I don't remember much about that last week before the ship pulled out. I know the CO and his wife visited. I know Jason packed his stuff up. I know life went on. Time passed.
April 1st came, and the ship was leaving. I HAD TO be at the dock to see it off. I had responsibilities...to the CO, and to the other wives, and to my children. I had to be there. I didn't realize that 3 hours of standing on the concrete pier, waiting for that ship to leave would be so hard on me physically. I DID expect it to be hard emotionally. Finally, the ship left, and the kids and I piled back in the car and headed home.
It was about lunch time when we got to the house, and I was wiped out. Three hours on the concrete pier, holding my one-week-old baby, and corralling the other 4 (ages 2, 4, 5, and 8) had been a little too much for me. I fed kids, and got them put down for naps, and called my midwife because I was concerned with how much I was bleeding. She made me promise to get some rest. I went to take as much of a nap as I could, and she called my neighbor, who came over to help.
The next couple of weeks were amazing. My midwife had mobilized help for me. She was apparently very concerned about me, and told me that if I didn't get the rest I needed, she was going to send me to the hospital. I KNEW I couldn't afford THAT, since the ship was gone, and I needed to be home with the kids. She knew that our church would step and help....and, boy, did they ever....
People took the kids for the day....to the park, to the aquarium, to their houses, to the beach. Young couples came and cleaned the house. Meals were provided...MORE meals....I seem to remember SIX more weeks' worth of meals! I was able to just spend time with my baby, resting and recuperating.
After the initial rough times, I thought the rest of the deployment would be a cup of tea. Right. We had prepared for a lot of possibilities of things going wrong while the ship was gone. We had a great team in place to deal with things. A neighboring church was prepared to help with things like car repairs and dryers and other small home repairs.... we were prepared.
There truly is nothing like a deployment for a military wife to earn her stripes! During that deployment, I dealt with:
a broken windshield
a broken dryer
a broken bone in my foot
a broken collar bone in my 2-year-old
a wife that had her children removed from the home
a wife that threatened me
various other irritations and gossips...
my dad, brother and sister came to visit
my sister stayed for about a month
Toward the end of the summer, Jason's dad was retiring from the Marine Corps, and Jason was planning to be there, to surprise his dad. It was exciting....and I decided that I would be there, too...I packed up myself, my sister, and all 5 children, and we met Jason's uncle near Austin, TX, and caravaned to South Carolina with them for the retirement. We had an amazing time seeing extended family, and enjoying the retirement, and after it was over, my sister went home, and Jason drove back to Texas with me.
The summer of 2002 was a summer of learning for me. I learned that I could deal with a LOT more than I thought possible. I learned about the amazing love our church showed to us. I learned to ask for help. I learned (sadly) that not everyone responded positively to stress in their lives. I learned to really appreciate all of the help my husband provided when he was home (there's nothing like having him gone to help me appreciate him more!!). I also learned a lot of things about myself....things I would need further down the road.