There are two things that never fail to make my husband cry: baseball movies (The Rookie has a one tissue warning) and the military (homecoming videos? Two to five tissue warnings).
I like to give my normally stoic man some good-natured teasing about the baseball sniffles, but his love of the military goes a lot deeper than that. His family has a long history with the military; his father, grandfather and various uncles and cousins have all served.
I remember a sun-lit day when we were dating, as we walked across campus, just two care-free college students, dreaming about our future together.
“What would you think of me joining the military?” He asked, glancing in my direction.
Fear clenched my stomach. No. I thought. I don’t want that life, the unknowns, the fear, the loneliness, the part that comes before the homecoming video.
“I don’t want you to go in the military,” I said gently. “I don’t want to be apart from you.”
He nodded but his brow creased. “I don’t want to be away from you either. But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I mean, my dad, my Pop… it’s in my family, the pride of it. Plus there are so many great benefits.”
“I know,” I swallowed hard. “But I don’t want that life.”
I really, really didn’t. The thought of military life scared me beyond all reasonable thought.
The conversation didn’t come up again until after we were married.
He’d come home from work, to me and our twin babies and our two year old marriage.
“So, I’ve been thinking…”
And we’d talk about it again… and again.
And each time I said, “No.”
I mean, did he see our life? We were barely making it. I was barely making it, taking care of the house and two babies all by myself in a town where we had no family support.
To me, all the military meant was separation and deployment. Constant moving, unknowns, and scary, scary stuff.
Wash, rinse, and repeat.
No, NO! I did NOT want that life.
So, he kept doing what he does best: Working hard, taking care of us. He rose early and went to the same job every day that he had held since before we got married.
Years passed and he rose in the ranks, from helper, to lead man, to draftsman, to assistant supervisor. He received well-deserved raises. He reached as high as he could go in his field. But he wasn’t happy. He was a hard worker but he wasn’t doing the type of work that he really wanted to do.
So after I finished grad school, he decided to go back to school for a math degree. Three years passed. We added two more babies to our family. One degree turned into two and he graduated with a 3.9 GPA, a BA and BS in mathematics, all while working 50+ hours a week to support our family.
To say I was a proud of him would be an understatement. Degrees earned, he set out to find a new job, all while faithfully working at his old one.
“At this time next year…” we told each other hopefully as he filled out application after application after application.
“By next fall…” we thought.
A year passed.
“You know, I really thought by Christmas…” he said.
Then, one day he came home for lunch and said, “So, I’ve been thinking…”
“Uh oh!” I smiled, knowing the crazy ideas that always followed that phrase.
“I’ve been thinking about the military idea again.”
My smile faded.
Here was this man whom I loved so dearly and fiercely, this man that I had made a life with, who worked so hard day after day, year after year, asking me again to consider his dream.
I had been saying no to the military for almost 10 years but it wasn’t going away. The dream was lodged there, in his heart, and even though he — we — OK, I — kept stuffing it down, it kept rising up, bobbing to the surface.
And I saw so clearly in that moment a truth that broke my heart: I was a dream crusher. I was crushing my husband’s dreams with my paralyzing fear of the unknown, my love of security, comfort and sameness. But, during that thirty minute lunch, when he asked that question, I was tired of loving my fears more than I loved my husband.
I didn’t want my fears to hold him back. I wanted my love to push him forward.
So I stopped saying “No.” (I didn’t say “yes” either [remember? Military = worst fear!])
Instead, I took his hand and said, “Do some research. Let’s look into it.”
It was the first step for us. Love helps you be brave.
Originally published on BlogHer.