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By L.G. McCary

 

As a military spouse, I hear others complain about all the things that go wrong when their spouses are away. ER visits. Plumbing leaks. Car problems. Lost pets. Meteor strikes. But I’m going to complain for a moment about all those other things that happen.

 

For me, the big things are frustrating, but other people are willing to help as long as I ask. When my husband is TDY or in the field, I find the little stuff that usually wouldn’t bother me is what looms over me like a grinning gargoyle.

 

For instance, a child knocking over a stack of folded laundry makes me heave a sigh when my husband is home, but when he’s gone, it sends me into a crying jag to rival Alice in Wonderland. There’s something about that carefully folded tower of clean towels destroyed in a second by a backhand from the preschooler that makes me feel like my house is collapsing around my ears.

 

Then there is spilled Kix cereal. Normally, my kids spilling cereal is an every-morning occurrence, but when my husband is gone, it sends me into a tailspin. A thousand things flash before my eyes. I’m going to have to take four children back to the grocery store for cereal. I’m going to have to listen to three little voices whining for me to buy Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs and battle three pairs of hands asking for random candy in the checkout line, all while hoping the baby sleeps through the trip.

 

Then I pull my hair out because all those tiny balls roll away into corners and lie in wait to be found by a baby’s hand, and they are just the right size to choke my Toothless Wonder. Did I also mention that milk-moistened Kix dries like cement if you don’t clean it up immediately? I’m pretty sure the ancient Romans built their highways with Kix and milk.

 

And then there’s my purse strap.

 

I have two purses, one for everyday use, and a smaller one for concerts and special events. My everyday bag is the perfect neutral gray and has lots of pockets for organizing my mess, but it has a design flaw that causes one of the straps to loosen and pop off. Normally this is fine. I know how to use a mini-screwdriver. But shortly after my husband left for his last TDY assignment, I was having a particularly trying morning getting out of the house to church. The baby was fussy, the older kids had trouble finding their coloring books, and the preschooler would only eat two bites of something, then move on to another breakfast item creating a trail of half-eaten foodstuffs in the dining room and kitchen. I herded them out the door, and when I reached for my purse, pop!

 

I stared at my traitorous handle, rage building to “Hulk Smash” levels and hissed, “Seriously? You’re doing this to me now?”

 

You know you’re losing it when you start talking to inanimate objects.

 

All these small things are a different kind of miserable than hospital trips because I can’t reasonably ask for someone else to handle them. But mostly they are reminders of the real reason I’m upset: he isn’t here.

“But mostly they are reminders of the real reason I’m upset: he isn’t here.”

 

When my husband is home, he carries the laundry upstairs after I’m done folding so it doesn’t get knocked over. He sweeps up the cereal after breakfast while I’m feeding the baby or helping the preschooler use the potty. And if you think I should buy myself a new purse with a handle that doesn’t break, he bought me that purse on date night a few years ago.

 

I’m a tough army wife. I’m supposed to rival Kris Jenner in having situations under control. In my maladjusted mind, it makes more sense to cry over spilled cereal and talk to my accessories than admit just how much I miss him and really don’t want to do it all without him. The truth is I’m not as tough and independent as I would prefer the world think.

 

And sometimes it’s okay to cry over a broken purse strap because it’s not just a broken purse strap.

 

Now excuse me while I power up my jackhammer to clean up the latest breakfast spill.