Facing the Deployment Curse Head On

children at deployment event

If someone were to ask me a year ago if I were a superstitious person, I would have answered “no” in a heartbeat.  Sure, I’ve always knocked on wood and waited until I was outside to open my umbrella, but I never believed that there was any truth behind these habits. 

If you ask me today if I’m superstitious I would probably tell you to lock the doors, hit the lights, and ask in my best mafia voice what you know and who sent you.

What made me a believer? The Deployment Curse, and I’m guessing if your spouse has ever been deployed you already know what I’m talking about.  But, for those deployment virgins who have yet to venture into that dangerous first week of deployment, we need to delve into this cautionary tale, and hopefully these first-timers will be more proactive instead of reactive during their first solo week.

First and foremost you have to understand that wives have made it through this week of hazing in the past and have gone on to survive perfectly normal deployments*.   I advise carrying the attitude, “If they can do it, so can I!” However, finally reaching the point where you utter this phrase at an audible level will be a challenge for one of two reasons.  You’re either a help addict or a hardheaded loner, and no matter which category you fall into you’ve got a hurdle to jump. 

Those of us that are natural born damsels in distress will find it difficult surviving these mini-disasters on their own, and since getting their favorite handy-man on the phone isn’t an option for at least six months, these lovely ladies will call on any flesh and blood that will answer the phone, a fellow spouse, or an innocent bystander.  If you find that your neighbors start closing their garage doors when you walk out of your front door, you may just fall into this category.  

On the other side of our spectrum is that wife who lives by the motto, “I can do it myself”.  This is the side of the divide that I land on.  You too may reside on this side if you’ve done any of the following things (and, yes, I did them): constructed an impromptu ladder using two dining room chairs and a barstool, spent a week on a death bed before caving and going to the doctor, or lifted an entire coffee table into the back of an SUV. If any of your friends or family have ever uttered the phrase, “You should have called me!” welcome to my side of the divide.

Once you’ve got yourself classified, it’s time for the hard part.  When your first problem arises that first week, step back and assess your situation.  If it’s an actual emergency, call the professionals; the police and fire departments are there for a reason.  Legitimate emergencies aside, figure out what your natural reaction is, then, most likely, you’ll need to do the opposite to solve the problem.  OK, I wish it were that simple, but the truth is, it isn’t.  The best advice I can offer is to first try to solve it on your own.  If you can plunge the toilet, reset the computer, or jump the car on your own then there’s no point calling in reinforcements.  However, if you’re lacking the supplies (i.e., a second car for the jump start process) or, despite your Google research, you still lack the knowledge; phone a friend.  Personally, I am more wiling to help a fellow wife who has already tried to solve the problem on her own.  So, ladies, don’t give up before you start trying; let’s not embarrass Rosie the Riveter by calling in the HazMat team for a clogged toilet. 

Once we’ve got your reactive attitude covered, it’s worthwhile to mention some precautions that could help you stomp on a little problem or avoid it altogether.  I’m not talking about purchasing a football helmet or living in a bubble for six months, although, I’ll admit, the helmet did cross my mind when I became the proud owner of a black eye after running full force into a doorway. While, I guess, you can never be too safe; I would venture to say that you could take some precautions that aren’t going to ruin your fashion. 

Make sure you have a stocked medicine cabinet and first aid kit.  This proved to be crucial during my husband’s first deployment.  Besides just being a natural born klutz, it is impossible for anyone to predict an illness or injury or just how severe either will be.  When you catch a bug or get stung by one it is best to already have an arsenal of supplies ready to treat yourself with because you never know if you’ll be up for driving to the drug store.  Sure, you may have some awesome friends around town ready to come to your aid, but it may be just your luck that it happens in the dead of night or while they’re all out of town, so it’s better to be prepared, just in case. 

You will also want to have a major talk with your man before he leaves the continent.  You’ll need to know things like where to find the tool box and how to use the gadgets you find in there.  Aside from the strange metal contraptions in the toolbox, make sure you locate and understand how to use the jumper cables and lawn mower, or you at least have the phone number to someone who knows how they operate.

Though it isn’t required, you may also want to get a Power of Attorney should you need to need to jump through any legal hoops while your hubby is gone.  I couldn’t see why I would ever need to use this, but I found when I called to freeze my husband’s cell phone and my name wasn’t on the account.  Something as simple as a cell phone account needed our Power of Attorney.  Make sure you’ve got the passwords to everything from the garage code to the bank account pin numbers.  Even if you never have to use them, you should have them.  Your hubby may emit some signature cave man grunt when you start asking all of these questions, but the truth is that he wants you to be informed and safe while he’s gone. 

The bottom line is that things are going to go wrong throughout the deployment, and whether you choose to believe in the curse or not, these situations seem concentrated during the first week.  So, when your garage door breaks, your dog gets bit by some foreign critter, your house is overrun by insects, and the clear sky suddenly turns black and before you know it there’s a tornado down the street, just breathe (and know that eventually you’re going to have to take more action than inhaling and exhaling).  You’ll get through it, sometimes on your own, sometimes with a crew of friends or professionals, but you’ll get there. And once you’ve been hazed, the rest of the deployment will be a piece of cake unless your husband deploys on Friday the 13th or during a full moon (just kidding…you’ll be fine)!

*“Perfectly normal deployments” are never perfect and rarely normal. They are all uniquely chaotic.

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