Miles to go.
Exhaustion is clearly shown on my face.
I put my hair up in a high ponytail. I remember reading that a high ponytail gave the appearance of youth. Although, I’m pretty happy being the age I’m at right now. I remember Sylvia Browne said that at home, we all look like we are 35. When asked why we look thirty-five, she would respond, “Why not? It’s the perfect blend of youth and wisdom.” I feel like at thirty-seven I am only just coming into my own.
There was a piece on NPR yesterday about a researcher who has coined a term for those who find themselves later in life than what society deems is proper. He called those people who found their calling in their thirties, forties, and fifties, “late bloomers” and cited those who dislike completion and who try a million different directions before finally settling down to one or two ways they can make a living.
I have spent the last eleven years being a military spouse, supporting my husband’s career and being the primary parent to our two living children. It was expected that I put my husband first as he came in and out, and it left little time for me to have any type of career. Now, I know the sound of my husband’s voice on the phone when he calls to tell me he has a “sudden trip to XYZ.” I have perfected the art of prioritization and re-organizing schedules.
I find myself on this very train because my husband is working today. My children have spent some time with their Grandmother over Spring break, and rather than make the hard drive down South to the mid-Atlantic from New England alone, we have agreed to meet in New York City to transfer hands. I don’t mind being the primary parent, nor do I mind the time I have taken away from my time I could have been building a career to support my husband.
It is because of my husband’s job that we lived five beautiful years in Hawaii. It is because of my husband’s job that we find ourselves in what will become our forever home in New England. As a farmer’s daughter in northern California, I didn’t leave the State until I was twelve, and I didn’t take my first plane ride until I was sixteen. With my husband, after our whirlwind six-month courtship, I found myself flying over the Pacific ocean for the first time to our new home on Oahu. It was terrifying and exciting all at the same time.
It still is terrifying and exciting. My kids are at a point in school where we have decided when my husband gets his next orders, the kids and I will stay behind, regardless of where they send him. I don’t enjoy the thought of separating my family, but now we must put the kids' needs first. I remember when we walked through the house, we have now called home, we both knew this would the house our kids grew up in.
It was necessary after the tragedy we faced in Hawaii. I was pregnant with our second child, and three-quarters of the way through the pregnancy, when I found out our child had Down Syndrome and heart defects. My husband was on his way out to sea, and I had to put out an emergency call to him. “Please don’t make me tell this to you over the phone” I begged through tears. “I can’t come back, Nance,” my husband said softly, using my familial nickname. So, I told him over the broken phone connection as the boat sailed farther and farther away from his family. I was unable to hold his hand. I couldn’t see his expression. As soon as I told him, he had to get off the line. He still had to perform his duties that he swore under oath to his country he would do, even though his life had just crashed down. Three in half weeks later he came back into Port for a few days.
The first full day he was home, our child died in the womb. Looking back, we like to say she was waiting for him to come home to pass, and we will forever be grateful for that fact. He held my hand through 72 hours of anguishing labor to deliver our daughter. Through my labor, he still had to take phone calls from work. His duty was never forgotten. A day after she died, he was told he had to go back out to sea. We rushed to make arrangements for cremation as he again took phone calls. My mom flew in on an emergency flight from the mainland and then my husband was gone again. I was left to pack up my daughter’s things, and the pieces of our life. I arranged the Celebration of Life and a few days after he came back the next time, we held our daughter’s funeral. My husband’s orders moved four months later to New England, in the cold, dark, Winter.
Our grief followed us around like the weather, and we struggled to find community when there was such loss. Spring came, and so did the news that I was pregnant. As we started to find our way, we realized our family had gone through enough change. It lead us to a bright, open, house, and is the only house my now four-year-old son knows. We have embraced our community and found wonderful friends and a church that we look forward to watching our children grow up in.
My husband and I often quote the Billy Joel song, “wherever I am with you, I am home.” but now we understand how much it means to have stability. Stability has brought me into my own and allowed all of my masks to come off. I am grateful to have the opportunity to start a business that isn’t defined by my husband or his job. I am setting my own rules, and it is freeing. Whenever we come into our own, and whatever stage of the journey we are on, having stability allows us to reach higher than we would if things were in flux. I may be a late bloomer, but I am blooming into something beautiful, and it has only just begun.