In December of 2001, I sat on the floor in the Newark airport crying as I heard them announce the final boarding call for my flight home to see my family for Christmas. After 2 hours of begging and pleading with the ticket agents, who were under the new TSA guidelines, I could not convince them that I hadn’t changed my name and that my ticket should never have been flagged.
I would find out later on the phone with the airlines, after asking several people to explain to me what the name change was and never getting an answer, it was simply that I was planning to fly with my infant daughter, so my ticket was changed to my name plusinf (for infant) and that caused the TSA to red flag me.
As I sat there with my infant daughter screaming on my lap and slowly dialed the number of a dear friend to come get me from the airport, the irony of this situation was not lost on me. My husband had dropped me off that morning and promptly left for yet another deployment to fight the war on terror and yet, here I was, the wife of a service member, accused of being a suspicious passenger and not allowed to go through security that day.
As I waited for my friend to retrieve me from my pity-party and confusion, I had one single thought. All I wanted to do was get home to my extended family.
I didn’t want to go back to our empty house on base.
I didn’t want to parent alone through another deployment.
To say I felt defeated would be an understatement. That Christmas, I didn’t want one more delay or unknown. I needed something to work out in my timing.
During our time in the military, we dealt with the same delays that every military family deals with. We waited months for orders as the panic slowly set in. We waited for return from deployment dates and then watched helplessly as they were pushed back. We waited for promotions and the next assignment. And none of it ever seemed to be in our timing.
Dealing with delays is hard for everyone, but it can be especially hard for military families whose lives often seem to be tossed around at a moment’s notice. The longer we stayed in, the wearier we became of the system and its ability to not take us off course.
Even now that my husband is retired, I am blessed to have so many friends still in the military who are waiting and wondering what comes next. I don’t know that any of that gets any easier as you go.
Delays can be frustrating and discouraging no matter what stage of the game you’re in.
We Are In This Together
So here’s the good news. We are all in this together. We may not be able to magically pull up a roadmap of what comes next, but we can look around and see who’s walking by our side.
If you’re in a season where you’re waiting for the next thing, I wish I could grab your hand and look you in the eye to tell you that I know it doesn’t feel OK, but it’s going to be OK. You’re stronger than you think. You are capable of more than you know. And the waiting won’t kill you; it will be the thing that makes you practically invincible.
Military spouses and families often don’t get the credit they deserve for the amount of patience it takes to endure this lifestyle. They find themselves packing up everything they own and moving to places they’ve never been at the drop of the hat. It’s an adventure that forces us to give up any semblance of control and for that, we are more vibrant and enduring humans in the end.
My friend who drove 2 hours and picked me up that day somehow managed to make me laugh. I’m sure I looked completely unglued. I was able to fly home that Christmas. It wasn’t the timing I had hoped for and it wasn’t without some delays, but I made it nonetheless.
Whatever you’re facing this year, you’re going to make it, too. If you can’t see the path in front of you, look around. Chances are you have all the support and love you need for the long journey home.