Originally published in February 20009 issue of Military Spouse Magazine
What is worse than spending a Valentine’s Day alone when your husband is deployed? Getting a bouquet of roses from your mother in law when you are expecting your husband to remember you from across the world. That’s right, I got a romantic delivery of roses from my mother in law on Valentines Day at that point in the deployment when every kind gesture from civilians seemed to hit a nerve. This is how I finally turned around what would have been the worst Valentine’s Day ever.
My husband’s first deployment I woke up bummed and pouty to the fact that I had no plans of a candle lit dinner or kinky sex that evening. By two in the afternoon, I was eating raw cookie dough watching “Maury” in my nightgown. Then the doorbell rang. It was a flower delivery! My mood changed instantly. I was thrilled. My husband remembered me from across the world on the most romantic day of the year! My heart soured as I gazed at the arrangement of roses. I tore open the card to read my husband’s love note from afar. The note said, “Happy Valentines Day from your mother-in-law.” That is when I officially lost all hope. I know she truly meant well, but to a wife going through a deployment, the gesture was quite inconsiderate. Did she not take a second to think that sending me flowers on Valentine’s Day was slightly inappropriate? I could not even look at them
When you are going through a deployment the sacred boundaries of marriage take on new definitions. Your marriage is reduced to infrequent phone calls, scattered emails, and precious hand written letters. They are all you have of a marriage. My mother in law’s gesture of sending me flowers crossed the boundaries of communicating between a husband and wife during a deployment. She did what he was supposed to do.
I stewed while staring at the assortment of roses. I could not deal. I thanked God when I received a phone call from one of my fellow military wives inviting a slew of us over to her house for an impromptu girl’s night out.
We all gathered around her living room and the gossiping began. Before I knew it, my pathetic day was turning for the better. We were all laughing and carrying on. I knew my ladies could always bring me out of my funk. In the middle of the chattering the doorbell rang. It was a flower delivery for our hostess. Unlike mine, her romantic arrangement was actually sent by her husband from over seas.
Her husband was gone for this holiday, but she was not forgotten. The delivery spurred an instant game of “One Up.” between the wives at the party. “One Up” has no board or game pieces. It is a game of proclaiming all the sacrifices you have made in your marriage thanks to Uncle Sam. The more you have suffered the better your chance of winning. Wives are proud of what they have given up for their country, and all points awarded in “One Up” are worn like badges of honor. Here is how you play. One wife began in response to the flower delivery with, “Well, my husband has missed every Valentine’s Day and wedding anniversary for the first three years we’ve been married.” (Remember no sympathy is awarded in the game. This is a competition for bragging rights not compassion.) Her comment was an invitation to another wife to challenge her suffering at the hands of the American Military. Another player joins the game, upping the stakes. She proclaims, “I had my first baby when my husband was deployed, and it was on Christmas.” The crowd silences, and eyes dart back and forth to see who can “One Up” the last play. A three pointer comes from the outside. Another wife counters with, “My husband did an unaccompanied tour last year and missed Christmas, our wedding anniversary, Valentines, our son’s first birthday, and this past year when he was home for Christmas; we found out he had duty on Christmas EVE!” A gasp fell over the crowd. Many wives nodded obviously impressed. Who could possible one up that? Wives lips were tight, nostrils flaring, everyone waited to find out if she would be crowned champion. Silence fell as we all were processing this last proclamation. We thought the game was over till I looked at the group and said, “My mother in law sent me a bouquet of roses today to wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day.” Everyone stopped and gasped. I could tell that my predicament had set all new standards of holiday blues with out your husband. For the first time in the history of “One Up”, a wife actually got a few sympathetic nods. One wife walked over to me with her mouth wide open and embraced me in a hug. I had some how “One Upped” them all, but it did not make me feel proud. I actually felt worse. The game had ended. A few wives came up to me to offer their condolences.
I walked home after that defeated and depressed. I started thinking about my husband and our time together married. We had not spent one Valentine’s Day together for three years straight. Valentines’ Day didn’t mean candy and flowers and romantic dinners, we had always been apart. Despite this we had always shown affection toward each other. We had never waited for a particular day to express how we felt. We did it all the time. My husband was always surprising me with flowers and gifts on random days. As I walked I realized my husband had showed me so much love on other days of the year, that this specific day did not really matter. I was allowing myself to get upset on a day our society determined love had to be shared. I knew my husband loved me and showed me love daily. With my perspective changed I actually felt stronger. I turned the corner and saw my house and another bouquet of roses on the doorstep. I ran up and opened the card and it said, “Go look in the laundry room, top shelf behind the bleach. Jon” I pushed through the front door and ran inside. I had to put a footstool on top the dryer just to see inside the cabinet with the bleach. Behind it was a card from Jon. He must have hid it there months ago! Tears poured down my face as I read the most precious love note from my husband. Nothing else mattered after that. I let go of my pride and remembered what the Apostle Paul said about love that we so quickly forget, “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not easily offended.” I placed both sets of flowers on my table and the card in the middle and felt truly loved by the sight of both.