Friday, September 18, 2009

Give Me Strength

I drove my husband to work this morning so that I could pick him up after work and not leave his car stranded. He had his promotion party this afternoon.

So, as we were driving across the bridge this morning, my dear, dear husband said, (and I quote, for the record!) "I can't wait to retire."

It was his plan when we moved here to do whatever it takes to stay put and retire here. He says things like, "My family is more important than my career." And, "I love it here." Jesus, just last week he was wondering how everyone would react if he kissed the kids' new headmaster on the mouth. That's how much he loves the kids' new school. (We all do.)

But around lunchtime I got an e-mail from him saying, "We need to talk!"

When a military husband e-mails home those four words, it is never good.

But we never connected before his party. And by the time the kids and I got to his party he was slurring drunk. Slurring and happy drunk.

Once we got home and got the kids to bed, and had ice cream, he wanted to talk. He got a few e-mails today. They were asking him to come work deputy positions in North Florida. Which would hopefully lead to commanding positions, most likely in glorious places like Alabama, North Dakota or Louisiana. He also found out he is eligible to put in for a command position.

So he went from, "I can't wait to retire," this morning to "I want to be a commander," this afternoon.

Oh, oh oh! Never mind that just this morning I asked him why he didn't get selected for a certain something and he told me that he chose to spend his time with us before a deployment over studying for the required tests. He insisted it was a good choice that he had freely made.

We can't stay here if he really wants to push his career. If he pushes to be a commander, we'll move a lot. A lot.

He wants to know what I think.

I don't know what to tell him.

I want him to be happy. Faced with the reality of fulfilling the dream he's had since he was...oh...about 19, he can't pass it up. He's too proud to tell people he just wants to quietly play out the last few years of his career for his family's sake. The allure of finally having the chance to be in charge, run things his own way, and probably get promoted to colonel is just too irresistible to resist.

I don't want him to regret not going for it.

But I am extremely happy here. The kids are extremely happy here. We are incredibly lucky to have them accepted at one of the best schools in the country. And we are even luckier to be able to afford to send them there.

I don't want to move to a place where I'd have to put the kids in public or church school. Where I can't even find a violin teacher. Where we've lived before and know we don't love.

He asked me, "What would you do if you were me?"

I can't answer that.

I am a woman who gave up a very promising career to marry a military man. I've sacrificed a lot to give my children everything I thought they needed. I love being "just a housewife" and a stay-at-home-mom, but it has come at a personal price.

When it comes right down to it, at the very core of me is the instinct to sacrifice myself for the sake of those I love. That's not good or bad. It just is.

I can't ask him to make the same sacrifice of personal fulfillment that I would. He doesn't know what it is to give everything up for his family. And I don't know what it is to have to provide for that family.

Without him there would be no violin lessons, private school or stay-at-home mom, because we wouldn't be able to afford it.

When it comes right down to it, I just want him to be happy. And he just wants me to be happy. And for the first time, those two things just can't line up.

So he joked, "Maybe I'll be divorced by then and I can just go on my own."

And I told him, "We shouldn't talk about this while you're drunk."

But he insisted he was sober. And he went on to suggest that maybe we could just live apart for a few years.

I maintain that no school can trump having a loving father in your life. He maintains that a great education is more important than anything he can give them.

I just don't know. Two years ago when he was in Iraq he was ready to get out of the service. I think is his excitement over advancement he has forgotten just how miserable he was. We'd be moving to the armpit of America again only to be separated from him for six months out of every eighteen.

I have no answers for him. I don't know what to say. He knew this decision was coming, I just don't think he thought enough about how he was going to feel about it.

I've always taken the same stand when these kinds of decision come up. I tell him, "Do what you need to do. We'll be fine. I'll make it work."

It's the stoic answer. The strong one.

I'm not sure how much strength I have left.

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