Welcome back for another part of our love saga!
I left you off last week with celebrating our first anniversary apart while Tom was in basic training. You can read more about our first year here.
This was a long year full of ups and downs. (I am emotional before I even start writing this…)
Before I went to meet Tom at his graduation, I received a phone call that would change everything.
My mom called me on a Sunday evening the week I was to head down to Georgia to pick Tom up.
My grandma had suffered from a massive stroke.
These grandparents lived in South Carolina, so after a lot of schedule changes, I made the decision to travel to SC with my mom for the next week and then drive from there to GA for Tom’s graduation. What would happen after that was up in the air since we didn’t know the severity of the situation until we arrived at the hospital.
My grandpa was already having health issues at the time of the stroke and was receiving in home care as well as routine hospital visits for his ailments. That week we were able to get them both in hospice care (in the same room) because the prognosis did not look good for Grandma. It was the most heartbreaking and most uplifting experience to watch these two love birds.
It was hard because we all knew both of their days were numbered. It was hard because there was so much pain in the room that could not be taken away. It was hard because this was also a time that I couldn’t freely talk to Tom, so I had to just wait for him to call to update him briefly on my dying grandparents and my emotional state.
But in a sense it was a wonderful way to spend with them. Even though my grandma could not speak and was immobilized in many ways and my grandpa couldn’t go to the bathroom on his own, seeing their love and devotion to one another in their darkest hours was so touching. Watching Grandma react to Grandpa’s singing and handholding are moments I will never forget. The vulnerability I saw from them was better than any romantic movie.
The time came for me to head to GA to pick up my own love, but also to say goodbye to the love of my grandparents. It was the longest and loneliest drive of my life knowing that I may never see my grandparents again, but knowing that I was about to see Tom for the first time in a few months.
The anxiety and anticipation was at an all-time high.
Tom’s family was able to meet me in GA for the graduation, and we waited in the heat (inferno) for the chance to see Tom again.
I was able to pin his infantry cord on him, which is a great honor (even though the buttons where stubborn and would NOT cooperate).
You can see Tom’s sweat…I blame the heat on the tricky buttons. Okay maybe it was also my clumsy nerves getting the best of me since this moment right here was the first time seeing him in months!
Tom’s parents and sister after the ceremony
We had a good time celebrating his big achievement of getting through. And I was so glad to have him back!
There was something nagging at me though. Since we were still in the eastern timezone, I knew I needed to drive back to SC on our way home to see my grandparents one more time. I just knew that it would be the last time. Fortunately, my husband was used to sleep deprivation (upside of Basic right?) and gave in to my pleading, and we tacked on several hours to detour up to SC one more time.
After a very brief Sonic dinner with them and final goodbye hugs, we headed back to Missouri to celebrate the 4th of July.
We then headed back to Iowa for a brief week before he had to report to Ft. Campbell, his first duty station.
He was able to reunite with our baby girl. She was so happy to see him again!
During this time we caught up with friends, and he bought his beloved Jeep.
It was also during this week that my Grandma passed away. I was so glad that Tom was there to help me through this because I was kind of lost, especially since I couldn’t make it to the funeral.
And then our week was over. Tom had to go to Ft. Campbell, while Grace and I stayed back in Iowa. We had decided that I would stay back just a little longer while he scoped the land there and saw what his orders were like. I had started the job search for the Ft. Campbell area, but I was also starting to get ready for year three at Iowa State. My head and heart where in two different places.
So after 3 months of basic training and only a week back together, Tom and I said goodbye again.
Once Tom got to Ft. Campbell, we learned that he would be deploying in a couple months.
I just got him back, and you want him to go where?
I was really upset about this at the time, but obviously there was no choice in this. We were getting baptized by the Army from the get go. Ready or not we had to go through this.
So as Tom underwent training for deployment, I began the long couple months of training for a new year with my job. I needed to focus on my job and not worry about Tom’s situation. But I also knew that it was going to be my last year at Iowa State-ugh holy emotions. So I was determined to make it my best year yet and end on a high note. We decided that I would stick it out for that school year since it lined up with Tom’s deployment. It did not make sense for me to hurry to get a job in KY in the land of the unknown while I had a great job and a support network in Iowa, knowing that we were about to undergo one of the biggest tests of our relationship.
