are wonderful.  They will live in your heart forever.  No one sees what it’s like after the camera is turned off.  Those awkward times of loud voices and laughter that is different from the quiet giggles that had reigned for months.   The presence of a spouse that completes a family, but also adds a difference to a routine.

These are the times though, that made me a 50’s housewife.  The times that I had to look afresh at this man I had married.  This man who was absent for birthdays and anniversaries and Christmases and school programs.  This man I love.   This was when my resolve cemented.  Yes, I would gladly iron his shirts and do his laundry.  Yes, I would put out towels for his shower and at times I would lay out what I knew he would wear.  I would gladly prepare his meals and make certain it looks beautiful.  He deserves it.  He deserves it all, because for years this man ate in a mess hall.  Having food put on a plate and handed to him, overcooked and unappealing.   For years this man lived out of a seabag.

Today, while ironing, this is what I realized, I have gladly become a 50’s housewife, fetching, cleaning and cooking.   I do it because I have been blessed to have the memories, sometimes haunting memories, of what a deployment means.  The insecurity of not knowing where he is and what he is doing.  The fear that can come with wondering.  The disappointment of going to the mailbox to find it only filled with bills, and no letters.   All of these memories make the time, even in retirement when there are no deployments, worth it all.   So, thank you to all who are currently deployed, soon to be deployed or have been deployed.   You are heroes all.   But, to all who wait, be brave, take courage and find new adventures for you and your family.  They don’t have to be grand to be memorable.

Thanks for stopping by today, I appreciate you.  Cathi (DAF)

 

It became second nature…

We have spent increased time at the Veteran’s Hospital this past month.   Appointments and classes and tests have given us the chance to drive up to the mountains and spend some of our days at this facility.

Yesterday, we were there for an appointment for my hubby.  Some friends of ours went along with us, keeping us company.   It was wonderful to have them with us and she commented a couple of times, how honored she was to be there, seeing the men and women who have served this great country of ours.

I readily agreed, and once more, as I usually do, started looking at the men and women heading into their appointments.  There were a couple who looked like they had served in WWII, a few more that looked like they had served in Korea, and a lot of our precious Viet Nam vets.   Some of them were young and had on Wounded Warrior shirts and you could tell they were our newest veterans.

This time, though, I looked at the women who were pushing wheelchairs, helping men with walking, and those sitting beside their men waiting with them. These women.  These spouses who have served along side these heroes.  These women who kept the home fires burning.  These faithful few.

I am one of them.  Last night before falling asleep, I thought of these women.  I thought of my story.  Adapting to military life did not come naturally.  It was not second nature to me at first.   We were married on a Saturday, on Monday we were in the office at my husband’s command getting my military I.D. card.  At the time, there were stacks of papers to sign.  I had only had my married name for two days.  I had to sign my married name on each of those papers.  I concentrated.  I was purposeful.  I kept repeating to myself my new name.  I had to, because hubby and the man behind the desk kept teasing me to not write my maiden name.  I managed to sign several copies before they won.  They laughed hysterically when I goofed up.  I was not happy.

The next day, I went to get groceries.  On the base.   Alone.  As I had dropped hubby off for work that morning, he sternly admonished me to not speed on base.  I did my best, although, I couldn’t keep the car at 25 mph. .   I did not get pulled over.

I went to pick up groceries.  I had my list.  But, this naive little girl from a small Northwestern Pennsylvania town never expected to see Filipinos.   I had never seen anyone from another country.  I had never heard Tagalog.   I confess, I stared , a lot!   Picking up hubby that day, I excitedly told him about the Chinese people in the commissary.  He looked at me.  Actually he stared at me.  He told me, it was not possible for someone from China to be able to shop on base.  I stood my ground.  I was adamant.

He took me back to the store just to see what I was talking about.  There, by the frozen foods, a group of people were standing by their carts, talking.  I pointed.  Yes, I did, pointer finger out, and aiming directly at them.  I was determined to prove how right I was.    At this point, hubby leaned over and told me to stop pointing.  I obeyed.  He started to laugh.  I really didn’t appreciate it.  He explained to me that these “Chinese” people were from the Philippine Islands and they were, in fact, serving in the U.S. Navy.

