From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sometimes My Heart Thinks Louder Than My Brain

I was sitting in Spring Barbecue in Katy, Texas when my husband told me he was deploying to Afghanistan. He was a colonel, an Army Reservist, and we had been married less than three years. You would have to understand we are older, and to find the man of your dreams at any time in life is really quite miraculous, but to find him at my age... is truly so. I was 56 years old when he left, and owned a closet full of evening wear, that I got to use often.  I wasn't allowed to dance when I was in high school, although my younger sisters were when they reached the same age.  That is one of the disadvantages of being the oldest in a family; your parents mellow as they raise children... after you are gone. When I met Randy, I had never danced with a man before, and my first dance with him was just as magical as I had imagined as a young girl that it would be.  We were at a reunion of the 95th Division WWII veterans, and the band was playing a beautiful old song, The Tennessee Waltz, and we waltzed.  It was always pure delight for me to attend the military balls that Randy was frequently required to attend, and to dance with him.  Life can be a romance novel… even when you are old.  When any woman of any age finds that in a man, all times of separation between them, are unbearable for her.
 My husband had gently broached the news in the Spring Barbeque that I had known from before we married would eventually come.  "Cowgirls Don't Cry" began to play in the background, and as he broke the long dreaded news, tears began silently flowing from my eyes, as they never had before. They didn't stop their continuous stream the entire time we were there. I never made a sound, and I would smile each time the waitress asked with concern if we needed something, and nod "no." I could not, for the life of me, stop those tears. It was the most embarrassing meal I have ever publicly   suffered my exposed and raw emotions through. 

I knew as he tried to console me that day while I choked down my sandwich, it was going to be the hardest thing I had ever done.  The experience has lived up to my worst expectations and then some, but I struggle on, and I yearn for the day he finally comes home, or I get to go to where I can sleep in the same bed with him every night, no matter where he is.  I have always said I would live in a tent in the dessert, in a hole in the ground, or any other place just to be where he is.

We live on a small ranch within an hour of Houston, but when we first moved here, now almost five years  ago; Yahoo Maps could not locate our address. We really live in the country. Internet connection possibilities are limited, and a cell phone is only as good as the room you are standing in and the weather.  My husband and I both love the little ranch of forty two acres, and Austin County where it is located.  There is a pond, thirteen heavily wooded acres, an antique barn, and unbelievable wildlife.  My husband dubbed it Soldier's Heart Ranch, and two people have never been happier as we have endeavored to make it the home of our dreams.  Both of us are unpretentious people, and “expensive things” are not a requirement for “dream” achievement.  

We have also added three little cabins, and a “Barbie Barn,” along with many other furnishings we know to be soothing to the soul, like 1100 square feet of wrap around porch, and rocking chairs by the dozen.  We both count it a great honor to be able to share the tranquility and beauty of this place with others who serve and their families.  It is the people who live here in Austin County as well, that make it the special place it is.  We live between Bellville and Sealy, and there are not better people to be found. They are honest, hardworking, genuine, supportive of each other and the community as a whole, and as a rule, patriotic to the core.

I am a trained FRG leader, mature, self-reliant, and independent by nature.  Having supported many other Soldier families, I had told myself I was going to do this, and do it proud.  I had always felt great empathy as I watched other military families , including my daughter’s, and those observances have somewhat empowered me.  My Christian faith, friends, and family have been invaluable to my survival. I have now learned the struggles and sacrifices America's military families make every day first hand, and come close to complete collapse many times while attaining that knowledge.  There isn't enough training or anything else in the world, which will make the deployment of a loved one without strife, pain, and sacrifice.  However, even though those things are a given when a loved one serves, there has also been the acquisition of what my husband says the Army offers to anyone associated with it, if they will receive it.  He calls it by the acronym he assigned it, “SIP.”  That stands for Skills, Identity, and Purpose, and those things can be the very positive products of enduring the deployment of a loved one to a war zone half way around the world.

Click edit above to add content to this empty capsule.
Mostly because we were in the company of other Soldier families seeing their husbands and fathers off to war, and due to the fact that I was so numb with disbelief that it was actually happening, I held back tears at the airport.  Then I went home and lay in bed and cried for two weeks after I stood watching the plane until its dot finally disappeared on the horizon.  I ate nothing but Girl Scout Cookies.  I remember thinking I would never make it a year.  I remember too agonizing over the thought he would be gone that long, because even though I had known intellectually that it was coming, my heart had never gotten the message clearly.  My heart, as my beautiful oldest grand-daughter, Madie, once told me of her heart, “sometimes thinks louder than my brain."  I think she was seven at the time.
Eventually, the fact that I had seen many women, including my own daughter, do deployment, and do it well, called me from my bed and my cookies.   So I took up a mantra from my husband’s life long thinking, changed the gender to make it my own, and declared to myself "if the woman in front of me can do it, so can I."  Sure enough, I began to acquire SIP.

When my husband left for Afghanistan, it was to be a one year deployment, it has now been three years, and he isn't home yet. I have survived, I have grown, I have suffered, I have sacrificed, and I have cried, but most of all, I have loved.  I have become a richer, and even happier person, so proud to have worn the title “Army wife.” My colonel has been officially retired since last June, but the State Department has snagged him and his phenomenal talents up, so I am entering the fourth year of his consecutive deployment to the Middle East.  The Bible is full of promises about making it through hardships, and God is always a promise keeper. I will tell my own deployment story over the next month, because the Army little noted my husband leaving service after thirty years, sending him a Legion of Merit, on which his name is misspelled, in the mail, and later a certificate signed by President Obama in a manila envelope that was so wrinkled I had to iron it to make it presentable.  It arrived in the mail as well.  That just won’t do… and I am planning the celebration of his long and distinguished service at a party I will host on Memorial Day here at the ranch.  We will also be formally dedicating the ranch to the work we have started in support of our military and their families called Soldier’s Heart Ministry.

I will offer bits of the wisdom I have gained for the consideration of others in their own struggle, and I promise you, it is a struggle each and every day.  As always, I will with profound humility and gratitude, offer support to anyone who is currently serving, or who has served. You all have my deepest admiration and appreciation; you are the best among us.  Now since it is getting so late I give my best advice to anyone facing this "refining like gold” experience of deployment: keep your chin up, look around for someone else in need of support and give it to them, and work on your SIP!