It was around this time that I decided to start a blog documenting my side of the deployment since I didn’t really see myself as an Army wife at the time. I needed an outlet somewhere. (Holy moly, my have my blogging skills grown since that first entry…)
Right after I successfully led my staff through move-in and the start of classes, I came down to say my farewell to Tom before he headed out for his first tour for 9 months. Long distance was here to stay. Will we ever be together?
The day before he left for Afghanistan.
Tom left and made it safely overseas.
While Tom was becoming a world traveler, I received another phone call.
My grandpa had passed away. He had survived his wife by only a few months.
This was another hard time for me to lose so much so quickly. It was also hard because I didn’t want to be a basket-case every time Tom and I got a few minutes to chat. Those moments are so precious, and I didn’t want to spend it all in tears.
I went to my grandpa’s funeral, which is also the last time I was in Clemson. I wrote more about my grandparents’ influence here and how I was feeling at the time.
I continued my job search to no avail, but I was having the time of my life with my current job in Iowa. I was working with some awesome students and was gaining some invaluable experiences.
The holidays were hard that year. I traveled with Grace alone for the first time, and had to endure the never ending questions of “how is Tom” and trying to be happy about the holidays. We spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Tom’s 28th birthday apart.
But on Christmas day, Tom called with a present that could not be wrapped and mailed. They were coming home! They received word that the deployment would be cut short by a couple months. Best present ever!
So I tried getting through the next few months anxiously waiting for the day he would return safely.
Every day came with it’s own battles. I had to believe and have faith that we would get through this. We only were able to video chat one time during his deployment because of the poor connection at his post. (He was on a tiny outpost in the middle of no-where quite literally.) We were able to talk almost every day, which was an absolutely Godsend. It is the only months of my life that I became attached to my phone and would leave meetings to talk to him in bathrooms or hallways for the 5 or 10 minutes that we were allotted. I cried in a lot of bathrooms that year out of joy of hearing his voice and knowing he was ok and despair of not knowing when the next time we would talk would be. There were moments that I had no idea what he was doing, and there was panic like I described here and here.
But there were many lessons learned during this time apart. Mostly that I loved him more than I ever thought possible, and wanted to tell him any chance I got.
Right before Tom was to return, I ran the Disney Princess Half with a couple of my grad friends. So much fun and such great timing.
And then the day came for Grace and I to see the main man of our lives again that February. Our 6ish months separated by sea where finally over.
We had made it through the deployment long distance. Amen. My soldier was safe and sound on American soil.
We had about a week together before I had to face reality and return to Iowa to finish out the year. I was able to come and visit a couple times before we would move all of our things to Kentucky for the time being.
I was really fortunate for the community I had while in Iowa. They were my family while Tom was gone, and I couldn’t have asked for a better year to end on. Fortunately the timing worked out with Tom’s deployment to make it so I could stay that whole year and take the job search slow. I needed to be there with that support network.
I had the best time with my students, and they kept me sane most of that year. I think our last staff meeting was evident on how I felt about them. (If you guessed that I cried, you would be right. Buckets of tears were shed that night.)
That May I said my goodbyes to Iowa, and Tom and I moved to our current home here in KY/TN.
About a week after settling in, I started a new job here working part-time in the Disability Services office. I was excited and nervous to do something other than housing. I was very hopefully about the prospects of my career and just hoped that this either turned full-time or that the job search I was still in was fruitful in another area.
FINALLY, TOM AND I WERE IN THE SAME PLACE!
This meant the world to us. After 5 years of being together, it looked like we would be able to be settled together for awhile before the next thing pulled us apart. We knew that another deployment could happen before he got out, but we were just looking at the present of finally being married in the same zipcode/country/timezone for once.
We began the full transition to living together which had it’s ups and downs. And I finally was experiencing Army life in the flesh.
June of 2013, Tom had to under go surgery to fix a hernia he had gotten while in Afghanistan. He literally had a hole in his stomach where he had to push his guts back in. Gross and cool all at the same time…
This is where we conclude our 2nd year with our anniversary which also coincided with our first (and most likely only) military ball.
Year two was a rough year for us with death, distance, deployments and moving and everything else that normal day living brings. We learned a lot about love and life during this time and how to be happy with the little things. Every moment counts. You never know when the last time you will speak to someone will be (as was evident with my grandparents and Tom’s deployment). So it became even more clear that we needed to voice how we felt and live in the moment to soak up all that you can.
Come back next week as we celebrate our 3rd anniversary and hear a recap of our first year without long distance!