At that point, I knew I would never adapt.  I would never understand, and I would never survive the Navy life.  I held back tears on the way home.  This life was all too much for a small town girl.

Yes, the first few months of being married to a military guy was hard.  It was confusing.  It was different.  Nevertheless, I persevered.  Actually, I flourished.  It became second nature to me.  I learned the ebb and flow of how things worked.  I learned how to cook Filipino food.  I was stretched and pulled.  Many times, I resisted, to no avail. The bases we were stationed at became familiar to me.  Familiar like your hometown is.  It was comforting for me to see men and women in uniform.  To see salutes being passed.  It is comforting still for me to see our uniformed military.

So, yesterday as we sat waiting for hubby to finish, I looked at these women.  They are my people.  They understand.  They have been through similar situations as I have.  They have looked at the cupboard on the 14th of the month, wondering how to stretch that last bit of food until tomorrow, when it is payday.  We have rushed to the mailbox hoping for a letter, or even a note to just have a connection with a spouse who is deployed.  We have sat alone on the floor in the dark, praying for our spouse’s safety.  We have run our homes and done our duty.  We have been creative in raising our children, making certain Daddy is always mentioned and pictures of him shown, so they have some connection to a parent miles away.   We waited.  At piers, at airfields, at airports, at staging grounds. We stood, sometimes for hours, until we could run and throw arms around our man.

And still, we wait.  We wait as they slowly walk with canes or walkers.  We wait as they visit and keep their appointments.  Many of us are relics of the Cold War.   We are the old folks the new veterans look at.

However, if you look closely, you will see a different story than the apparent one that is first visible.   You can see a twinkle in the eye of the man in the wheelchair.  A bit of playfulness, like he truly does want to pop a wheelie and race down the hall to his appointment.  You can see in a walk that this man was once a force to be reckoned with, that yes and sir were directed his way daily.  The women who helps her husband up out of the chair used to pull him up to hit the dance floor at the NCO club.  Life is still there, it is just hidden a bit.

It is all just second nature now.  It is my life.  We may have retired years ago, but, that Navy wife is just dormant.

Thanks for stopping by today.   I appreciate you.  Cathi (DAF)

 

Kindred Spirits…

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.   

I Samuel 18:1 NKJV (New King James Version)

In life we all have our best friends, our long time friends, our fair weathered friends.  But, if we are truly lucky or blessed, we have a kindred spirit.  These are those friends we meet unexpectedly and bond immediately.

I have a picture of my kindred spirit.   She is sitting on a chair in her living room in Nagai Housing area in Japan.  She is in her flannel nightgown and one hand has a telephone receiver up to her ear and with the other hand, she is talking.  I look at the picture and am immediately transported back in time when I took this.  It captured Debbie.  Expressive, bubbly, full of life.

I can’t remember where we met; it must have been at the chapel in the housing area.  All I know is that we clicked in a way I never had before.  Time did not matter; it was like we had known each other all our lives.  The bond was instant.

We spent hours and hours and hours talking to one another.  I walked over to her house daily, after work, before work or instead of work.

We left Japan before they did.  When we said good-bye our husbands had to pull us apart as we did not want to leave each other.

We wrote for a while and then, as often happen, life got in the way and we lost track of one another.  I never forgot her.  My heart missed her.

Again, with the dawn of Facebook, we found one another.  We continued our conversations.  We didn’t start new, for we didn’t have to.  We caught up with each other.

Her life had not been easy; she is a cancer survivor, the wife of a dear man who has MS.  She works tirelessly for her family and grandchildren.  We are older, wiser, but, her zest for life is ever-present.  Her zeal for the Lord is still contagious.  She still talks with her hands, I haven’t seen it, but I can tell.

She is the David for my Jonathan’s heart.  David, for she loves the Lord and follows closely after Him.  She is musical as was David, and her words, like the Psalms bring comfort to me.

