I took the kids on a long weekend trip a little while back so we could visit some of our friends in El Paso, where we used to live. I wanted to get back to visit before school, but also to return the gesture. A friend of mine came to Houston to help me while Aaron was deployed, because my son had to have surgery. It was an incredibly difficult, although blissfully brief, season for me. I was incredibly grateful to have the help.
Originally I planned a trip back in March, then rescheduled for April, but we couldn’t get the trip coordinated on both ends. In May we went to a family wedding, and I couldn’t schedule a back-to-back trip because Aaron was coming home at the end of May. June and July were spent with Aaron, getting used to having him back and celebrating his 40th birthday. As the end of July drew near I knew we needed to see our friends soon. School was looming for both of our kids, but we were finally able to make concrete plans for the last days of July.
I didn’t want my friend to think I had forgotten her, and I certainly didn’t want to be the friend who never visits. I have a lot of those – friends who have never visited me, but somehow always wonder if I can visit. I’ve moved many times, though only a few were military moves, but I can only count two friends who were willing to make the trip to my newest homes to see me. That’s within the past 10 years, and trust me, I’m counting.
It’s an unfortunate aspect of military life, but I know plenty of civilian friends who share the same experience. They move out of necessity, a job, a relationship, school, to be closer to (or further away from) family, and for many of my most recent friends, the military sends us to new duty stations.
Since marrying Aaron, I have only had one friend make the trip to come see me, so I knew I had to get back to El Paso and repay the favor. I often complained to Aaron that we don’t have friends who will visit, but they always want us to visit – I refused to be a hypocrite. I was determined to make the trip, even if we had to reschedule a few times so the timing worked for both of us. I finally made it, albeit nine months later.
I have always felt the best way to show gratitude is through my actions. Saying thank you is polite, but I’ve found people remember what you do far more often than what you’ve said. I tell Aaron with more frequency than I’d care to admit that it makes me sad that friends don’t visit me, and I want to teach my children it’s important to show gratitude through action in the same way we show people we are contrite.
Teaching my boys it’s not enough to just say “sorry”, they have to change their behavior feels like a near-daily lesson – they’re still really young, and I have a feeling I will be reinforcing this often for years still to come. I am able to model the behavior with Aaron and even when I make mistakes as a parent, but I don’t often get the chance to lead by example showing gratitude in friendship, especially for something that meant so very much to me.
While I had the kids with me visiting my friend and her boys for the weekend, Aaron was stuck at home as the on-call physician, unable to leave the area. I had hoped he would be able to catch up on some sleep and get some studying done, but it turns out he was restless while we were gone; he cleaned and organized the entire downstairs. And although I was somewhat annoyed at being unable to find some of my kitchen items when I got home, I was also relieved. (That’s not a photo of my husband, in case anyone was wondering.)
The project was something I’d been avoiding because it was daunting to clean an entire downstairs, and even more-so to try completing the task with 3 children clinging to my every move. He managed to finish it in one day and he even had time to study and get to bed early.
I can’t remember the last time I finished a task in that short a timeframe, and I was a little envious. Aaron admitted he wanted to get it done while the kids were gone. He wanted to avoid the chaos of keeping the kids otherwise occupied and not underfoot during the cleaning and organizing, and I can’t say I blame him.
Fast forward to August 9th, and I received a delivery – a lovely bouquet of flowers from my husband. They’re actually the featured photo for the blog. The blue flowers in the gifted bouquet are not forget-me-nots. I think they’re alstromeria – I’m definitely not a florist, so you’d have to ask someone else. Forget-me-nots, though, are beautiful; they’re somewhere on the list of my top 10 favorite flowers, although the order changes nearly every time I give it, even if the flowers remain the same.
I sent my husband a message, emphatically thanking him. I wanted to encourage the behavior, because I really love getting flowers for no reason. I love flowers, but I don’t have the knowledge or a place to garden here in this small space. And with small children and cats, I’m not confident trying to cultivate an indoor garden. I am confident it would end in tears. For both the plants and me. Probably the children? Mostly the former, though.
The response I got was not as enthusiastic. It was more, well, bewildered. Aaron informed me he hadn’t sent me flowers. Included was a beautiful message, signed from “Sparky”, a nickname I’ve called my husband since before we were married. (His favorite holiday movie is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I used the nickname a few times and it stuck.) I sent him a photo of the message, but his reaction remained the same: he hadn’t sent them.
I am not a particularly forgetful person, although since I had kids I have to write things down more often than I used to. Aaron can be forgetful, and he frequently sets reminders or puts our dates on the calendar so he doesn’t forget to speak my love language, appreciation. Read: not being forgotten. (That’s not one of the languages from the popular Gary Chapman book The 5 Love Languages. If that’s our measuring stick, my language is quality time.)
I don’t like people to feel I’ve forgotten them either. I do my best to both stay in touch and do things that remind those I’m close to I haven’t forgotten them. I have sent cards and flowers to friends in the past, but I remember doing those things. I’ve never been so forgetful I couldn’t remember a gift I’d sent someone, and seeing a thank you for the gift would have immediately reminded me.
Not Aaron. Later that day, he told me he had placed the order while I was in El Paso, because he knew he would forget if he didn’t do it while he was thinking about it. The flowers had been scheduled for delivery for later in the month so it would be a random gift, not a return home gift. He forgot he had sent me flowers. I was practically shaking with laughter.
In the grand scheme of things, one of my greatest fears is to be left behind by those I love, obsolete, past usefulness, and forgotten. Moving around a lot and having my closest friends scattered across the country brings these fears to the surface – social media allows me to see constant reminders of my friends’ and loved ones’ lives moving on without me.
Even day-to-day life can weigh on me as I watch myself get lost in the identity of motherhood and being a good wife. My personal dreams and goals forgotten or abandoned as I sacrifice to keep my family together. I struggle with feelings of guilt for wanting to be defined as something other than a wife, mother, or homemaker; I genuinely appreciate feeling as if I, an individual, haven’t been forgotten. My husband is, probably better than many, very good at this.
Whereas my beautiful bouquet may have been forgotten, it serves as a lovely reminder that I am not. I am loved, appreciated, and seen even in the midst of our busy lives by the person who means the most to me. It is impossible for life to stand still just because I left a physical area. I don’t hold onto that expectation, but sometimes the reality of it is heavy on my heart.
Moving away doesn’t mean my friends have forgotten me, either, it just means we have to look for the reminders in other places. Through other delivery methods. A text, a card, a silent like or follow on a blog post. A snap on Snapchat from a snippet of their life they want to share with me, though I am absent. I may be gone, and I may move again in a few years, leaving this chapter of my life behind, but I am not forgotten. And by a few, I am missed.
In that vein, I’ll leave you with two quotes I think are great for this post. I’m off to find the best way to repay Aaron for the flowers, and remind him he isn’t forgotten, either.
“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” – Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
“If you really love someone, time and distance will not make you forget them.” – unknown