by Karen Poisson, Guest Contributor
My husband and I were married right out of college. He is still active duty but there are times when I feel like I’m hitched to a retiree in his late 70s and not a man in his mid-40s. Plenty of military spouses are in the same situation. It’s not their physical attributes that have changed and it’s not that they have diminished mental capacity but there is a syndrome that occurs. Read on and find out what fate awaits you too.
I noticed the onset when we were first married. As soon as my husband would be in a room with another service member, shoptalk would commence. You couldn’t get away from it.
My friends and I would wonder how they could spend all day together in training and still rehash it later that week.
I questioned it but I understood.
As a college student, your world was the classroom.
As a new mom, my life revolved around my newborn and not much else. My domain was small and my conversation centered on my infant.
For them, it was also a way to decompress and bond with their fellow students.
As they progressed from training to a combat squadron, the shoptalk continued but with an added bonus – a story.
As I quickly learned, it only had to be 10% true and should start with “there I was….”
Initially this was an exciting time for me. I would learn more about what life was like during TDYs and deployments. Since my husband was gone over 200 days a year, it made sense that there were anecdotes. I heard about people and places that may not have come up during normal conversation. I enjoyed hearing how life was in other locations. I laughed at the antics of my husband and his cohorts. Each new deployment brought new adventures and that in turn meant new sagas.
Then we had to change duty stations. Cue new people to meet and new stories to be told. This pattern continued for a few more assignments until we were reunited with people from past locations.
Again, stories were exchanged and laughs were had by all. It didn’t take long, though, before the old stories came out.
The first time it happened, I thought nothing of it. You can’t remember who was at the last party or function so you’re not sure who has heard the tale. But as the year progressed and the stories were repeated, I began to feel like I was in the Twilight Zone.
I kept this reaction to myself since we were at a location that rewarded competition but I also secretly noted that my spouse wasn’t the only one with a hat in the game.
Another assignment cycle found us at school. Again, the anecdotes were told and friends shared their own accounts of life in the military.
I understood that there were new audiences for these narratives so even though I could tell these stories in my sleep, I recognized the desire to share.
But now I wondered if the movie “Groundhog Day” was part of my life too. It looked as if I was destined to relive our life over and over again.
A few more years and we were back with people from his career field. I assumed that the pattern would continue for a while but then taper off. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Get service members together and you can’t keep them quiet. The yarns get bigger in proportion to the number of times it has been spoken and the participants who are listening now. It’s a mathematical formula that should be in the textbooks!
At this point, I found the courage to ask other military spouses if they too have heard their spouse’s stories ad nauseum. A resounding “YES!” was the answer. “Thank goodness I’m not alone” is the only reaction I have.
We then started our own discourse on our lives and the all-encompassing nature of the military lifestyle. As civilians, it seems easier to separate your work and your social life. In the military, that separation tends to be much smaller.
The military IS your life. You eat, sleep, drink and breathe your service. It really is an all-or-nothing proposition.
Now that many of our friends are retiring from active duty, the stories are continuing. Often they no longer start with “there I was” but they are prefaced with “do you remember?” I’m not sure if the switch came about because of their age or because they decided to change things up a bit.
But either way, I’ve come to accept that my social life is going to be made up with the same fish tales that I’ve heard before. As a good spouse, I will smile and laugh when appropriate.
But I’ve also learned that my husband has earned the right to repeat himself. It’s not just reliving the glory days, it’s reminiscing and remembering a life well lived.
Karen is a part-time ESL teacher and a full-time military spouse. She’s been in this military game so long that her kids are away at college, leaving only the four-legged type at home. She’s moved 12 times including one overseas tour and now she’s ready for her next PCS adventure!