We don’t get to visit as often as we would like, but, when we do, we are still those young women who could raise the noise level in a room easily. (It is rumored that one of us once blew a whistle in a store to get someone to wait on us…  Of course the whistle was around Debbie’s neck.  Fortunately I was quick enough to blow the whistle and leave it hanging there so it did look like she had done it…)

Her friendship is a gift.  When I was homesick and feeling so alone in a foreign country, the Lord brought us together.  Knowing Debbie is like seeing that first daffodil of the season, it brings hope and brightness to a tired landscape.

Lord, may I be able to bring hope and brightness to someone today.

Thanks for stopping by today, Cathi (DAF)

“True friends are always together in spirit.“

Dredging up the past…

Today was a fall day.  The sky was bright blue, but the air was crisp and there was just a general feeling of needing to be wrapped up in something comfy and staying on the couch all day long.

But, that was not the plan for today.  Instead, hubby and I drove an hour and half to Columbia to visit the VA hospital for an appointment of his.

The morning started out wonderfully, we loved our drive down and spent the time munching on some fruit and sipping our coffee and tea and chatting about upcoming events.

And then…  we arrived at the VA.  We were an hour early and were thrilled, hoping we could get in sooner and leave sooner.  We drove into the facility and immediately stopped, vehicles everywhere.  We entered the first parking lot and immediately I was transported back in time.  The years were 1982- 1985….  The time was the same, fall, bright blue skies and a nip in the air.  The kind of cool that cuts through your sweater and settles into your bones.  It only comes in sharp gusts and takes you by surprise each time it happens.   During that time frame I was a mother of two young children.  We were living in San Diego and I was in a parking lot like the one I was in today.  I circled the parking lot several times, praying each time I entered into a new row, ‘please let there be an open space!’.    None were ever available, and I would finally go into a pay parking area and fork out the $2.00 that was needed for my vehicle.    The parking lot would be a quarter to a half mile from my destination…  the pediatric care clinic of the Naval Hospital.   Pushing my car into park, I would then unload my girls and proceed to carry them, sometimes both of them at a time to the clinic.  I was usually exhausted by time I reached the clinic and it always made the bright days seem cloudy.

I haven’t thought of those times in years.  I haven’t had to, they were neatly tucked away in my stored memory file.   But, somehow, today, circling those parking lots, it all came flooding back to me.  And, in that moment I was feeling the same weight I felt all those years ago.

Again, hubby and I did not find a parking place.  A half hour after arriving, we finally found the overflow lot and proceeded to circle that lot, an unpaved, pot-hole strewn lot where a semi could get lost in a pot hole. Not one place was available.  Finally, we backed into a grassy area and parked our car.  We walked the quarter mile to the building we needed to be in while I tried my best not to find a place for my soap box which, unfortunately is always with me.

Why a soapbox?  I find it reprehensible that our veterans have to spend a half hour trying to find a place to park in order to been seen by their physicians.  These people who have pledged their allegiance to our country.  These people who have given their youth, their energy, their best cannot easily use the facilities that are there for them.

So, as we walked to the clinic, I mentioned that I knew there was a blog post in all of this.  I will now put away my soap box and sit and try to shove those memories back into storage.  Those memories make a part of me want to sit and cry.  Although so many of my memories of our time in the Navy are wonderful, there are some that just make me ache.   The feelings that were resurrected today are some of the worst.  Feeling helpless with sick children and knowing that the only way for them to be seen was to jump through the hoops that were present during that time.  After being seen we then had to go to pick up prescriptions, which, at that time meant sitting on a group of metal bleachers outside in the elements with your sick children while your prescription was filled.  That always added an hour to the ordeal.

Yes, I know things have greatly improved for military families, but, just one question remains for me… why can’t they pave a stupid parking lot for our veterans?

Thanks for reading my rant…  Cathi (DAF)

Just…WOW!…

As I have written many times, my hubby is a retired Navy man.  He served for almost 21 years and it was a great part of our life together.  I stood by and watched him re-enlist many times and each time I felt such pride well up in me.  There is just something about watching someone raise their hand and promise to protect and defend you.  It is a remarkable thing to experience.

