Sunday, August 21, 2011

Life imitating art...

Ok. So calling it "art" might be a huge stretch, but I recently broke down and starting watching the show Army Wives. In a word, it's ridiculous. But I only know this because I am, in fact, an army wife. Occasionally I subject my poor husband to the show as well, and typically it goes a little like this:

TV: dramatic dialogue...
Shaun: What?
TV: dramatic dialogue...
Shaun: Seriously?
TV: dramatic dialogue...
Shaun: Ok that would never happen!

Honestly, it's hilarious. And sometimes I make him watch it with me just so I can snort and snicker at his reaction. But in all seriousness, sometimes I really worry about some of the things that the show deals with, particularly the storylines dealing with what the army husbands do all day. This show is watched by a lot of people who know nothing about military life, and honestly it worries me that they see this stuff and believe that it's true. The show is called Army Wives, and as such really should only concern itself with the lives of the spouses, NOT with storylines relating to the actual military. Especially given today's political climate and the public's wavering support of our servicemen and women who are doing their jobs. But I'll step off of my soap box now and get to the actual reason behind this post.

I frequently find myself crying when I watch this show. I see an episode where someone's husband is deploying, and I think about how that's going to be me, again, in a few months. The last time my husband deployed, he missed the last three months of my pregnancy and the first 6 months of his son's life. I delivered Jameson without my husband or any of my family present. It wasn't the way I had always imagined it. And, given that we're trying to get pregnant again, it may very well happen just like that with the second child. Or someone on the show gets shot, or blown up by an IED, or an RPG, or they flip out from PTSD or a TBI. Notice all the acronyms? Yeah, that's something you quickly realize when you marry the Army...they don't use words, only acronyms. It takes a lot of getting used to, and a lot of googling. When you're married to a soldier, google is your friend. Or, the stress of being separated for a year every 18 months starts to take it's toll on the marriages. You see the resentment start rearing it's ugly head. The husband and wife start withdrawing from each other as soon as deployment orders come down, and shortly after the soldier's departure for the sandbox, the wife starts being wooed by some vulture that knows her husband is gone.

And while I wish I could say that all these scenarios are complete fabrications and not at all realistic, I honestly can't. I'm not going to lie. It's hard. It's real hard. One day you're a nice happy family, and the next day your husband is just...gone. Nothing else in your life changes. You still have to wake up every morning and take care of your kid and your dog and your house. Of course now all of the things that your husband usually does gets added to your own to-do list. You have to take out the trash, clean the kitchen, and scoop poop. You go to bed alone every night. And it's not just that they're gone. They're in a combat zone. So it's not just the separation that you're dealing with. It's the constant anxiety about whether or not they're ok. When Shaun was in Iraq, I never watched the news. Never. I couldn't do it because every time I heard about a soldier getting killed in Iraq, I felt like someone had their fingers wrapped around my throat. And this time he's going to Afghanistan, which is even more volatile. It's an extremely stressful situation. Also, Jameson is old enough now to realize that his Dad is gone. And I worry about how that is going to affect him at this age. He's not old enough to understand that his Dad is leaving, but only for a while. He's just going to know that his Dad isn't around anymore, and then process that information how? Will he feel abandoned? Will he forget his Dad? And how will he respond to Shaun when he gets home? The last time Shaun came home, Jameson was six months old. Their reunion was a little strained at first, but Jameson warmed up to him fairly quickly. But this time we're dealing with a different stage in his development, and it concerns me.

All of these kinds of issues are dealt with on this show, and in that respect, it can be very realistic. Thus the strong bond you find yourself making with the characters and the emotional outbursts when something terrible happens to one of these poor women. So, you may be asking yourself "why is she watching this stupid show if it stirs up all these emotions?" and the answer's like a train wreck. I just can't stop watching. And I guess I just want to know how it ends. :)


Anonymous said...

The opening season of Army Wives started the summer my older son went through Basic Training, and like you, I cry through it sometimes. He's a in the Reserves and in college, but the thought never goes away that his unit will be called up. I'll keep you and Shaun in my thoughts and prayers, Jennifer.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Nancy. Our original plan was for Shaun to ETS out of the Army at the end of this year, but with today's economy like it is, he re-enlisted for another two years and immediately started training for a deployment to Afghanistan. Now he's talking about going career, which means 12 more years in the Army, and probably three or for more deployments during that time. I'm so so very proud of him for his service to our country, but I can't pretend that I wouldn't be thrilled to have him out of the Army and doing some nice safe boring desk job somewhere that he wouldn't be shipped off to the desert every two years. :)

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