On Tuesday of last week, I celebrated my birthday, very happy with a fully vaccinated wife, a single shot of my own, and two healthy kids. The kids have been in school since September. I don’t want to pretend it is all a picture-perfect family. I don’t think anyone’s is, but, in general, we had the river current of luck/awesomeness flowing in the right direction.
There are a lot of families whose lives have gone in the opposite direction since the pandemic started. My wife and I were mostly stay-at-home workers before, and we continued to be over the last year. It didn’t change much, except that I had to teach a 6-year-old how to read and 7-year-old multiplication, but I was fortunate that I could keep a little part of my career going on the side. That was only a couple of months nearly a year ago though.
My birthday celebration went south fast.
I’m usually not a fan of promoting the obvious things that everyone knows. (What’s the fun in that?) I’ll make an exception this time. Though it’s been quoted hundreds of times, this is the best quote for how I feel right now (well at least part of it):
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Sometimes you don’t have time to look around. My wife got some vague notice that she could be deployed in a few days. In less than 24 hours, we were waking up the kids at 5 AM and bringing them to the airport in their pajamas. “Mom’s” cattle-plane wasn’t going to wait. (There were no Ubers or taxis running in our area of the suburbs, it simply doesn’t make sense at that time in the morning. In fact, all our local taxis are closed due to COVID. We could have stuck the gov’t with the parking for more than a month (it’s fair to expense it), but maybe $1000? That is crazy! With the last-minute information coming down, there was little time to think.)
I wrote a hasty note to the kids’ school that they may be grumpy. The kids seemed to rise up to the situation though, because they were extraordinarily well-behaved according to the school.
That school day wasn’t just a flash in the pan, they have become almost completely different people. They (mostly) have gotten along. I’m at 12% confidence that the government has some kind of behavior ray that they use on families when a parent deploys. Maybe they use it more when there are young kids going without their mothers? I’m also at 100% confidence that I’ve jinxed myself with this. They will likely harm each other greatly later today.
Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t say why my wife is away. I respect the secrecy of our government operations. However, in this case, I think we all know the deal. If it was a secret it would be the worst-kept government secret of all time. Our President has made it clear that his top goal is getting vaccines in people’s arms. My military pharmacy wife obviously can play a role in that.
My wife has been “virtually deployed” a few times before this year. There was a need for policy and planning a lot of COVID-19 stuff. This time is different. EVERY ACTIVE DUTY personnel needs to move to get the shots in arms. I put that last part in bold/caps to emphasize again that we all to work together to get this done. Also, it’s not just a few military people… everyone is getting called in on this. In 20+ years of military service, my wife has never seen anything like this. That’s fair because we have never seen anything like COVID-19.
My kids won’t see their mother for the next 5 weeks. Five years ago, my wife was deployed for two weeks. That was tough. At 2 and 3 they weren’t able to “wiping their own butts” (our terminology for being able to take care of oneself). They are older now (7 and 8-year-olds for the math-lazy). We have some systems in place. They can feed themselves a bit (cereal) and make their own drinks. They can dress themselves. For those of you with younger kids, life gets a lot easier when they can dress themselves.
Kids (maybe just boys?) at this age have their own set of challenges. There is a constant need to escalate wrestling moves until one kid cries of unbearable pain. I try to mitigate this, but I’m fighting thousands of years of evolution. Fill in your favorite cliche here. Two suggestions: “Boys will be boys” or “It is what it is.” In the end, they are each other’s best friend. However, they are their own worst enemies.
As you can tell by now, my brain isn’t working on its typical levels. I’m better than Buffy’s “fire bad, tree pretty”, but definitely 100%. Sometimes it seems to super-charge itself into some kind of survival mode of “Do everything now!” That’s great for getting stuff done around the house, but it’s not conducive to writing a blog post.
I’ve rambled so very much, but it is time to put a bow on this. Here are my main thoughts to pass on:
- Money – Money is the least of my worries right now. Part of having good money systems in place above means that I don’t have to think about it much. Err… except for the fact that I need to write about money most days. At least I don’t have to think our money for awhile.
- Hawaii – When I wrote about our Hawaii trip during COVID, I was expecting so much hate. I didn’t get it, so maybe readers simmered a bit inside? If any of this sounds like you (or not), my wife opened up and said that she felt this was coming. She said this was a big part of the reason why she made the judgment call of traveling to the safer state for time away to enjoy family. (She’s at least 10x smarter than I am.)
- Career Opportunities – I need to put pause on two exceptional career opportunities – the best two I’ve seen in 10+ years. The job descriptions seemed to be tailor-written to me. I haven’t seen anything more perfect since my old engineering days of running a search engine and applying to be the boss of myself. (I got the job!)
It’s very weird that both of these jobs came in at the same time. Unfortunately, that was over the last couple of weeks. I had to tell one of the jobs that I simply wasn’t going to be reliable for the next month and a half. I got a sense that their ship was already moving a certain direction, but I had a strong chance of changing it. Sometimes you just have to own up to the bad timing.
As for the second job, I don’t know them as well. They don’t know me either. We were doing the get-to-know-you dance like some mating rituals. Things were really going great, but then Hawaii happened fast, and now this. I don’t know much about life, but I do this… when you use the moniker of “Lazy” for your brand, you lose any benefit of the doubt.
I won’t hide it, I extremely miss being part of a team doing great things. Also, my social skills have devolved to saying stuff about Pokemon, Gumball, and Teen Titans Go!. Maybe I’m evolving from talking about how Henry getting bricked up is so wrong in Thomas the Tank Engine.
- Military Service – I appreciate all the “thank-you-for-your-wife’s-service” comments that I’ve gotten in person. I really do. I’m very fortunate she’s a military pharmacist who doesn’t have to go typically go into war zones.
That said, there are places in the United States where military service members are not particularly welcome. My wife is going to one of these places. Some friends and family have asked me whether I’m concerned about her safety. I trust the system and I hope that Americans will respect other Americans trying to provide them with life-saving medication. On a national level, Americans helping Americans is an easy win. On an international level, people helping people is also an easy win.
This is the first time in my lifetime (and probably anyone’s alive today) where everyone SHOULD BE UNITED to fight a common foe. (The alien invasion is 7 years away so we have time to prepare after this.) We can get this done.
If you can, please support support the USO. In a world of partisan politics, I think that’s one thing that I hope we can universally agree to.
On that last note, a lot of people have asked how I feel about my wife going away. One of them said something like, “Why would they take a mother from their kids? Why 5 weeks?” I’m not particularly excited about the situation or how the deployment was managed. However, I can’t be too upset. We receive a lot of military benefits. Our health care is very good and very cheap… and we can keep it after my wife retires. There’s a very good pension. I can shop for cheap groceries on the military base. We receive a generous discount on the kids’ private school. We can use my wife’s GI Bill to pay a substantial part of their college. The kids have been to Disney so many times. I’m probably missing a lot, but you get the idea. There are so many positives that would be a real jerk to hold it against the military when there is a time of need. (I can be a jerk about a lot of things, but this is a hard one.)
As the saying goes, you take the good. You take the bad. You take them both and there you have the facts of life.