Yesterday hubby and I drove over to Atlanta, GA.   We spent the night there in anticipation of seeing our son-in-law re-enlist in the Navy.  He had the opportunity to do this at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, GA.

This morning we gathered at the aquarium to witness this ceremony.  He was going to re-enlist underwater.  His family gathered together as well as several of his peers who came up from the Navy Dive school.

The entire experience was remarkable.  The facility is the best aquarium I have seen, and I have visited many aquariums.  This is a beautiful place to visit.  If you are ever in the area, go, you won’t be disappointed.

We were given instructions as to the time of the ceremony and at the appointed time we went to a viewing area to see the divers swim into view.  We waved to our son-in-law and took pictures, it was all very exciting.   Then the divers made their way to the area where the re-enlistment ceremony was to take place.

We went into this gallery area that overlooked a large tank filled with fish and sharks and sting rays.  The view was breath-taking.  Then in the distance we saw the divers appear.  This moment took my breath away.  You could see the bubbles from the divers and then you saw these men swimming towards you.  What spoke to me the most is that these men do this for a living.  They do this for this country.  My heart swelled with pride in seeing them in this tank.  These are the heroes of our country.  They protect us on land and in the sea, literally.   Tears fell down my face as I saw these young men having a great time.  The contrast of seeing these men among the fish in that tank.  It was all lit up and you could see everything going on in there, but, these men do this when there is no lit tank and the fish are not used to seeing people in their domain.  They have a dangerous job and they do it willingly.

After a staff member introduced the divers to those assembled in this gallery, our son-in-law took his place along with one of his commanding officers.  They stood at attention and because they were equipped with audio equipment we sat and watched as our son-in-law raised his hand and swore an oath to protect and defend this country.   He did this willingly and without hesitation.  I watched as my daughter, who has been to many of these ceremonies in her life,  beamed with pride as she watched her husband repeat the same words she heard her father say.   We cheered and applauded as he concluded his oath and then stood with pride and tears as a staff member sang our National Anthem.

The day was one that will be etched in my memories.  I am a flag-waving person.  I love my country, but today, I was reminded once more how deep that pride of our country and our military is in me.

For those who have never heard the words of re-enlistment here it is.  Men and women freely and proudly speak these words daily.

The Oath of Enlistment (for enlisted):

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” 

Congratulations dear son-in-law, thank you for your service that you give so freely.  Thank you for allowing us to share in this special day.

Thank you for stopping by my blog,  Cathi (DAF)

 

Another Visit to the V.A.

This morning my hubby had to have some blood work done at the local V.A. (Veteran’s Administration) clinic.  We have gone there numerous times and I always sit and people watch.   Today was no different.

The V.A. is not a place to go if you don’t want to be reminded of what men and women do for this country.  The waiting room is like every other waiting room in the country.  Chairs formed so you can either watch the television, or read old magazines.  The chairs are no more and no less comfortable from any other waiting room.   On first glance it could be a waiting room for any medical facility in the country.

So, why do I spend more time people watching here, then in other rooms?  It’s easy.  Most of the clients are men.  An occasional woman comes and goes, but for the most part the only women are those wives who have accompanied their husbands.  You can tell the wives easily.  They are quietly waiting, because being military spouses we got used to waiting years ago.   It is a way of life for us.  The men fidget.  Their eyes are never still, they glance at the television, they look at their phones, they look at their books or magazines, but, their eyes dart all around them, as if knowing they are in a military facility they return to old habits of making certain of their surroundings.

Often you see young men there.  Young men who look like old men.  They have witnessed too much for their young lives.  They are crippled and you can see it, even if the wounds are not noticeable.  Their eyes say it all.  The mother in me wants to hug them all, somehow make it better, but, that is not my role in their lives.

Today, though, there was only one young person I saw.  He came out from being seen and waited impatiently in the queue to schedule his next appointment.  He didn’t want to be in line and you could see from his body language that he just was annoyed for having to be there at all.

The others that filled the waiting room were relics from a time when war was called a conflict or just a cold war.   These relics were once the best and the brightest.  They were strong men.  They were well-trained and ready to move in an instant.  Today, they walked stiffly and their eyes were not as sharp.  Many of them wore pony tails in long silver hair, one last outward sign of rebellion after years of high and tight haircuts.

