I spent a large part of my day yesterday talking with a friend who was in a position that I hope never to be in myself. On top of the usual daily stresses that come with two toddlers and summer break, her husband is on deployment. Next week is the only week he gets of leave between now and next March, and he can't even leave El Paso to see his family. So my friend and some other army wives were going to drive down to their men.
As soon as she posted her travel plans, she started getting backlash from family and other friends about going down to see her husband. They had the money, though not enough necessarily for an impromptu trip. And after enough comments she pulled back, and decided not to go.
That was the moment that I got on to talk with her. I am not in her situation; I have no idea what it's like to be a soldier's wife. But I told her, as gently as I could, that she needed to go. That her marriage was worth so much more than the amount of money it would cost to get there. That her two children would understand if they couldn't have a certain toy, because their mother was working to keep the family together.
And, after I told her this, she typed back, "That's a new perspective." In all of the discussion she was having, unprompted, with family and friends, no one had bothered to mention the importance of her marriage. No one had encouraged her to fight like hell for her family, no matter the cost.
I understand that sometimes a financial, or other familial, situation, may come in the way. It happens. But, especially in a position where the money is there, even just barely, I can't understand how we've come to a point where the importance of keeping a family together isn't even mentioned.
I reviewed a book this week called Dinner: A Love Story. I love this book because of the author's writing style and because of the delicious-looking recipes. But I love this book more because she and her husband have made a conscious effort to regularly eat dinner together. As a family; around a table; facing each other; together eating a meal that at least has one element in common. That short amount of time, to them, is sacred. And she talks, near the end of the book, about how her children view this time. They may not appreciate it any more than they appreciate the very tangible, aromatic pork ribs directly in front of them. But she understands that there will come a time when they will see their time together for what it really is.
There are army wives right here, in our neighborhoods, school systems, and grocery store aisles. There are families who are torn apart temporarily by one reason or another. And there are times when a watershed decision needs to be made. There will be consequences, as there always are. But I hope that when the time comes to make those decisions, or to offer the advice, that we keep our priorities in check. I hope we understand how important it is for a family to stay together, no matter the work or cost involved.
So, to give this story a happy ending, my friend has changed her mind. She is headed to El Paso, after all.