Why the Hard Stuff Has Been Easier


I picked up You Know When the Men Are Gone* by Siobhan Fallon on a whim at my local library** a few weeks ago by my usual book-choosing method: thirty seconds of scanning the reshelve cart parked next to the new release shelves followed by another thirty seconds dashing up and down the new release shelves all while listening and watching for my kiddos as they roamed back and forth through past the circulation desk. 

This book ended up in my checkout pile because the title and the inside flap spoke to me; I honestly thought it might be a fluffyish chick-lit novel about life as a military wife. 

{I've often thought I have ample material from my years as a Navy wife to write such a story myself.}

I was busy reading a few other books before I finally picked this up a week or so ago.  It says something about this book that its stories are the ones that have been rattling around in my head while those other books left such a dim impression that I can't even remember exactly what their titles were.

First, this isn't a novel; it's a series of short stories, all related, about the realities of life for Army soldiers and their families dealing with a year long deployment. 

Second, I was blown away by the writing.  Absolutely beautiful and heartbreakingly true.

Third, I was taken back in time to my own pre-kiddo, pre-civilian, Navy years of my marriage to Knute.

Knute never deployed for a year (thank God) but he did deploy for about six months for his longest stretch.  Add to that several smaller deployments (two months), time underway (a few weeks at a stretch), duty days (on the ships for 48-72 hours straight than back to the usual grind of 12 hour days), and schools (two different 6 month schools where he lived as a geographic bachelor because I didn't move with him - we saw each other on weekends or every other weekend), and we spent about two and a half years apart during our first five years of marriage when he was active duty in the Navy. 

Those years, those days-weeks-months apart, those 2:30 am phone calls from the other end of the Earth that ripped me from my sleep with a deep, cold fear-filled dread (even in times of peace, even during normal deployments and exercises, sailors die doing their jobs; the sea is a dangerous and unforgiving taskmaster), forever altered the way I look at everyday life.

There have been hard times in the years that have ensued since Knute resigned his commission and we became card carrying members of the Joe Q Public ordinary citizens club.

We had three kids in four-and-a-half years.

Knute changed jobs twice, necessitating moving (again!) twice during those years of infants, toddlers, and {unceasing morning sickness} pregnancy.

I had a cervical cancer scare between kiddo 2 and 3.  After a hysteroscopy, the docs determined that all was ok and I was simply exhibiting signs of stress; we were in the midst of Knute's first job change/move/civilian life upheaval.  Still, there was a week to ten days between the ultrasound and the scope where I laid in bed at night not sleeping, wondering if I would see my then 3 year old and 1 year old grow up.

There were the ear surgeries our daughter stoically endured; the night spent by our son's bedside in the hospital as he recovered from a massive asthma attack, both of us trying to block out the hidden meaning of his doctor's words, "For a few minutes in the ER, he really had us scared." 

Then there are all the ordinary details of life that fill up our days, the everyday hard stuff, the challenges of parenting three children and doing it as best we can so that they can grow up to be good people in this world.  The bills, the expected ones and the unexpected ones; the schedules, cram-packed with activities and volunteering and appointments and family events. 

Through all those hard times, from the dark valleys where I knew I never walked alone but feared I might never climb out of to the everyday dips and vistas of life, it's been easier.

Easier simply because I had Knute Q Public.

Happy {48 days belated} 16th Anniversary, Knute.  I love you.

*Yo, that's my Amazon affiliate link, just so you know, full disclosure and all that good stuff.  ;-)

**And that is a totally unaffiliated link to my local library simply because I LOVE my library and our fantastic librarians.  I feel like Norm walking into Cheers - everybody knows my name (and my kids, too).