When T deployed to Iraq back in 2006, our relationship was brand new. Like, two-months old, new. I had no idea how we were going to preserve that relationship or, better yet, help it grow.
At the time, I didn’t have a computer – gasp! I was working multiple jobs and still living paycheck to paycheck to try to pay off some debt. I couldn’t afford a computer. T offered to buy me one, but I couldn’t accept that from him…yet.
So, almost everyday T trudged through the sweltering heat and swirling dust and stood in line waiting for a space in the phone tent. We got in our half-hour of talk time, provided I didn’t miss his call, and the rest of our communication was through email that I could only check at work.
Right before he came home on leave, he finally convinced me to let him buy a computer for me. After that, our lives were much easier. At home I could log onto Yahoo Messenger and wait for him to be available to chat.
Despite the obstacles, or most probably because of them, we did manage to grow as a couple. We learned a lot about each other. And we learned a little about what we needed to do to this time around to support each other and our marriage.
Here are some of the ways we keep each other close across the miles:
Our primary form of communication is the telephone. When T got to Afghanistan, one of the first things he did was to buy a cell phone. This was huge because it meant that he didn’t have to tie up a satellite phone that other soldiers might want to use. The satellite phones are free to use, but the reception is crackly and sporadic and the time is limited. The cell phone allows T to call me when and where he wants to and we can talk for as long as he has minutes.
I couldn’t tell you the ins and outs of the phone system over there, but I do know that the Afghani cell phones work just like regular cell phones. The phone itself cost about $50 USD and he has to buy minutes for it, via phone cards, which he can get from the interpreters. The cards aren’t too expensive, but they are unique to that system. In other words, you couldn’t buy a phone card over here and send it there – it just wouldn’t work.
I am so grateful for the flexibility that the cell phone provides. It enables me talk to T almost every day, and more than that, we have some degree of privacy. In Iraq, once T got to a phone, he would be crammed into a tiny cubicle with other soldiers making their calls on either side. Not only that, but the phone tent was near the gym, so we would often hear blaring music in the background and grunting and weight clanking. Planet Fitness, it wasn’t.
And if, for any reason, I missed his call, he would have to stand in line again later and most days he just didn’t have that kind of time. Now, he simply waits a few minutes, then picks up his phone and tries again.
Yes, I am very happy about the cell phone.
The recreational internet connection they had on T’s post is down right now. If T wants to send or receive email, he has to use the office computer and that offers no privacy. This is disappointing for several reasons:
- T, at my request, had started to write me longer, in-depth emails telling me what he could about what he was doing and sharing some of his thoughts. This was so precious, as our phone calls – though wonderful – tend to be fairly surface. With the ‘net down…I won’t be getting any of those introspective emails for a while.
- I probably won’t be getting his segment of Our Story for Sunday Stories, as previously promised.
- We can’t IM anymore. Boo. I miss our chat sessions, which also tended to be more intimate than a phone call. Writing, especially for me, can offer more freedom than talking.
- We can’t use the webcam anymore. When I see his dimpled smile pop up in that little box, my heart overflows.
Um, no. I do write T the occasional letter, but he is definitely not a pen and paper kind of guy. I admit that I am a little sad about this, but I have come to accept that it’s just not him.
My theory – which is based only on having been a middle school aide and intern and on watching T take six minutes to sign his name on the bill at dinner – is that it’s a fine motor issue and I think it’s pretty common in the male of the species. Most boys can’t write nearly as fast as most girls can, yet their thoughts come just as quickly. So they get frustrated and learn to hate writing by hand. After all, T is an excellent writer. But to get him to write, you have to put a computer in front of him.
I spent last deployment begging him to write me a letter. This time around, I’m trying to focus on all the other things he does to show me he misses me.
I’ll share some of those in Part II.