Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mea Culpa

Mea culpa. I apologize that it is now Thursday and there has been no mention around here of Seven Inches of Service. I am not the only one just trying to keep up with life right now; so as a result, I have given my fabulous service sisters the week off. In their stead I am posting something I wrote quite a while back while Clark was deployed. SIOService will be back up and running next week. Thanks for being so patient with us...there is good stuff coming
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When Clark was gone, there was one thing that made our relationship easier. That was the constant, and I mean quite literally glued to my ear, constant presence of my cell phone. Cell phones can cost a fortune, and there were months that my bill was $400 or so. But me having it meant that no matter where I was or whatever I was doing, if Clark had the opportunity to call, he could call me and we could talk, even if it was only for a couple minutes.

I programmed all the numbers Clark called from into my cell phone so as long as he was at BIAP or at least using the same calling system, I'd always know it was him!!! They came up on my phone like a regular number but the area code was usually some random place like Chicago or Nashville though he did get a couple LA ones, so I set it up in my phone so the calls would say either Kuwait (1-6) or Baghdad (1-5). That also made it easier to register in my brain when he would call me in the middle of the night. It’s a ten or eleven hour time difference depending on whether your soldier is in Kuwait or Iraq.

Either way, if it was morning for Clark, it was night for me, and vice versa. Whenever he could, Clark would call me early in the morning so he could be my alarm clock. He said that if he couldn’t be with me to wake me up, then at least he could be the first person I heard in the morning. It wasn’t a perfect system, but we definitely made the best of it.

Clark and I were very fortunate because where he was stationed, they had phone access; unreliable access at best, every four days. And Clark definitely made use of his time. He would call me his morning and his night so that with the time change I would get to talk to him two days in a row. It became normal for me to count time in units of four. To this day, when you ask me what time it is, my brain automatically figures out what time it is in Iraq as well.

Clark always said that for him, talking to me kept him sane and focused and that he needed me and our conversations to get through the days; that wasn’t the case for all the guys in his unit. For some of them, they only called home once a week simply because they said it was too painful, stressful or made them too homesick.

It's been my experience that most deployed soldiers call home, or at least their girlfriends, as often as they get the chance. This leads to a whole other set of issues however: the parents. If you, as the girlfriend have a good relationship with the parents, this part is much easier, or so I’m told.

I didn’t have the option of getting to know Clark’s parents before he left, and there were a few unhappy feelings, to say the least, on his mom’s part. Not because he called me, but rather because he would call me instead of them. I got phone calls every single phone day, there were a few exceptions, but that falls into a different deployment category (ya know, the whole flexibility and Army planning portion). His parents on the other hand, got calls every few weeks, or basically every time I would tell Clark that if he didn’t call his parents by next phone day I wouldn’t talk to him until he had. His mom and dad knew about me and that he was calling me, but that didn’t make them feel any better about being skipped on phone day. I encouraged Clark frequently to call his family and most of the other girlfriends I know encourage their soldiers to call home.

Even with those efforts, there was still some resentment; and honestly, I can't say that I even blame Clark's mom for that. I don't think I would have been particularly thrilled with the situation had our roles been reversed. However, I did the best I could and eventually most of his family came around.

I worked really hard to remind myself whenever I felt whiny about phone time that my grandmothers went through this too...only they didn't have the luxury of any phones. They had to wait weeks and months to hear...not mere days. Kinda put my situation back into perspective.
I am still thankful for opportunities Clark had to call while he was deployed.