Mike Waggoner woke up early the next morning like he generally does. His sleep had been a restless one. While laying in bed, he reflected on the previous day seeing Teri, his wife of sixteen years, leave for Mississippi and the beginning of a year long deployment. The Waggoner's had been apart before, but with the exception of when they were first married when Mike was stationed in Korea, the only other times were when each was at Guard camp or on weekend drills. This time was different. Mike felt alone. And he remembered, "It was like, wow, she really is gone".
The "alone" comment might be difficult to comprehend, especially when you consider the three young ladies that were now looking to Mike for direction. But as he would recall, "I was now totally responsible in the daily operation of running a house". And for most guys, asking for help, is not part of their make-up. So every chore became an event and every event became a chore. There was mowing the yard, doing laundry, doing the dishes and the job Mike now has the utmost respect for. "Grocery shopping was huge", Mike said. "That was overwhelming". And then there was the taxi cab service that he knew little about. He now knew first hand how little appreciation he had in his wife running the children to their various activities. He was going to need help, for sure.
Help did come and it was certainly appreciated. The beginning of school was roughly three weeks off and there needed to be purchases made for school clothes. Mike's sister, Cheri Waggoner, came alongside to help the girls with some of their selections. Mike gladly relinquished that shopping dilemma. One can only imagine without his sister's help, what outfits might have been purchased or how difficult it might have been for a father to say "yes" or "no". We'll never know...and maybe that's a good thing.
The next big hurdle for Mike and his young ladies was the first day of school. "That's when it hit me" said a misty-eyed Melissa, age 13. "Mom had always been the one to wake us up and get us off to the bus". Many miles away, Teri was having some difficult moments of her own. "It was hard knowing that they started school and I wasn't there to help them get ready. I knew they could handle it but it was still hard', she said.
The "handle" in the equation was Melissa. She was already beginning to take on some responsibilities as a little mom. Perhaps it's the female instinct that kicks in when needs like this crop up, but for whatever reason, Melissa had stepped up. "I know that she has grown up so fast because of how she feels about being the "mom of the house". I wish I were there to take that feeling away from her but I can't. She is so strong willed and will always feel that way until I come home and tell her to be a kid again. I know that all three of the girls have had to grow up and be more responsible because of this deployment", exclaimed Teri,
Neighbors also lent a helping hand seeing that everyone made their appointed departure times for the bus and that the return home was chaperoned until Mike arrived from his day of work. A rhythm was beginning to develop, or at least that's what Mike thought, until September. That's when he hit the wall.
"My biggest concern for Mike was how stressful this was on him and that he'd be able to lean on others for help even though I know he doesn't like to ask for it", Teri offered. One day one his co-workers asked him how he was doing because she thought he looked a little ragged. And that's all it took. The emotions came full force and the tears followed. Days later at Sunday School, he had a similar occurrence. It was evident Mike needed to relinquish the pressure he'd placed on himself to "carry the load". These two experiences opened the door, once and for all to be open to receiving help. Neighbors and church came to his aid time and again. He was seeing God at work. And for Teri, these happenings were further evidence of that too. She had been praying that Mike would grow in his faith in the time that they were apart.
|Little Ladies "light" the way in the Waggoner kitchen|
Next came the Holidays. Thanksgiving was spent in Newell, Iowa with the Waggoner family. A number of relatives were on hand for the big dinner. Afterwards, the family "skyped" Teri. Seeing her was confirmation that she was alright....and for her, much the same. It was a day with very little stress and emotions were held in check. Christmas was right around the corner.
"We actually had alot of fun getting ready for Christmas", Mike said. "When we went shopping, we had to split the girls up to keep from everyone knowing what they were going to get". Melissa, Tiffany and Morgan took exceptional delight in buying a couple of model cars for Dad, a Corvette and a Charger. Both sit on the desk at home in full view. Christmas Day was a little less fun. "It was a lonely day because there was something big missing", stated Tiffany. Teri, now firmly entrenched in her duties as a supply clerk in Afghanistan, also had sensed the big hole. "Christmas was just another day here for me as I continued to work. I know that at home Mike and the girls had Christmas morning together then they went to a friends house. It was sad to have them open presents and I wasn't even there to see their faces", she said.
Two days later, Teri's family visited Mike and the girls in Ankeny. Seventeen people shared space under one roof, nine of those being children. It was a time of electricity and little quiet. And it was a time when support was needed and accepted. Once again, social media played a big role in everyone connecting to Afghanistan. In addition, it also brought about these thoughts from Sgt. Teri of her children, " they have all grown up so fast. I can't believe that the girls I see sometimes on Skype are really mine".
Indeed they had all grown in various ways. And there were more to come.......
WHEN MOM DEPLOYS-PART 3
A New Year of Growth and Faith