It’s a strange thing thriving in a marriage that was all but over just a year ago.
I look back at where we were at this time last year. We pulled into Massachusetts, home, after 7 years away. Back to where the faces were familiar but none of them really knew me. They thought they knew the struggles of the past 7 years but really couldn’t even begin to imagine what it was like.
When I think about my very first positive pregnancy test – it was the most exciting day of my life, everything changed that day but there was a black cloud. I did what every suspicious woman does, did a double take at the calendar, ran to the store, peed on a stick and waited. When that “pregnant” popped up I screamed and jumped and cried and turned to share my excitement/fear/love with…my dog. I was alone, again. Will had returned from deployment and two weeks later was gone for another two weeks. He learned he was going to be a father 3,000 miles away from the baby.
This memory, the mixed emotions of that day and so many others like it, will stay with me forever. Like many military spouses there is a little bit of sadness in every happy occasion while we were dependents. The end of our army life doesn’t change the past. I wouldn’t want to take the army out of our lives but it wasn’t all homecomings and Ranger Balls. (haha balls) The people I was now surrounding myself with daily will never understand any of this. On top of this there was the other thing, the whole reason we were home, the injury.
If I had a dollar for every, “everything happens for a reason”, “it’s all part of the plan” and “but the good news is that you’re home” I wouldn’t be stuck in a soul sucking job.
The injury that destroyed the man I married and left me with some unrecognizable shell of a human, someone who wanted to rejoin the world but didn’t know how or was afraid to try. Looking back on the move, I posted pictures on Facebook and updates of our progress from one coast to the other. When I look at the video of Addie seeing snow for the first time in West Virginia all I can think of is the look on Will’s face when I told him to stop throwing snowballs at my window because he was about to break it. The way he morphed into the monster I didn’t know. How scared I felt as he marched over to me, bracing for impact sure this would be the moment he would finally hit me. The humiliation as he stuffed snow down my back in anger just to be sure my day of travel would be as uncomfortable as possible. Driving through tears was nothing new to me by this point on our trip. That is a story I would never share with my family because that is not the man I married but this is the baggage that I carried across the country with me.
As our life together improves daily I don’t feel bad about almost leaving. How could anyone stay married when marriage looked like that? I was in constant fight or flight mode with one priority, my daughters. I think it’s important for me to keep these memories, I haven’t seen that monster in months, not since he walked up to me and told me that he was sick of being miserable all the time. It’s like those words killed that monster, much like Dorothy he had the power to go home the whole time but he just had to believe.
I have let go of the guilt for that period of time. Everything I did, everything I planned, every thought was done to protect myself and my kids.
But here we are, a year and a day since returning home. I always said the first year home would be make or break and it was. Together we are working on what seems to be the beginning of our happily ever after. There are still so many things to work on, like any marriage. I do know that ours needs extra TLC, this is what comes with his injury but we are both committed to being the best versions of ourselves.
We are far from done but we made it this far – both scarred and changed but we are here. Together.