Should You Bring The Kitchen Sink?

CONTRIBUTED BY MEREDITH NOVARIO

At five o’clock this morning my father called and woke us up. Typically and unfortunately, that’s when the boys usually get up. I despise five o’clock in the morning something fierce. And since it was my dad that woke us up and not the boys I got perturbed. He’s an adult and can take my wrath. As if he didn’t get enough of it when I was a teenager. In any case, I woke up with a furrowed brow and a stomp in my step. It was not just because he wrenched me from sleep but also because of the message he left.

This is probably not a convenient time for you … I heard you won’t be coming home. I’m hopeful that that’s not true, of course. But certainly would benefit from more detail.

That is a direct quote. I just this very now transcribed it off of my answering machine. My father actually talks like that. As if he’s always fireside at dusk with L.L. Bean slippers, Dewar’s on the rocks with a twist and the Wall Street Journal. That dad of mine is a great man. If you ask him how he’s doing the answer will be a synonym of great. And he means it. It is useless to be upset with a person in a constant state of great-ness.

Plus it wasn’t about the time of day that he called so much as the message and the message was only upsetting because it might be true. Our orders to D.C. are not going to pan out quite like we thought. The jobs that Joe asked for are now taken so his monitor wanted him to consider a year-long unaccompanied tour to Bahrain. A tour that his monitor referred to as a “sweet” deal. Sweet, indeed!

Last week you all generously weighed in with wit and wisdom about whether I should stay through the next deployment or go forth to D.C. and plant roots ahead of Joe. I was touched by your willingness to give me counsel while I sobbed on your shoulder. And all for naught! I’m not going anywhere. Or I’m not going anywhere that I know of anytime soon. I know that you know how I feel and that is why I love you. Also, I love my father. I shouldn’t have gotten mad at him but it was just easier than getting mad at the massive unknown that is our life right now.

And now for a confession in hopes that I am not the only one.

While I’m excited to go back home and be near family, I’m also scared. I want more than anything to be a part of my family again. I want the boys to know their family like they know their friends here. I’m ready to be available in the flesh for weekends and birthdays and weddings and baby showers and holidays. Yet it also feels something like an impending tidal wave of attention and commitment awaits us. I’m scared to disappoint or offend anyone and everyone. Here with an ocean between us I can present a rosier version of Meredith. As far as they know I have perfect skin and a great sense of fashion. And no one expects me to drop by for lunch or remember their birthday. Or if they do I don’t hear about it. We live happily on the periphery and while I want to be a part of the team, I’m scared I won’t live up to whatever expectations there are of me.

Not a real sexy confession, but true.

There you have it.

Stay tuned for more tales from limbo next week.

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All the posts in Meredith’s “Me & My Big PCS” series: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX

For posterity’s sake we have left this universally euphoric, terrified, confused, “what am I doing?!” series on Okinawa Hai.  However, we have closed comments for future readers.  If there is relevant information for all readers to benefit from, we have taken elements from this series and created new posts, which we’ve linked to from the original text. Thank you for joining us on this ride.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Bambi, I’ll take that as a very big compliment. I’ll tell you – Craig turns 40 this year, I’m only 3 years behind him – and I swear to you, I DO NOT look in the mirror and see an almost-40-year-old woman. Though I do feel it when I’m around younger people and I’m so not hip.

    Congrats on your extension, I am really happy for you! (As is Craig, I told him on the phone.)

    Craig mentioned today that there may be a spot for an E9 in Germany right when we’re done here…. OY! Can I handle a Jewish mother dealing with another unexpected 3 years? (Or being in the military for almost 30 years total!?) I love the idea, but no. Hopefully I can find a good reason for Craig to drop it. Sigh.

  2. Thanks and thanks. Your stories make me feel less like a crazy lady. Really.

    I think my worry came across stronger than I meant it too. The military rolls this way. I get that. I’m just juggling the range of emotions that come with leaving Okinawa and returning home. Even though right now I have no idea if I will be leaving or returning. Something is bound to happen. I’ll embrace whatever comes our way.

    I’m just trying to name the feelings that surface in hopes that they resound with other people.

    Again, thanks for pitching in your own story. I love and NEED your stories.

  3. Aviva- Wow, I didn’t realize you were that much older than me, but I so love how you put the last paragraph!! It is so true how we have these worries, but we pull them off!!
    Meredith- I know you will be happy wherever you end up. Its just your contagiouse personality!!
    We EXTENDED. Just got approved today (however, he has to sign a contract extension before it is official and that has to wait for 7th Comm to come back from Iwa Jima). What did my mom say: “Oh, so I need to plan another trip there (Owen will turn 8 here. A huge event in our religion). I was hoping I wouldn’t have to ever take that long of a plane trip again. Maybe I should have your dad transfer (he is an engineer at Hill AFB now) and I retire and just pick up a job at the hospital. At least then I can see my Grandkids (keep in mind they have 1 living 10 min away right now who they love and adore). My dad’s words “Oh, Uh, So, When ya coming hom?”