I sat in a corner chair studying these men.  My heart was filled with pride and heart-ache.  It is the same feeling I have each time I go there.  These men served when it wasn’t popular.  They served when no one noticed and no one thanked them.  They served because they love our country.

So, thank you to all those vets who are now a bit crippled, a bit hard of hearing, a bit old.  I think that on the outside there is age and it’s deterioration, but on the inside that young man filled with fire and strength is laying dormant.    I left that clinic feeling grateful for all you did.  You paved the way for the young strong men of today.  Well done.

Thanks for stopping by today, Cathi (DAF, retired Navy wife)

My life could now be a sit-com…

I sit here writing, waiting for the timer to go off so that I can disconnect the little cleaner bug for the pool.  My pants are wet and I refuse to change them just yet as I know I will get drenched doing a simple task that takes hubby five minutes and takes me a half hour.

This is my life.  I was a Navy wife.  Toughest job in the Navy they used to say.  They were right too.  I thought nothing of checking automobile fluids, air pressure in tires, and filling tires with air.  It was nothing to trim the yard and even start a lawn mower.

I could fix, paint, spackle,  and do assorted chores around the house.  I was confident doing it.  I was tired, but, confident.

Then Hubby retired from the Navy.  He got his degree, he went to work, he took care of things around the house.  I didn’t have to do much.  Just clean the house, do laundry and make certain there were meals when we were hungry, and even then, there was take out and eating out.  Life was calm.

Calm until a month ago.  Now I am digging out that old, rusty and dusty Navy wife persona.  She is really dusty and rusty.  She hasn’t wanted to be brought out of retirement.  She was happy sitting in the dark recesses of my memories where she looked heroic.  After yanking her out of the corner, I find she is a bit testy!  She grumbles and isn’t near as strong as she once was.  Her upper body strength is shot and her hands aren’t as nimble as they once were.  Plus, her language can be a bit coarse.  I really didn’t remember that part!   On the whole, I think she may have sat too long.

I reflect on all of this on the heels of learning that instead of two more weeks of hubby being immobile we still have another month.  After that month, any thought of physical therapy is another six weeks out.  This really doesn’t bother me, except, I knew that the old Navy wife was going to rebel.  She was hoping she would be recalled for only a few days, seems now, that she is going to be back in service for a while.

Right before I started writing this post, I remembered that I had not disconnected the hose to water the garden.  I  turned off the spigot, remembering ‘righty-tighty, lefty -loosy’.  I then went to where two hoses were connected together.  I waited a few minutes to get the residual water through, then turned the one hose to the little off position, bent close to the ground (as Hubby has suggested) and proceeded to disconnect the hoses.  It was like standing over Old Faithful.  Water gushed up enveloping me in a shower.  Glasses dripping, water in my ears, up my nose, and all over.  I changed my shirt to start to write and sure enough that one got drenched when I finished pulling out the cleaner tool from the pool.  I had followed Hubby’s directions, I had left one end of the connecting hose in the pool and was disconnecting the cleaner when the loose end squirted up and out of the pool, not the way it was supposed to happen.  I fixed it and we didn’t lose too much pool water through the hose, but, still, I was soaked, again.

I laugh at myself often these days.  That is, when Navy wife isn’t in my mind telling me that the situation is hopeless….  I forgot she can be a bit of a downer at times.  Still in all, my life has become a sit-com.  People would sit and eat bowls of popcorn watching me, having a good laugh.  I know six months from now, I could join in with them, that is after I once again retire Navy wife and get on with relaxing.

So, now, once more in dry clothes, I will close this out and go fold some laundry.  This isn’t exactly how we planned our summer, but, we figure there is a plan and a purpose in this.  God has a reason for everything, and although I can get frustrated and frazzled, the underlying truth is this, we have each other, we are healthy (well, except for his knee and tendons), we have a beautiful home, a loving church family and neighbors and we still serve a God who has everything (even me dripping wet) under control.

Thanks for stopping by tonight, I appreciate you.  DAF (Cathi)