One lesson I’ve learned in my eight year marriage to the military is to use a pencil when marking dates on the calendar. Plans change too frequently to use permanent ink. Nothing is permanent in the military. But unfortunately, there are some occasions that can’t be erased from the calendar, events that can’t be postponed and penciled in at a later date. And when your husband is deployed, it’s those indelible events, those unchanging holidays, those missed moments that blatantly stand out because he won’t be home to share them.

At one point or another, my husband has been absent for every major holiday. He has missed New Year’s toasts, Easter egg hunts, Thanksgiving turkeys, and Santa Claus surprises. He has also been absent for every family festivity. He has missed birthday cakes, wedding anniversaries, and family reunions. I thought I would be accustomed to celebrating special occasions without him, that somewhere along the way I would become inured to the fact that I have to find my own way of celebrating without him. But I’m not.

This month, Mother’s Day passed by with no flowers and no breakfast in bed. Next up is my birthday, a day that won’t involve blowing out candles or dining at a restaurant that doesn’t have a kids’ menu. But I don’t need grand gestures to know my efforts as a mother are appreciated, and I’m at an age where I no longer look forward to a day that steals another year from my youth. This isn’t the first year my husband wasn’t home for Mother’s Day or my birthday, and I imagine it won’t be the last.

It’s the special occasion that follows my birthday that gives me the most heartache: our 10th wedding anniversary. The hidden romantic in me always envisioned that we’d commemorate a decade of marriage by renewing our vows. For ten years I’ve debated between returning to the beach where we first said I do versus the traditional military wedding we didn’t have because my husband’s military career hadn’t yet begun. Because of this deployment, I will have neither.

Holidays and anniversaries aren’t the only special events my husband is missing. He’s missing out on our children’s milestones as well. He isn’t here to wiggle our son’s first loose tooth or see him off on his first day of summer camp. He isn’t here to witness our daughter’s first unsupervised trip to the potty or her sudden boom in vocabulary (which sadly includes her first “I hate you Mom”). He isn’t here to roll his famous nasal plugs for our son’s chronic nosebleeds, help with kindergarten homework, or share a manly Oreo dunk in milk. He isn’t here to encourage our daughter to count beyond 14, tug on her pigtails, or ensure that Barbie and Ken remain clothed during tea parties.

I try to capture these moments on my video camera, even though most of them pass by before I can hit the power button. I try to memorize cute conversations with my kids and stories of the silly things they’ve done so I can retell them in letters to my husband. I try to have my digital camera at the ready for any possible photo-worthy moment. Words and images are all I have to give my husband to help him feel included in our day-to-day lives.

Although my husband will be absent for my birthday and the Tooth Fairy’s first visit to our house, he is never absent from our thoughts. And as sad as it is to celebrate these special occasions without him, I know that there will be occasions in the future that will be even more special because he’ll be here to celebrate with us.

So for now, I’ll gladly ignore my birthday and hope my video camera is fully charged for the next big moment. Maybe next year I’ll get that Mother’s Day breakfast in bed. And as far as our anniversary, I guess now I have another decade to plan that vow renewal ceremony for our 20th.

This post is my latest contribution to Blue Star Families.

17 Comments on Missed Moments

  1. great post, though your tugging on my heart strings.
    Totally feeling you on the 10th anniversary thing…we will miss ours too =(

  2. Wonderful and moving post. Congratulations on your upcoming 10th anniversary. God clearly had a plan to use your experiences to reach out and touch so many other people still pretty new to the pencil-on-the-calendar lifestyle 🙂 My husband will be deployed for the birth of our first baby this year, so thank goodness for the digital age! Many Blessings…

  3. Oh, I am so sorry he has to miss your 10th. We have been married almost 8 years but I know if he ends up missing the 10th I would be sad too. It's hard when we count up everything they have missed 🙁

  4. It's our first year of missing special events together, a first Summer of not having cookouts and family gatherings…

    Let me know when your birthday comes around.. I will celebrate with a toast to you!

  5. What a wonderful post! It really hit home. We've missed holidays & events already & we've only been married one year. My husband & I were blessed to be able to spend our one year anniversary together, but I know for future events, that wont always be the case.

    Since we know there will be events & holidays that he will miss, we've decided to declare those dates as nothing more than numbers on a calender and instead, to celebrate missed holidays when we can, when we are together. We're hoping this makes it a bit less painful when he is away on a holiday. Im not sure it will work, but Im willing to try. =)

    Congrats on your upcoming anniversary and happy early birthday! Im so sorry that he wont be there to celebrate with you!

  6. i feel your heartache, i too just celebrated my 10-yr anniv solo 🙁 here's to making that vow renewal at 20 yrs! happy day! xoxo

  7. I loved this post… and I couldn't have said it better myself. Over the last 8 months my husband has been gone, he has missed: halloween,thanksgiving,new years,valentines day,easter, my birthday, and now memorial day as well as his birthday next month and the fourth of July. I've pretty much celebrated every holiday since last October by myself, and its dreadfully depressing. I'm hanging on to a tiny shred of hope that we will be together for our 1 year wedding anniversary in August, but something tells me we won't be able to spend it together(because of this horrible move, and all the problems I'm running into). 🙁 I couldn't be more sad about that, and the thing that sucks the most is we can never have those moments back. I'm sorry your mother's day came and went with no breakfast in bed and you guys won't be able to spend your 10th anniversary together. But who says you have to wait til your 20th anniversary to renew your vows? do it next year if your Hubby is home by then 🙂

  8. You brought tears to my eyes! I hope the day goes by easily and you manage to still find a way to celebrate, just in a different way.

  9. My husband is returning today from a nine day trip and I have seen the effects of it on our daughter, so I cannot imagine how hard it is for you and your children to continually be dealing with an absent Daddy.

    We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary last November. My husband said at the time that to him it was very important, reaching ten years of marriage in this day and age is a big thing and he is right. So, when your husband gets home do go out and celebrate this important event, even if it is belatedly, and celebrate him being home all at the same time

  10. No more sadness…our lives sometimes really suck. Do what I do, I just my dates around…I know it sounds silly, but it has helped me out. However…it looks like he will be out also for our 10 year anniversary. I might need you to give me my own advice when that time comes around!

  11. I have been super blessed in this regard. I've been married to the military for nearly 15 years and the husband has only missed a handful of events. However, he was deployed for Mother's Day, my birthday, his birthday, our daughters first day of middle school, my sons karate achievements and our 10 year anniversary last year. And you're right, it is so hard.

    The number one missed "holiday" for us is the 4th of July. I don't know what it is about that day, but he always seems to be gone. Thankfully we'll have it this year! But, he does leave for 3 months 3 days later. 🙁

    I hope next year brings you an abundance of made-up-for extravagance!


  12. I'm sorry you are going to miss celebrating your 10th anniversary together. That is a big one and would be really wonderful to do something extra special. But I'm happy to hear that your marriage is deep and strong and that even if you cannot be together that you in each other's hearts every moment of every day. Thinking of you.

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