When I met Kyle in 2008 he was the cute and wicked smart 17-year-old boy in my physics class with dirty blonde hair and skater shoes. First he made fun of me, then he let me copy his homework, and eventually, he asked me to go to Homecoming with him.
I had dated other guys before him, but he was like nothing I’d ever known. He hadn’t dated before and told me it was because he didn’t have time for girls. We were a couple of kids in love and my whole world was on fire. Fast-forward to 2012 when he took me back to the spot of our first “official” date as a couple, got down on one knee and proposed in a way only Kyle could. “How about you marry me?” he asked. I suspect he already knew my answer.
Over the years, Kyle has been a lot of things to me: best friend, caretaker, tech support, moral support, dog dad, the worst stick-shift driving instructor, and the best alfredo chef. We became husand and wife in 2014, graduated college, and both got jobs near our hometown. For the moment, life was quiet and comfortable.
I’ll never forget the day Kyle told me he wanted to join the military. It was a Sunday. The washer was broken, so we were at the laundromat- I was folding socks, he was folding towels. It was neither the time nor the place I expected that conversation to occur, but he brought it up just as casually as if he were talking about the weather or a new movie he wanted to see.
“I’m thinking about joining the Army.”
To be honest, the statement itself wasn’t a complete surprise to me. Many of Kyle’s family members served in the military and it was an idea he had toyed with before college. He felt a desire and an obligation to serve his country and while I thought that was an admirable quality, I hadn’t given it much thought in years. However, when his brother graduated from West Point in 2015, I knew the fire had been rekindled in his mind.
To say life has thrown us some curveballs over the past eight and a half years would be an understatement, but our relationship has thrived on a foundation of boundless support, encouragement, and respect. The day he took the oath, I was filled with equal parts excitement and anxiety. Up until that point, I was an engineer’s wife. My husband was home every night and while his job was sometimes stressful, I didn’t have to worry about men in uniform showing up on my doorstep notifying me he’d been hurt or worse.
This is the life I didn’t see coming.
There are a lot of books designed to prepare you for life as a military spouse and believe me, I read most of them. And while they helped demystify the lingo and taught me how to read an earnings statement, there’s a lot those books (and blogs and articles and websites) can’t prepare you for. There’s no chapter on how to handle your first holiday apart, no secret method for overcoming the loneliness and long nights, nothing mentioning how impossibly frustrating or unfair (not to mention, frequent) last-minute schedule changes can be.
But there’s more; nothing in the world could ever have prepared me for the pride I’d feel seeing the man I love reach his goals or volunteer to put his life on the line to defend others’. I never knew how sweet a reunion kiss could be. I didn’t expect to find so much strength of my own while he was away or to become such close friends with people of all different backgrounds walking in the same shoes I am.
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a seasoned Army wife. I have so much left to learn and experience and while being apart for eight months has been difficult, I am sure greater challenges lie ahead. I also know we are fortunate that, as a Reserve family, we have the opportunity to choose where we live and maintain a relatively normal lifestyle most weeks. Kyle chose to become an engineer because he knew it was something he enjoyed and was good at. But as it turns out, he’s a pretty great soldier, too.
I am an engineer’s wife. I am an Army wife. This is the life I didn’t see coming. But then again, don’t most of our greatest adventures begin that way?