As this last (yes, LAST!!) patrol's end is in sight, I really have been feeling a whole range of emotions about what it means to even be able to say those words. Last. Patrol. The magnitude of those two words is immense. I did it. I DID IT. We did it. We, my friends, have basically made it to the end. I have had many day dreams about what it would feel like to be here and to say those words. 3 years ago, heck, even 3 months ago, I thought it would never happen. It has happened. It's happening, and I am loving every single second of it.
I DID IT!!!! I MADE IT THROUGH!!! I survived, and dare I even say thrived? I do say thrived. I insist upon saying that, actually. I'm pretty damn proud of myself. I'm proud of us. I'm proud of my kids. I'm proud of my husband. I'm proud of many fellow Munro spouses who transfer out with us this year who have also made it through.
If you will humor me and my nostalgia for a moment, I can honestly say that I will never, ever forget the day we got THAT phone call. I was happily chatting away with a friend at Joanna's preschool in Port Angeles while we cleaned up glitter and glue off the tables while the kids played outside. My cell phone rang. It was Jake, and that was weird. He knew where I was, and he hardly ever called my cell phone anyway. I knew instantly that something was up. Indeed it was. That phone call put my life on a completely different course than it was on just mere seconds before. In an instant my pleasant life had come to a screeching halt and done a 180 degree turn. I literally thought the world was coming to an end. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but that's how I felt. Kodiak, Alaska? ALASKA??? Not only that, but a 378??? What on earth had I done to deserve that horrific punnishment? Why was this happening to us?
We considered going geo bachelor. For those non-Coast Guard people who might be reading this right now, that means the Active Duty member goes to the new duty location and the spouse and family stays behind. We wrote it all down. Pros and cons. On paper it seemed crystal clear. He would go and the kids and I would stay. We had such a nice, cozy little house. Our parents were close by. He would come home when the ship was not underway. It made sense. Jake was going to tell the detailer the next day that our decision was made.
Then, when it was time to put the kids to bed, Jake took a little extra time to say goodnight to them. When he came out, he had a funny look on his face and said, "I can't do it. I know we might be miserable in Kodiak, but I'd rather be miserable with you there than miserable without you." I knew he was right. So, he made the call to the detailer the next day and said we'd all be coming along for the ride.
And what a ride!! It really has been a series of incredible highs and lows. Will I miss living here? Will I finally make my journey back to the lower 48 and find that the old addage about the grass being greener on the other side is true? I honestly don't think so. For me, the simple fact that Jake will no longer be on the ship automatically tips the scale to the "Heck no I won't miss a darn thing about Kodiak" side. I will miss certain people. If I could pack a select few with me in my suitcase to California, I would! (You know who you are!) I think that's about it, though. Really!
I guess the things I will truly treasure about my time here in Kodiak are not tangible at all, but will be all the life lessons I've learned. Sometimes I feel like I had to get conked on the head with orders here to get me to finally learn them. First and foremost, I've learned that I CAN DO ANYTHING! Anything from relocating my family to a strange, isolated place by myself and against my will (Yes, I came to Kodiak with the kids by myself), to taking apart the vacuum to clean out whatever is in there that's flapping around and making a noise (and then putting it all back together again)...and everything in between. I CAN DO ANYTHING! Yet, while I'm very proud of the fact that I have accomplished so many things by myself in the past 3 years and I pride myself on my self-relliance, part two of this lesson is this:
While I am very aware of the fact that I am fully capable of doing just about anything on my own, I don't want to. EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH JAKE. I mean everything. Even the most mundane things like doing the dishes or folding socks is better when he is by my side. I realize this sounds so cliche and lame, but it really is a heart-felt truth for me. And while I've always loved my husband with all of my heart, it took orders to a 378 in Kodiak, AK to truly make me aware of this. I can't help the fact that I love him, but I would (and do!) consciously choose to spend the rest of my days with him by my side through every sock-folding, dish-doing, kid-wrangling moment. He brings out the best in me, and I am beside myself with excitement to know that we will share our next adventure together as a family. Oh, and trust me, ye olde salty sea wives who are shaking fingers at me right now. I know what you're thinking. I am not dilusional in my thoughts and understanding of what it means to be a Coast Guard wife. I know the possibility is there that we may again do another tour on a ship. You know what, though? It's not this time around, and I'm going to enjoy every single ever-lovin' second of what California has in store for us!
That brings me to another important lesson I've learned while stationed here: GO WITH THE FLOW. Oh, wow, what a lesson, and it's one I'm still struggling with to this very day. In my opinion, ultimately we have no control over our lives, and to understand that, to fully comprehend that, and make choices to accept that has been one of the hardest things for me to do. I'm a Camagna, after all, and Camagnas plan. Camagnas think and play the "What if?" game over everything that life throws at us. Sure, we can choose to turn right or left at a stop sign. We can choose to have chicken or fish for dinner. Really, though, we don't actually have true control over much, and that, on a strictly human level is hard to come to terms with. For me, it is, anyway.
I can truly say that living in Kodiak has put such an interesting spin on this one for me on so many levels. Do you know that I have no clue how much gas costs right now? All I know is that I fill my van up when it's empty (every 6-8 weeks) here on base, and that is the best deal in town. Did I have a choice about Jake getting stationed in Kodiak on the Munro? I surely did not, but my choice was to make the best of it, and I believe I have. Has it been easy? HELL no, it hasn't! There have literally been times I've wanted to run out my front door and simply get on the next plane out of here even if the final destination were to be Timbuktu. There were mornings in the middle of December, when the sun doesn't even start to rise until 10:00, where I lied in bed and forced myself to count 10 blessings before I got up to start the day. Every time the ship got ready to deploy, I could feel my skin get a little thinner; the wound not yet healed completely from the patrol before.
Those days are no more, though, and I feel the need to dignify the good of Kodiak with a shout-out. The good in Kodiak lies with the people. I have never, in the 12 years of being affiliated with the Coast Guard, experienced such an amazing camaraderie in a community! In Green Bay, we had a very close-knit unit, but it wasn't like that extended out into the community. In Humboldt, it was all about my home-town friends and family. In Port Angeles, we pretty much stuck to ourselves and our parents. Here, though, community is almost like the bread of life. Without it, we would surely all perish. Everyone here is in the same "boat" (or plane/helocopter) so to speak. Love or hate this place, everyone who lives here surely can admit that living here has difficulties uniquely it's own, but we are all in it together, and that is what makes this place special.
One of my favorite lines in a movie is from "The Sound of Music" when Maria says (I think to the Reverend Mother): "When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window". I am not known to be a particularly religious person, but I love that quote, and have thought of it often during my time in Kodiak. When we got orders here, I felt like the door wasn't just closed on me, but rather slammed. Yet, I had to have that door slammed in order for me to learn what I've learned and meet all the wonderful people I've met. Each friendship I've made here has been a little window that opened and brought light when I thought there was none, and for that, I am forever grateful.
I still have several months left here in Kodiak, so this is in no way a "Goodbye Forever, Alaska!" post. It's just my way of processing the past 3 years and the flood of feelings I've been having lately. Thanks for reading my ramblings. There are probably more to come. :)