When I was a new navy wife, I remember an experienced navy wife explaining to me that if a marriage was bad, a deployment would make it worse. However, if a marriage was good, a deployment would make it better. When my husband retired from the United States Navy, he had served 29 years. We had weathered too many six-month deployments to keep count. We had even weathered an unplanned and unchosen one-year unaccompanied tour. We just passed our 43rd wedding anniversary, and with each year our marriage has continued to, yes, you guessed it, get better.
Deployments are behind us. One-year-unaccompanied tours are history. However, we still have storms to weather. This year has been especially challenging. Plans to be somewhere else for a spell have been cancelled or stopped short because we were needed at home. However, what brought me to writing about it is that the verb “needed” is wrong. We wanted to be home.
We have been and are a family often far-flung from each other. The navy, as explained earlier, thoroughly acquainted us with long separations. My husband and I for the past the ten years have spent the better part of each summer in a remote area of the west of Ireland. My older son is pilot for UPS, so he spends two weeks flying from Anchorage to Dubai to Hong Kong to Mumbai and back to Anchorage before he flies back to Virginia for his two weeks off. My younger son lives and works in New York City, but has had to be in Los Angeles for one or two weeks every other month. However, our experiences as a navy family have allowed us to carry on, knowing exactly how we want to spend those sweet, but few, times we are together.
However, this year, due to some difficult circumstances in our lives, the times we have had together in this house where we raised our two sons have multiplied. It is this manifestation of the love we have for each other coupled with my faith that accounts for my being so assured that, at the end of all this, we are going to be ok. I wake up each morning only to stroll around my garden in my pajamas and find myself thanking my creator for another summer’s day. By mid-morning I peddle my bike to the bay beach and swim along the shoreline heading east toward the sun. I feel the presence of my creator there with me. I can feel him in the warm sunshine on my shoulders, and in the cool water embracing my body.
Some readers of Shestories may find it odd that I should mention faith, as in the last year I have left the Catholic Church. However, in that process I realized that I was now responsible for my relationship with my creator. It was no longer something done on Sunday morning at Mass. It was on me. Elsewhere on Shestories I have written about the process I underwent to address this responsibility by completing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Francis Loyola through a book by Margaret Self entitled “Inner Compass”. Her words, imagery, and exercises have allowed me to feel closer to my creator, and better equipped to navigate the waters of life.
However, I must add that the third leg to this peace amidst so much chaos and loss is that I have retired. Retirement gives a person time. It was made clear to me early on in life that time is the greatest gift a parent can give a child, a spouse to a spouse, a friend to a friend, a sibling to a sibling. Your time. Retirement allows you to not only be generous with your time for others, but also time for yourself, time to be yourself, time to discover who you are.
This year, life keeps throwing me hard balls, but with my family, my faith, and time, I am keeping my eye on the ball, making my way round the bases, heading to home plate.