An Army Wife's Life

Once upon a time I was a college student, then I was a teacher, and now I'm a mother. Technically, I'm currently a freelance writer... but really I am an ARMY WIFE. Expect to find... funny (at least to me) anecdotes, thoughts about la vida military, hopes, anxieties, dreams, commentaries on current events.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


When we returned home, DH got a call, "Where are you? You were supposed to have checked-in for processing for Basic Training two days ago! If you aren't here tomorrow, you're out."

Excuse me? DH wasn't due to report for almost another week! A few frantic phone calls later, DH convinced them to wait until the original report date, even though they would have to rush him through in-processing.

On Sunday, September 7, I drove my husband to Massachusetts. His recruiter had me drop him off at a Dunkin' Donuts near the post.

We had a few minutes to say goodbye and then the recruiter arrived early. One thing that is true of the Army--they always arrive late unless you want them to and then they are early.

His recruiter escorted him onto the base and I drove back to New York alone. The next day, I received word from DH that, despite the fact that he had notified his recruiter of his injury and surgery and provided regular updates about his progress, somehow the board had not received this information. So, the board got a surprise when they asked, "Any changes in your physical condition since your last Army medical examination?"

DH had to convince the medical board to accept a letter from his doctor as proof that his knee is copacetic. If he had to wait for an Army doctor to certify him, he might have to reapply--a process which would take at least two months. This might result in him missing his OCS date, for which he might have to wait a whole year.

As usual, however, DH was able to argue his case and they shipped him down to Georgia where they rushed him through reception battalion and he officially entered Basic Training.

DH's first letter home described Basic Training as "a lot of work" but "fun." Only my husband... Since this is the Army, there was still yet another change of plans. We found out that DH's Officer Candidate School class had been canceled and so he was moved from November to January, leaving a lull in his training.

On September 23rd I received the letter I had been waiting for--DH's address at Basic Training!

In a particularly “Joycean” piece of writing, DH let me know that we could only send regular mail and that they were keeping him quite busy. DH is usually quite concise and lucid so I have to assume that doing push-ups in combat boots, on a waxed barracks floor, while shouting at the top of your lungs, after only four hours of sleep, can toy with your ability to communicate clearly.

DH also warned that correspondents should keep the envelopes plain as decorative/decorated envelopes might get him singled out for extra push-ups or humiliation.

So, we were finally an Army family and I was an Army wife... with no guidance, no one to commiserate, and no contact with my husband. For the first time in my life, I was living on my own.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Pain? I Don't Feel No Steenkin' Pain!

The next day, my husband's knee was still swollen and sore and he was limping--I called him my "Hobblit." My darling man, however, evidently has a different concept of pain from the rest of us mere mortals. I received this e-mail at work:

Hello, Love- I manage to limp to work today. I don't know if walking off my pain is the best idea, but I since I can engage in some movement, I figured it would probably help stretch my leg. Needless to say, tonight's squash match with [a friend] has been called off...

If I had hurt myself, I would have stayed home and pouted to encourage all sorts of attention. Believe it or not, the fact that my husband had called off any sort of athletic activity, let alone a competition, was a sign that something was seriously wrong.

So, with the knee showing no sign of improvement, DH went off to the doctor. Unsurprisingly, it was a torn ACL. The doctor told DH that, with physical therapy, he would recover well enough to walk, run, and do pretty much everything he used to except zig-zag and lunge side-to-side.

DH's response was, "That would pretty much rule out Basic Training, huh?"

So, off to surgery. DH elected to receive local anesthetic so he could watch the surgery. I wanted to go with him but he insisted that I go to my late-night meeting, instead. His parents, he said, would get him at the hospital--a concession he made only because the hospital insisted someone pick him up. That's right, my husband expected to limp out of surgery, hail a cab, and put himself to bed. He also refused to allow me to take the following day off, even though the hospital strongly urged him to have someone with him for 24 hours following the surgery.

By the time I returned to the city (around 10:30), the hospital still had not released him. So, we sent his parents home and I waited with him at the hospital. Finally, as the hour approached midnight, they released him.

