By Jenna Stone
Air Force spouse
Murphy’s law states that “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” For military spouses, that sometimes means “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong while your spouse is TDY.” Why does it seem like things wait until my husband is on a flight to go awry?
My husband is a firefighter with the San Antonio Fire Department, but he’s also an Air Force Reserve C-5 loadmaster at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. His position doesn’t deploy for months at a time, and I am very thankful for that. He does, however, go on temporary duty assignments from two to 10 days once or twice a month. These frequent TDYs seem to be when things around the house break and everyone gets sick.
His longest TDY was three weeks when he attended Survival, Evasion, Resistence and Escape, or SERE, training in Washington State. He left in May right when the school year was wrapping up. I work as a third grade teacher, and May can be one of the busiest times of the entire school year. There are so many things that need to get done before summer vacation can start, so this was a terrible time for him to leave.
About a week into his training, everything was going great. I was busy with things at school, taking care of our two young boys and keeping up with housework. It was then that I decided to tackle the yard work. I am a little ashamed to admit that, until this time, I had never mowed the lawn. I grew up in a house full of hardworking boys who took care of the lawn while I did chores inside of the house. Usually I would wait until my husband returned from his TDY, but the grass was beginning to resemble a jungle, so it had to be done.
I tried to start the mower, but nothing happened. I pulled the cord over and over, and still nothing. This should have been my clue to abandon the yard work, but I was determined to prove that I could take care of EVERYTHING while my husband was away. So, I walked to a neighbor’s house and asked him for a little help. He retired from the military, so he understood my plight. After a little mechanical magic, the mower started up and I got down to business.
I started at the edge of the lawn and pushed forward. It seemed really tough to push, but I powered through it. At the end of my first pass, I looked back to admire my work. To my dismay, I saw a big brown stripe right down the edge of my beautiful green lawn. The mower was on the lowest setting, and I had cut the grass too short nearly killing it. I stopped right away and asked my neighbor on the other side of the house for help. He chuckled a little at my brown stripe, but he helped me set the mower properly so I could finishin mowing the lawn.
The next night, I was outside chatting with some other neighbors when all of a sudden, water began spewing out of my lawn just like Old Faithful. I had no idea what to do! Luckily, my neighbors went over to the sprinkler system and shut it off. They dug down in the lawn a little to reveal a broken sprinkler line right by my brown stripe of grass. I have no idea how to fix a sprinkler system, so this problem was going to have to wait until my husband returned from his TDY.
A few days later, we had some high winds that were strong enough to break the ties anchoring my freshly planted tree in place. It had blown over and was nearly laying down on the lawn. I used some rope that I found in the garage to tie it upright again, but it didn’t quite work. My brother-in-law had to come over and fix it for me. Geez! The lawn and I do not get along!
The next thing to break in the house during his TDY was the front door. Somehow the weather stripping tore completely off of the bottom of the door leaving a gap for light and air to enter the house. I don’t know the first thing about weather stripping, so that would have to wait too. It wasn’t a huge deal, but just another annoyance that would have usually been taking care of by my husband.
While all of those things were very frustrating, they weren’t the worst thing that happened during my husband’s TDY. Our oldest son, Dylan, became extremely sick. He began vomiting, and he had a fever that over-the-counter medicines could not break. His fever would spike up during the night, getting as high as 104.5 degrees. He experienced a febrile seizure when he was young, so I would lay awake with him and watch him like a hawk. I didn’t sleep for days. The doctor drew blood, and it turned out to be a bacterial infection so they treated him with antibiotics. The first round of antibiotics didn’t work, and his high fever continued for several more days. After receiving a stronger antibiotic, he finally began to get better. During this seven-day fever, my mother-in-law came into town and helped me care for my younger son.
I’m not sure how I was able to close out the school year at work during these busy and frustrating three weeks, but somehow everything came together. I found extra minutes to grade papers during bath time and standing at the kitchen counter while making dinner. I finished up my end-of-year paperwork while the kids were enjoying a play date at a neighbor’s house. Another nice neighbor even cooked for the boys and me so I could get extra schoolwork finished.
There are a few things that I learned from this three-week TDY:
- Lawn work is not for me.
- I should probably learn more about the sprinkler system, and other things around the house so I know what to do when things break.
- I could not have gotten through this without the help of neighbors and family.
It’s so important to have a network of trusted friends and family to come to the rescue when things go wrong. Usually military spouses don’t have family in town so they are reliant on the neighbors around them. Get to know the people down the street. I have found that the best way to do this is to play with your kids out in the front yard. You will naturally run into the people living around you. It is an extra bonus when they have kids that your children can play with. Set up play dates and trade babysitting one another’s children. Be friendly and help out whenever you can. Your neighbors will return the favor if you need help.
Facebook can be an amazing tool when it comes to setting up a network of trusted neighbors. The women on my street have started a Facebook group for all of the wives in the neighborhood. It’s a great way to share information and make plans to get together. The extended “family” that I have down the street keeps me sane during those crazy TDYs.
PHOTO: (From left to right) Carter, Brian, Jenna and Dylan Stone pose for a photo during Dylan’s birthday party in Cibolo, Texas, in November 2013. (Courtesy photo)