As we prepared for our final hours in Okinawa, my husband and I packed up our loaner van with five ginormous suitcases, two strollers, two carry-ons, one diaper bag, one camera bag…and two kids (can’t forget the kids).
I hopped in the way back with a cup of coffee that tasted a lot more like burnt toast than actual coffee. The kids sandwiched into the middle row of the Japanese micro van; my husband in the front.
We drove to pick up my best friend, who would take us to the airport. As she hopped in the front seat, darkness blanketed the early morning sky. And immediately a tightness leapt into my throat. Because this was real.
We were leaving, and it would be a long time before I saw my friend again. In fact, I had no idea when we would see each other.
As I took another sip of coffee trying to numb my throat, memories of our three years overseas flooded my brain.
Memories of the birth of our daughter and friends really being there.
Memories of Christmas and other holidays spent with friends who became our family.
Memories of nights out with friends and far too much Orion.
As military spouses know all too well, bittersweet doesn’t even begin to adequately describe the process of saying goodbye.
The sun peaked over the horizon as we arrived to the terminal for our departure back to the US. I opened the rear doors to get the kids out.
Then panic set in.
My husband and I forgot our Ergo carrier back at the hotel, which is no biggie unless you have a toddler who likes to make a break for it.
I looked to my friend and pleaded. “Would you drive back, grab it and bring it back to us?” Without more than a nod, she was back in the car for an hour round trip to grab our precious carrier (for the wild toddler).
Because that is what military spouse friends do.
They do the hard stuff.
They do the stuff you wouldn’t ask others.
And many times, they do it before you have the chance to ask.
To all my military spouse friends, you’ll never know…
You’ll never know how much it meant to have someone drive an extra hour round trip just to pick up one thing left in a hotel room.
You’ll never know how helpful it was to have pedilyte and three gallons laundry soap dropped off when both my kids blanketed the house with vomit during deployment.
You’ll never know how important our lunches and coffees were to me feeling like an actual person and not just someone wandering aimlessly through military life.
You’ll never know what a huge deal it was that you took care of my kid while I gave birth to another kid.
You’ll never know how you became my adopted family when we were living far from our real family.
You’ll never know what it meant to celebrate holidays and birthdays and special occasions with you so we could get awesome gifts..like the Swirlio frozen dessert maker 🙂
You’ll never know how comforting it was to have you laugh with me when I got pulled over for rolling a stop sign on base.
You’ll never know that your willingness to answer 3 am texts and phone calls during deployment saved me from going crazy.
You’ll never know that hearing all your tips and advice about a new duty station prevented a lot of wasted time driving in circles on the wrong side of the road.
You’ll never know how much better you make mandatory fun days. You’re the one reason I get excited about going.
You’ll never know how useful it was to have you jump my car every other week during deployment (piece of junk).
You’ll never know how meaningful it was to have you help pack, unpack and pack up our home again.
You’ll never know that I breathed a sigh of relief every time you agreed to watch my kids in a pinch.
You’ll never know how happy I was the first time you invited me to get together as friends.
You’ll never know how grateful I was for your shoulder to cry on during deployment. Thank you for never judging me every time I hit a deployment wall and sobbed like a baby.
You’ll never know how much I wish our families would be stationed in the same place forever and ever. A girl can dream, right?
You’ll never know how painful the goodbyes were for me.
You’ll never know how worried I was to be leaving behind my lifeline. And how grateful I am that we keep in touch.
You’ll never know how often I think of you.
You’ll never know all the ways you made my life oh-so much better.