First, let me give you the backstory: Jan enlisted in the Army to play basketball. It was ideal not to mention an honor to be working for the Army, and I naturally had no complaints. But then came October 30 when they were told they were getting shipped to Basic Military Training, which would last at least three months, and they had to leave the same night. Three months (and now it could actually be six freakin months) is a long time to spend away from your one-year-old daughter, and it all happened so sudden! You can just imagine what a mess I was that night, and I honestly haven’t been able to adjust to everything even up to now.
So I saw my husband for the first time today in two weeks since the Army trainees were in Manila for the week-long APEC festivities.
Spending the last two weeks in Basic Military Camp, I really didn’t know what to expect. For sure, he would lose weight and get a little darker, but probably not anything drastic. But when I saw him, I actually almost didn’t recognize him. He is three shades darker and about two sizes smaller; it was like he got sick. He had lost six kilos in the first week alone. His naturally high hairline can be seen in its full glory since he has gone bald.
We spent the afternoon talking about his experiences at the camp. They didn’t have access to cellphones there so this was the first legitimate conversation we’ve had in the past half a month. I imagine it was tough being there, most especially for the athletes who really had no prior plans on being a soldier. Pretty sure they were not going to get it easy just because they were part of the special enlistment group. This all proved to be true, but he didn’t go into detail.
He told me that when some of them wanted to quit after a few days, but he felt otherwise. He was determined to see this through. He wasn’t going to quit. For him, what’s a few months of portion controlled meals, 4 a.m. jogs everyday and sleeping in sweltering tents if it meant a lifetime of stability of us, for our daughter Elle.
I would’ve brought Elle to see her daddy, if only Taguig and Fairview weren’t separated with backbreaking commute. Instead, I just showed him videos of Elle finally starting to walk, and photos of her on her first birthday celebrations which Jan missed. He kept asking me if Elle would still recognize him when he came back. Of course, I said. You’re her dada.
Then he started crying right there.
And that’s also when I fully realized how grateful I am that I married Jan.
I admit it wasn’t the most perfect first year of marriage. Having a baby was tough for both of us and the honeymoon stage was over before it even began. I yelled and complained a million times. We fought over the littlest things. I had always called him out on what I thought was incompetence when it came to taking care of Elle. I always noticed his flaws, and I never failed to let him know of them. I only saw what he couldn’t do and not what he has been doing. Yes, at one point, I was that type of wife.
I even thought that time apart would do us good, because the longer we stayed at home together the testier it got. But the moment he left, I wanted to take back everything I said. I didn’t want him to leave. But come think about it, that part about it being good for us is actually partly true. Not because I’m enjoying the time apart, but because I got the chance to appreciate him more for the hardworking husband that he is. I may have the stronger personality, but I don’t have the will that my husband does. Send me to do something I’m not comfortable with and I’d probably quit after the day. And yet there he is in some far off camp, sleeping in tents with no proper ventilation and doing everything he can just for Elle.
For all his faults, Jan is a great partner and an even greater father to our daughter. And I couldn’t be more thankful for this basic military training for making me realize that.
I can’t wait for him to come home.
(No offense to the wives whose husbands are risking their lives at war. They are our heroes, and you are the real Army wives. But while Jan’s sacrifices may not be for the country exactly, the impact is tremendous for our family.)