Retirement is something that is suddenly happening everywhere, in every branch of the military.
Full retirement, partial, medical, it seems that every time I turn around, one of my friends or one of their friends is getting ready to start the last stretch of their time with the military.
But where does that leave us? How does it change our relationships? How do we prepare?
The same as we’ve prepared together for every other step of our journeys.
“Terminal leave has been approved” came my husband’s voice over the phone. “We’ll be out of here in a few months. Goodbye Army!” He sounded happy, but I could hear a slight catch in his voice. This is actually real. All the talking, the planning, the excitement… now it’s actually real.
All of these years we have been planning for someday. Pushing through deployment, a cross country move, a move one state over, and then another state over, standing up a new unit, surgery, another cross country move, another surgery, trainings, late night conferences, long weekends away. Missing birthdays. Missing holidays. Missing first steps and first words. All the while we kept saying “Someday we’ll retire and this will all be behind us.” We would get excited and loved planning all of the things we would do. Now retirement is only a few months away. A few months is a lot scarier than “someday”.
All of the things we have been planning for years are suddenly almost upon us. Instead of being excited, I am afraid. I have been an Army wife since the day after I turned 18, minus a year there in the middle. This is the only life I know as an adult. It’s the only life my children know. I didn’t think I would be afraid to leave this life. I have been waiting for this day for so long that I just assumed I would be overjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, a part of me is. The other part that I didn’t know about is terrified.
How do I leave a life? My sisters? My friends? All of the people who have touched my life? After journaling, and meditating, and talking to several friends, the answer is… I don’t. I may be changing my ID card, and clearing out of housing, but I am not leaving this life. It is a part of me. It is part of who I am.
This life has helped shape me into who I am. The roughness has smoothed some of my jagged edges and polished me a bit. I am very proud to say that some of my edges are still there, because I haven’t let it change me completely, but it has softened a few. This life has seen me at my brightest, and seen me at my darkest. It has given me the people and tools to keep going.
I have kept in contact with friends from each duty station. Our first station, the friends I met as a childless teenage newlywed. The ones whose babies played with my babies, the babies that are now teenagers. From our second duty station. The ones who went through my exes injuries, his depression, abusive behavior, and my divorce. Moving home and my re-marriage to another soldier. A deployment and five more duty stations. A career that allows me to meet other spouses who impact my life in amazing ways. They are all still here.
In a few months when my husband retires, they won’t disappear. They will go with me on this new journey. This family that I have formed along the way…they aren’t going anywhere. They will be here to catch me when I stumble. To share in the excitement as we explore this new life. With that realization, I breathe a little easier. “Hello retirement, I can’t wait to meet you.”