On Mother’s Day 2014, my family stood in the parking lot of the recruiter’s office.
We had plans for brunch with the rest of the family in an hour, but none of us felt like eating. My little brother was leaving for the U.S. Army that day. My mom’s lingering question had been, “Do they have to take you today?”
Lunch was quiet. My grandparents tried to make small talk. But there was no denying the awkwardness of the conversations that all seemed to ignore the one missing family member around the table. No one wanted to state the obvious: that he was gone.
That day was pivotal for my family. We had no idea that becoming a military family would change us forever. At first, it was only minor changes.
First, the décor in our home changed. Suddenly, everything was red, white, and blue. My mom’s Facebook profile picture changed from a family portrait to a photo reading “God Bless Our Troops.” We started donning an American flag in our yard. My parents printed and framed their fathers’ military headshots and placed them on the mantle. Every chance she got, my mom would wear her “Proud Army Mom” shirt. I just knew she was hoping strangers at the store would comment on it, so she had another excuse to talk about my brother. My brother’s newly found identity as a boot camp soldier suddenly overtook every aspect of our lives. It was a sudden change. But it was how my mom coped with her son leaving.
Most days, we understood and sympathized with my mom. Other days, we began to grow tired of fielding questions from family members about when she was going to quit changing the topic to my brother every chance she got.
Eventually, things got easier.
Until they got even harder.
My brother’s first deployment made our house chaotic again. I remember our dining room table was no longer used for family meals. Instead, it became a warehouse of things we could ship to Afghanistan: condiment packages, socks, photos, stationery for letters, and all of my brother’s favorite childhood snacks.
I felt myself becoming my mother as I obsessively checked Snapchat hoping for an update from my brother. Occasionally, he’d post a new Instagram photo. Sometimes he’d call over Facebook Messenger. Whenever he called, my dad’s voice boomed through the house, “He’s calling!” We’d all run to the phone and wedge our face into the camera space. We all had so much to share, and none of us wanted to miss a second we had with him. I had never been more grateful for technology.
I remember when weeks would pass without a word from my brother. My brain would swirl with all the worst thoughts. I’d have to remember to take a deep breath. But I’d always find myself in that constant loop of checking his social media, hoping for any sign.
Those days feel so far away now. Now, I’m the one far from home while my brother is home safe. Today, he’ll spend Mother’s Day with my parents and grandparents. My family will FaceTime me right when they’re done eating so I can say hello to whoever they pass the iPad to next.
Time always seemed to run away from us. Now, it’s slowed down into a peaceful haze.
This blog post was written by Stevie Croisant, Marketing & Communications Manager for Warriors & Quiet Waters, about how her family pivoted into becoming a military family after her younger brother joined the Army. Learn more about how WQW supports military families here.