As my husband prepared to leave for the first time since our oldest was born, I remember confessing to a seasoned military spouse that I feared she wouldn’t remember her Dad. She had been a wonderful mentor to me, and herself was a mother of four, and a military spouse for over 20 years. I figured if she didn’t know, no one would.
After I asked, she sort of cocked her head to one side, and with a knowing smile, told me, “They don’t forget.”
I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely sold on that. “But she’s so young and he will be gone for so long.” This was way before the marvels of Skype and social platforms, and as a submariner, we were limited to radio messages and the occasional letter or call, if we were lucky. How on earth was I going to keep their connection all of those months that he would be gone?
But she was right. Just as he was never “gone” for me, he was never “gone” for her. He may not have been physically present, but he was there. At the table, at the park, while reading her a bedtime story.
When he first returned, and we met on the pier, there was a moment when my heart sank a bit when our daughter greeted him with a curious look. But then he took off his cap and the biggest smile of recognition spread across her face.
They don’t forget. Because in many ways, Dad is never “gone,” he’s just not here. It’s a distinction that may not make sense to some, but does to military children.
The baby in this blog is now about to turn 18, and if you ask her about those many years her Dad was deployed, don’t ask “what it was like to have Dad ‘gone?’” She won’t know how to answer. My mother, the daughter of a World War II veteran, won’t know either. Because, for them, Dad was never gone, and certainly never forgotten.
Surely, there are times when the days seem to go on forever, and you miss them terribly. It hurts, and there are tears and even anger. But those are the things that are forgotten. That’s why reunions are so emotional. All of the negative, if any, flees and love floods in.
This goes out to our deployed Dads today, but we also know there are many Dads whose sons or daughters are in harm’s way. We want you to know, too, that they never forget that you are with them, guiding them and giving them strength as you have done all of their lives.
Happy Father’s Day from all of us at Operation Homefront.