When we made it home, I again tried to convince DH that I should stay home: "It's late; I'm tired." All to no avail; he was adamant!

So, I settled him in on the couch and attached his cooling machine (not the technical name) to him. If you've never used one before, it is really quite fascinating. You fill this machine with ice and water and attach a pad around the affected area. The machine pumps cold water through the tubes in the pad to reduce swelling. I left him a glass of water so he would not have to get up in the middle of the night in case he was thirsty and placed his painkillers nearby and went off to catch about 4 hours of sleep.

Minutes before my alarm, I was awoken by the crash of breaking glass. I stumbled out of bed to find DH had knocked over the glass of water and was trying, in a vicodin-induced haze, to refill his cooling machine. I did not yet have in my contacts but I bent down to pick up the larger pieces of glass.

Then, another crash. This time ice cubes skittered across the wood floors.

"Sweetheart. Please. Let me stay home with you today."

"No, I'll be fine."

"What are you going to do? Hobble to the drugstore to get the antibiotics? Let me stay home with you."

"No, go to work."

Imagining the destruction already wreaked upon my apartment in the space of five minutes multiplied over an entire day, I tried another tactic, "Love, I was up late last night. I'm tired and I think I'm coming down with a cold. I'm going to call in sick."

"Fine. Okay. Since you're staying home, will you drop off my prescription for me?"

Over the next few months, DH made miraculous progress. He faithfully used this medieval torture device that the therapist sent to us. Essentially, you strap yourself to this board which then slowly bends your knee for hours on end. As time goes by, you ramp up the machine to decrease the angle.

DH did all of the exercises prescribed and soon his knee on which they had operated was more flexible than his old knee. The physical therapist called in all of her co-workers to witness my husband's precocious bending.

Along the way, DH reported his injury and operation to his recruiter and kept him up to date on the physical therapy progress.

Everything seemed to be back on track and we planned a vacation. DH and I love to travel and we knew that it could be a while before we would have the chance again.

DH approached travel the way he approaches everything in life--with an excitement and vigor that surely exhausts all bystanders.

Between August 15 and 31, we visited Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Bangkok, and Cambodia. Our usual "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium" whirlwind tour. We purchased a Malaysian Airlines pass that saved us a lot of money but required flying in and out of Kuala Lumpur airport for each leg of the journey. I don't think I have ever become so familiar with any other airport.

Although this is not a travelblog, travel is a part of our relationship and this was an amazing trip. Although it was not as physically challenging as some of our other trips, we were more culturally out of comfort zone than ever before.

Our Hong Kong visit featured a hunt for a snake for DH to eat (don't ask) and a tram ride and hike up Victoria Peak, rewarded by a view complete with dragonflies. The day before, DH had amazingly suggested jewelry shopping and purchased me a dragonfly inlaid with an opal--a magical coincidence. Singapore's fascinating blend of cultures provided us with plenty to explore.

When we reached Vietnam, we skipped Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in favor of a beachside bungalow in Central Vietnam. Of course, I promptly became violently ill. Images of a rural, communist hospital haunted me throughout the night but by daybreak I had managed to keep down a few sips of water and began to believe I might survive. Despite the horrible (suspected) food poisoning, I would return to Vietnam in a minute. Although no one would admit to speaking English, or French for that matter, beyond knowing their numbers so they could tell us the price of things, the Vietnamese people were very kind and generous with their time.

Bangkok was the perfect blend of old and new, glittering oases of Buddhist temples dotting a churning urban sea. Finally, on to Cambodia overland. We followed Tales of Asia's Guide and had quite the memorable adventure. Angkor Wat is one of the places that cannot be comprehended intellectually but simply must be seen. Although monkeys tried to eat me, this was my favorite part of the trip. Our journey ended with a fastboat to Phnom Penh and plane back to New York, via Kuala Lumpur, of course.

No endless summer for us, though. I needed to return to work teaching in the 'burbs and DH had a date with the Army. We returned with enough memories to last us the year of DH's training and plenty of pictures lest I forget anything.

Murphy's law never takes a summer break, however, and the Army had yet another surprise awaiting DH.