Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Difficult Time in Your Life

My mother was right.  Have you ever said that before?  I have said it a LOT since I actually grew up.  In fact, we were talking this weekend and I told her that if I knew now what I thought I knew when I was 18, I would be a certified genius.  There are so many examples of where Mom was right (ergo- I was WRONG) but this one led me straight into a few difficult years.

When I was 17/18 years old- I was just crazy about my (now) husband. Don't get me wrong. We fought like cats and dogs but we also were crazy about each other.  We decided that, rather than giving it time and doing the whole college thing, he would enlist and we would get married.  Though they have supported everything I have ever done, I know deep inside that Mom and Dad were disappointed.  They expected more of me.  They expected more of him.  They told us we were too young, that we weren't ready.  What did they know?  You couldn't tell us anything!

So we did it.  We got married.  I was 18 (5 months shy of 19) and he was barely 20 (6 weeks prior).  He had enlisted in December with a ship out date of March.  We moved our date up ( I had envisioned myself a June bride getting married on Old North Bridge in Concord, MA) to February so we could be married when he left for basic training and our guests braved a blizzard to be there to witness our nuptials.  It should have been a clue as to what we were in for. We didn't get it.  We had a friend of Jim's folks who bet us a thousand dollars that we would kill one another within a year and he only said aloud what some others were thinking.  Clue number 2.  We didn't get it.  Post-wedding we thought very carefully about our "wish list" for when he filled out his requested duty assignments.  We chose 5 bases all across the country and then tried to forget that he was leaving  and enjoyed a four week "honeymoon phase" before he left.   Then he was gone.  For four months.  It was tough but  phone calls and mail kept us sane and a weekend trip down to Biloxi, MS in the middle to see him during Tech School was a lifeline.  It wasn't long after I got home that he called home with news. He had gotten his assignment.  We were going overseas; not just overseas but to Turkey.  It was a blow.  We expected to move away from our friends and family.  We did not expect to move THAT far away from our entire support system.  Being the good "brats" that we were, we took it on the chin, sucked it up and made the move.

I don't think we were there three months when we realized we were in the mud up to our knees.  Oh we had an inkling about the work it takes to be grown-up-married-people, after all we had great role models in our parents, but the enormity of it started to creep in about the first time we looked at our check book and realized that with me not working yet- the money was not going to stretch as far as we thought.  Having to decide between groceries and renting a movie had never happened to us before.  Worrying about where the rent/utilities and such would come from was a whole new ballgame. We were living off of the base and "on the economy" which presented its own set of challenges.  Things like navigating the language and customs in order to run out to buy milk or tea was definitely...interesting.  We were also lonely.  We had each other but that can get old quickly when you are in a whole different world.  Add to that that I had been working steadily since I was 13 years old and jobs are few and far between for wives overseas.  I had applied but I had to wait for a slot to open.  I was bored stiff and we didn't want to spend the money it would take to catch a cab to get on base to go to the library or the rec center or to do anything until I was able to find a job.  As this was in 1986 (pre-cell phone days for those of you who are younger than me) it wasn't as if we could just pick up the phone and call Mom and Dad, our siblings or our friends.  We were far more isolated than we had thought possible.  Plus, military life was far different for him than he had ever dreamed.  As you can imagine, all of these things and more stressed us out and made us crabby, and when you are crabby and there is only one other person with you they get the brunt of it.  First we began arguing about the big things, then as time went on it went on to be about stupid little things as well.

I don't know if it was sheer stubbornness or if we took those lessons from our parents and put them into play but we made it through that first year. Eventually I got a job and was able to keep it until our circumstances changed.  We met people first through his job and then mine and were able to socialize.  We learned to juggle our money and stretch it almost to the breaking point.  I think the biggest game changer came about 6 months in when we decided that we should, since he was miserable enough that he had already decided that he would not reenlist, go ahead and get pregnant while we were in a good place in terms of health care and we were relatively comfortable financially.

Fifteen months after we got married; 25 years ago last Friday, we welcomed Joshua into our hearts and lives.  By the time he was born we knew that we whatever would come we would be able to face together and work through it.  That's not to say it has been a bed of roses.  There have been more than a few thorns in the last 26 years but we are still making it through- together.  

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