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May 5, 2008

Family is not just blood relation ...

The hardest part of deployments for me is not having the support of my Family like I thought I would. I know if hard for them to understand what is going on, and in their defense they have busy lives of their own to keep up with, but sometimes it would be nice to have a phone call asking how I am doing.
In recent weeks, I’ve talked to (or attempted to talk to) three different members of my Family. The conversation was good when we were talking about their lives, but when I brought up George and/or the deployment, suddenly they had something to do or in the case of one, they were slightly distracted by their dog begging for attention, I guess.
For the longest time, I thought the estranged relationship with my Family was unique to me. I followed the visitation rules of Santa, once a year. But the more people I talk about it with, the more I realize that’s just how life in the Army is.
Civilians don’t understand what we are going though. The service members in my Family all served before marrying, so they don’t have that experience to reflect upon.
They all have their own lives and when we visit, their world doesn’t stop, so if they have to cut a visit short because they had a shopping trip planned with co-workers, then the visit ends. We go back to where we are staying a entertain ourselves. Amazingly, these trips are as much about getting stuff we need and can’t find in our middle-of-nowhere location on post. It’s kind of like the Wild West, where we go into town to get supplies and “see the town folk.”
I will admit that it does bother me, especially when I see the Family making plans without me. Yesterday, I found out they were planning a 50th birthday party for my mother. No one bothered to call me, especially since I only live three hours away, but my brother told me yesterday and I told him I was coming the weekend before since I had school that weekend.
“When did you start school?,” he asked.
“Serious, Mark,” I replied. “I started my master’s two years ago at LSU. This is my last class to graduate.”
“Oh, I guess I don’t remember you talking about it,” he answered back.
Well, what did I expect? I can honestly say that with 12 siblings, a variety of biological, half- and step-siblings, I never really felt like I connected with any of them. We have a very take-it or leave-it relationship. My parents too. I could go months without talking to them. Does it bother me, yes. But there were times when I used to call and they were always busy, so I stopped making an effort and they didn’t notice.
It’s like I explained to a close friend yesterday (who by the way, I can’t go a day without talking to or my world falls apart!)
I grew up in a large Family, the fourth and oldest girl, to be exact. There was always someone who needed my parents more than I did, so I learned at an early age to rely on myself. When we were homeschooled, I finished two years in a semester because books were my escape. Unless I was bleeding and dying or it was my turn to do dishes, no one bothered me. I was able to sit in my closet (my “safe place” as a child) and do hours of school work or reading books. I saw the world through the pages of those books. I conquered kingdoms, attended royal balls and (my favorite) hosted elaborate parties where I was the center of attention.
Some of my friends thought it was sad, the lack of relationship I had with my Family, but I didn’t miss it because I didn’t really have it. Now, the ultimate punishment would be to take my books away, but my step-mother never really figured that one out. I rarely got in trouble, but when I did I was sent to my room, where I spent days reading.
I’ve come to realize that strength and independence gained from a military life comes from so many different aspects. In addition, for everything bad there is something good. The friendships that I’ve gained far outweigh what I feel I lacked in my Family relationships. Sure, goodbyes are hard, and there will be many of them. But as Roxie, on Army Wives said, “Everyone has two families. One you are born with and one you choose. I choose all of you. Thank you for being my family."
Until our next cup of tea …

5 Tea Party Guest:

Elissa said...

Oh sweetie. Unfortunately, they will never "get it". I found that unless they are in the military, the realities of a deployment were lost on everybody else. You are not alone in that. I don't think they mean to necessarily, but at the same time they just can't understand it because they have never been through it. Keep your chin up. And we are here if you need us....even though we're hours away. The family you choose usually gets thing better than your blood anyway :o)

lime said...

wow michelle. i had no idea. i knew you came from a big family but i guess i always assumed you all were close. i am sorry to hear it's not the case and that you feel such a decided lack of support. but you really do seem like the type who is able to find her own 'chosen family' well and find quality people to choose.

Sue said...

Michelle,
I'm sorry that your family doesn't give you a lot of support. It is definitely their loss because, as a military mom, I understand the family that is Army - the blessing of it all, and am grateful for the bonds that Ron and I have with some of the wonderful people Laurie and Stephen have introduced us to. It's also a blessing to know that God has given them these friends and "family" to be there in person when we can't be.
Even though we are miles apart, Michelle, and can't be there for you...well, we are HERE for you and for the privilege of being in prayer for you and George.
Blessings and hugs,
Sue

Kimmie said...

A friend of mine joined my email loop a few years ago while her DH was gone. It was really hard to understand what she was going through. I guess she had the advantage. Her DH was in Nat'l Guard so she was near her parents and family.

ABW said...

It's hard when they just don't get it.

When Gunner left a friend of mine said it all. "It would be nice to be in the presence of a friend who just knows, without needing it explained, how much it sucks to say good bye for so long."

I'm always here if you need anything!