  4. First of all, Diana – I think our mothers are related… no CHANCE we’d extend dare I endure the wrath of Jewish Mother/Grandmother!!

    And I think Meredith’s father might sit next to mine on that couch – mine donning a smoking jacket, holding and puffing a pipe, and speaking about the beauty of Mozart and the amazing auto focus on his new Nikon. But I digress…

    Meredith – I know about this and it sucks. I beg your pardon for the upcoming novel I’m about to write. But it seems by this post that though the unaccompanied Bahrain thing is just so NOT sweet and will hopefully NOT be what happens, your bigger issue here is if you do go home, what will be asked of you, and will you live up to it?

    In 1989 I graduated high school in East Brunswick, NJ and headed off to the University of Maryland, College Park. My mother moved me into the dorm and cried. My mother is the “elephant” in the family, by her own admission. She never forgets a birthday, anniversary, or more importantly a mistake. Forgetting to send thank you notes or to call at least once a week is grounds for some silent treatment.

    I am not nor have I ever been this person. I’m easily annoyed, and I vent about frustration, but you’d have to really do something awful for me to hold a grudge and excommunicate you completely. I try so hard to remember things like birthdays and anniversaries – and because my mom is that particular about it, I am SURE to send at least cards for immediate family. But if I remember more than that, and have the wherewithal to stick something in the mail on time, it’s a REALLY good day. I resent Craig sometimes, unfairly, because these expectations don’t exist for him or his siblings – why just me?

    I don’t think it should be expected of us to be that “together”. After nine years in the DC area, I decided to move to San Diego. My mother was pretty devastated, and I have to tell you – I didn’t relish telling her. I told my dad first and we broke it to her together. I know she still hates that I did it, even though I met my now husband there and don’t regret it for a moment.

    Craig was deployed to Iraq 3 times, most recently he left in January of 2006. He was due back in August, but extended to February of 2007. In January, he got word from his monitor that we had orders to Okinawa, or he had to retire. It didn’t take much convincing for me, I love an adventure – and I already lived 3000 miles from my pretty much non-flying family. Again, broke it to my father first. When I told my mother, she was dumbfounded. I remember asking her to SAY SOMETHING. She digested it – I’m sure she wasn’t thrilled, but thankfully she saw it as a real opportunity and an amazing experience for us and for Mia.

    Now I realize this is my 19th year away from home, and my 10th year of being over 3000 miles from the east coast. Not much is expected of me due to the time difference, distance, and level of activity here. I know this will change in a huge way when I go home. But I’m almost 37 years old; others need to realize I have my groove and it isn’t going to change much. I can’t feel the pressure of the expectations.

    You’re an easygoing fun and intelligent woman, and I think you’re worries are so valid, but put it all in its place. Think about how worried you were before having Eli… ME? A parent?! But wow you are pulling it off – with lots of obstacles. It’ll be ok. And you’ll have a roof over your head, your family’s health, and togetherness again. That’s so much more important than anything else – even the thank you notes.

  5. Meredith, we all have those same kinds of doubts so know that you are not alone. My husband and I are “tossing around” the idea of staying an additional three years (nothing solid, just tossing the idea around) and I mentioned it to my mom and these were her words:

    “You’re kidding right? No? Okay, bad idea, Diana. Probably the worst. I’ll spend the rest of this year trying to convince you of that. I miss you and I miss my grandchildren. Come home.”

    Okay, I’m not joking here. My mom seriously said that. I know she means well and I know she truly does miss us and wants to be near us. Unlike some parents, she cannot afford to visit yearly, so for her, it’s devastating. But my husband and I still have to look out for what’s best for our family. There are times when that kind of decision will not benefit our extended family.

    As far as not looking forward to the onslaught of massive family, I hear you. I vow not to return until I have lost the ten pounds I’ve gained on island plus the five I wanted to lose before I arrived on island. I also vow not to return until I’ve lost the braces on my teeth and until I can have a half-hearted conversation in Japanese and pretend that I’m fluent (okay, just joking on the language part, but it’s still a nice goal).

    Good luck with the roller coaster ride of military life. Oh, and I thought this quote from Donald Rumsfeld would cheer you up:

    “As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

  6. Parents are just…”parents” and they will act like parents no matter how old and responsible you are (and you are quite). I imagine like you they are very, very disappointed. Families can buoy you up and bring you down. (Space can be a good thing sometimes.) Try to concentrate on yourself and “your guys”, things may soon fall into place.

  7. I believe everything happens for a reason. I also believe that Gods plans for us are always greater than our own. I know it is hard to see past now but the end will justify the means. Coming back from Okinawa to the “Real World” is an experience unto itself. Feel free to cut yourself some much needed slack. Those who truly love you–love you as you are. Best of luck wherever Uncle Sam takes you!

  8. Oh, Meredith. Military life is so hard on families. Understatement of the year, of course. I bet you are in good company with your feelings. Your father is a trip… and I bet you have great skin & a wonderful fashion sense! Good luck, hon…

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