Lately, there has been so much talk of supporting the troops and their families particularly during deployments. A lot of the talk is just that—talk. This weekend is the start of Memorial Day Weekend. It’s a day to spend time with family, grill good food, have pool parties, go to the beach, and in my brother-in-law’s case get married. Here my little family is, largely forgotten with nothing to do. Autism isn’t good bedfellows with having a wonderful social life. Most people don’t want their kids around my kids, because they are uncomfortable with my son. I can’t take my kids to the beach, because I need to watch my son and make sure he doesn’t go too deep, or doesn’t run off to the bathroom without us. I can’t take them to Big Kahuna’s, because I can’t devote 100% attention to one child, while completely ignoring another. I can’t go to my brother-in-law’s wedding because traveling with a special needs child is daunting, much less traveling with one special needs child and another child who challenges everything I do and say.
When I talk to anyone about my feelings on this, and how much this hurts, all I hear is, “what did you expect? You signed up for this. Your husband is in the military, and you should be used to this.” So what were my expectations? I knew that going in that there would be separations. I was active duty. We lived at separate addresses for the better part of our first three years of marriage. I knew deployments were inevitable. I expected deployments. I did not sign on to go through a deployment alone with a special needs child. There is no manual to prepare you for that. There are no instructions about dealing with the emotions of not only having a spouse deployed, but the overwhelming feeling of not being welcomed somewhere, because your child is not normal. I didn’t sign up for this. If I had my way we would have kissed the Air Force good bye years ago, then we would have had a special needs child with no insurance coverage. I should be used to this lifestyle, because I have done it for 16 years. I suppose if you went to someone’s house, and every single day punched that person in the arm, would that person get used to it? At least they would have a choice in the matter, right? They could opt not to open the door, they could leave at the time you were expected to arrive, or they could wear padding so it doesn’t hurt so much.
What options do I have to mitigate these feelings? I could always invite myself along somewhere, so I could feel like some third wheel in someone else’s life, and seeing a whole family really doesn’t appeal to me. I could leave my husband, but why would I leave my husband when I don’t really want a divorce. It just seems like a lot of pain for something so minor as a 6-month deployment. I could just grin, and bear it, but don’t I deserve an outlet to have my feelings heard without having to hear how it’s my fault for going through this. That’s what I don’t get about civilian families. They seem to be under the impression that we had some romantic notion about deployments, and that we are these independent people without feelings, or emotions.
So how does one support the troops without giving lip service? I can think of three things I would love to have right now, that I just don’t. The first is someone to talk to. I would like an adult to talk to in person, not over Skype, not on the phone, but in person. I would like an adult to validate that this truly does suck, that it will be okay, and that my kid and I will make through this for better, or worse. I don’t want to hear about how I asked for it, how I signed up for it, and how I should have expected it. The second thing I would like is for someone to invite my family to come enjoy the holiday with them. My kids wanted to go to the beach this weekend, and I can’t take them to the beach. They wanted to go to a party or have people over, and every one of my friends just seemed to vanish into thin air once the weekend approached. I would like someone to maybe do a little chore around the house, help me with something. Help me get one more little thing done. Every time I look around the house and see what has to be done, it’s just really overwhelming. It would be so cool to have my lawn mowed, or my bushes trimmed. Not something that would take all day, but an hour. That’s how I would like to be supported when it comes to supporting the troops and their families.