Keep the House

Keep the House

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

Keep the House

Life isn’t one straight line. Most of us have to be transplanted, like a tree, before we blossom.

Louise Nevelson

My husband and I met in the army. We fell in love and got married at the nearest justice of the peace before our separate, conflicting orders put us on opposite ends of the globe. Soon, I became pregnant and left active duty, the toughest job I had known. We moved to Germany, and had two children. Gradually, my status as a stay-at-home mom made me the most important person in the world to those little people. Instead of missing the active army, I shuddered at the thought of going back.

When 9/11 happened, I was pregnant with our third child. A few months later, we were in the middle of another move. The kids and I stayed with my parents over the holidays, and my husband went on to Fort Drum, New York, and found us a place to live. I was thrilled. It was going to be the longest we had been in one place—maybe a whole three years! I eagerly started planning.

A week later, he called me. “You’d better sit down,” he said. “I’m being deployed. I don’t know where, and I don’t know for how long. But I leave in two days. Do you want to keep the house?”

We had been through deployments before, and yet I cried and cried, unable to hold it in. We had been about to get our lives together, and we had just found a new house. I considered my options. The kids weren’t in school yet; I could stay with my parents and have the baby in Colorado. At least I would have help, I told myself. If I did make the move to New York, I’d be forced to rely on strangers—my worst nightmare. But, still, I wanted to have a place that was ours, and a place he could come home to.

I thought about it all night and called him back the next day. “Keep the house,” I said.

By mid-December, I was seven months pregnant, and it had been ages since I heard from him. Each day, I waddled out to the mailbox at my parents’ house, hoping for a letter, something. One day, I pulled out a manila envelope from the Department of the Army with orders calling me back to active duty. My pregnancy exempted me, but it made me think about what my life would be like if I had to endure six months to a year without my children. Yet, my husband did it all the time. I decided that life waits for no one, and gathered my resolve to make the most of moving.

Shortly after Christmas, I packed up our van and embarked on a three-day journey to New York with two toddlers and a small dog that whines on road trips. Family and friends put us up along the way, and we reached Fort Drum on New Year’s Eve, just after a huge snowstorm. I dug out our new address and pulled up next to where the sidewalk should have been. I was looking at three feet of snow. Not only was getting in the driveway impossible, but I didn’t own any boots.

I searched the stark landscape and saw a man down the street with a snow blower. I waddled down the street toward him and introduced myself. I asked to borrow his machine to get into my driveway. Instead, he came and did it for me. I was exhausted, but I showed the kids around our dark, cold and empty house. Our furniture was on its way, but I was too pregnant to even dream of moving furniture and lifting boxes. Disheartened and lonely, I sat down and cried. I was used to being self-reliant, but I realized this was going to be a tough winter.

Over the next few weeks, however, I met some incredible people. I had neighbors who brought cookies and shoveled snow. Strangers called me up out of the blue to ask if I needed help moving things. Guys from my husband’s unit—who hadn’t even met him yet—showed up well after duty hours to move furniture around and help me get set up. Other wives offered to take the kids for a while.

A few months later, my mom flew out to take my husband’s place at my side, and I had our baby surrounded by the support and love of the strangers I now called friends. Ladies brought food and gifts to my door for days afterward, and I was overwhelmed by their generosity. I cried a big thank-you to God for surrounding me with so many wonderful friends and family. I cried in relief that I had succeeded, and for the strength of other military wives who give so much to help those who need it so desperately.

Today, I am giving back by helping new wives in our community “keep the house.” No one can do it alone, and when you are in a community of army wives, you don’t have to.

Jennifer Oscar

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