As a Marine spouse I get a lot out of hearing the different impressions other military spouses have of the same events we all endure. For me, though, it is an odd hate/love relationship I have with the writings of other military spouses when the subject gets personal and painful. I can barely re-read my own pain, much less get through someone else's perspective of it. I wonder if it's because I'm also a writer. We often write what we cannot or will not say. For the military spouse, a lot of what goes unspoken could burn a hole through paper and its fire can only be put out by exasperated tears of anxious frustration.
A friend of mine asked me if I'd read Jehanne Dubrow's Stateside, a collection of incredibly poignant poems penned by a Navy wife while her husband was deployed. The poems aren't syrupy, sentimental reflections. Instead, many military spouses will find Jehanne's poems have an eerie familiarity. She deftly describes the effort to maintain connections between home and spouse despite a gaping distance while keeping what is sometimes a tentative grasp on one's sanity. The poems aren't just touching; they reach inside a person. This will perhaps give the most reserved spouses permission to feel and think the way we all do at one time or another. Unlike my non-writer military spouse friends who thoroughly enjoyed Jehanne's poems, I found myself exhausted by them, constantly wandering off in thought as I remembered every word I'd written while my own husband was deployed.
I won't quote any of Jehanne's poems here. The context in which she intended they be read is already provided to the reader in her book. What I will tell you, as a writer and a military spouse, it's a must-read. If you are such a spouse, I would encourage you to keep pen and paper nearby. To say Jehanne's poetry is inspiring is so understating it it's almost insulting. Whether she meant to or not, her words open doors in the heart and mind - doors many of us shut and locked and only kept the key on the off chance someone would someday understand.
I can read another military wife's take on toddlers, teens, moves, jobs, where and when to retire and non-combat deployments. But how it felt while he was at war ... I just didn't think I could do it again. When he was gone I typed and wrote longhand well into many nights. I took his call in the middle of a McDonald's playland while my youngest played nearby. The call dropped right after a bomb went off. I couldn't know if he was dead or alive, so I farmed out the kids to friends and sat on the side of my bathtub crying; and when that didn't help, I tore the bathroom to shreds. And that didn't help either.