Wearing my freshly pressed uniform, I clean up the kitchen (and kids), grab my purse, and run to the door. Did I forget anything? My cover? It's in the car. Badge? Auggggghhhh! I run back upstairs, taking just enough time for the kids to start fighting again. Stop it! Pleaselet's go!
Of course, Route 44 East is backed up, and a 30-minute drive stretches to 45 minutes. I arrive at the babysitter's at 0715. Kiss, kiss. Be good, see you later. I sprint out the door, throw the car in reverse, hit the gas, and make it to work by 0725. Now, the real fun begins....
Before I even get to sit down at my desk, five people are standing in front of it. "I need . . . Can you get? . . . Have you seen? . . . Is the senior chief going to? . . ."
The rest of the day is a blur: typing letters, forms, and instructions; routing chits; filing files; filing dates of rank; getting musters; checking in new shipmates; checking out old shipmates; and updating watchbills, among other things.
I spend a lot of time watching out for my commander and my senior chief. When they're in a good mood, I'm in a good mood. When their day goes bad—well, watch out.
By 1530, I'm wrapping up loose ends, cleaning my desk, and checking out the office. I say my good nights, head out across the quarterdeck, grab my kids, and hit the traffic at the tunnel.
We get home about 1700, and I bathe and feed the kids. I try to squeeze in some lessons with my older child, and then read a book before prayers. Before I tuck them in, we say an extra special prayer for Daddy, asking the Lord to bring him home safely. And as I close the door I can't help but feel a little guilty for not having more time to spend with them.
By 2000, I've cleaned the kitchen (again), done a load of laundry, and finally taken a shower. I go downstairs and feed the fish (and somehow feel guilty about not having more time for them too) and crawl into bed about 2130. Just before I go to sleep, I think about the hectic day I've had and how tired I am, and how I wish my husband were home to make things just a little easier. The phone rings; it's my husband.
He sounds so sad over the phone line. So lonely. He says that he's tired and he wants to be home with the kids and me. He asks how I'm doing. I want to say I'm tired and alone, that I hate his being gone. I want to say that the kids are trying my nerves and that the house is dirty because of a lack of time to clean. I want to complain, scream, and curse. I want to blame him for all of this frustration and confusion that I feel inside. But I cannot do that, no matter how I feel. I must support him, and give him confidence and understanding. I know that if he doesn't feel things are right at home, he'll carry his concern to his work—where one small mistake could take him away forever or get someone else hurt. So, I put my feelings aside, and I tell him everything is fine. I amuse him with an anecdote about the girls and tell him how much they've grown. I tell him about other family members and how they are, and talk about the people at work. I let him know that the bills are paid and that there's food in the house. Yes, I took the car for an oil change. He tells me about things on the ship and the crazy things his friends are doing, or the ruthless thing the captain did. Then his voice gets softer. He whispers that he loves me, and he wants to come home. I feel tears well up in my eyes and a lump rise in my throat. He calls me by the pet name he has for me and says good-bye. I whisper "I miss you."
I hang up the phone and cry. I cry for a long time, then I begin to wonder why I ever agreed to this. Then I remember a retirement ceremony I took part in a few weeks ago. I remember the chills I felt during the passing of the colors. . . the pride I felt as we piped a shipmate ashore . . . how good it felt to be an American.
I remember being under way, on the open sea, and feeling the salt air on my skin. I remember the boatswain's call, and rolling and pitching of the ship, and kinship of the crew. I think about never-ending underway replenishments and early reveilles. I loved it; I hated it. I wanted to be home; but at the same time I longed for the sea.
I know why I do it—because I choose to. I love being a mother; I love being a Navy wife; I love being a Sailor. Everything I do, I do for my children—not myself. I love the idea that Mommy is out there protecting her children every day, making sure that everything is right for them. My husband is doing the same. He sacrifices his home and family, protects other homes and families—to keep things right, just as they should be. Some days it may not feel right, but I still love it. I feed off it; it fuels me, every day.
It is not easy being a Navy wife—not to mention a Sailor, on top of that. Whenever you make that commitment, you must know what you are stepping into, and must be prepared to follow the course you've set, no matter how rough the seas may get. Every morning, when I "heave out and trice up," I try to remember that, and it gets me through even the roughest days.
When my older child asks me where Daddy is, I tell her that Daddy is on his ship, sailing into the stars, and her eyes get wide with awe. She's seen the ship. She tells me that when she gets older, she's going to be on ship just like Daddy. I kind of smile, because she'll also be just like Mommy. The thought of my grown daughter guiding her ship through the seas makes me smile, because that means that all of this has had the most positive effect.
So, every day—when the kids are fighting, the milk is gone, the gas is low, the paperwork is backed up, the laundry is stacked up, the clock is ticking, and my hair is standing on end—I check my course and mind my helm.
I keep it steady, shipmates. I write to my husband and pray for guidance. This is my job, this is my watch, and I will stand a proper watch. I will perform my job to the best of my ability and manage my home as closely as possible. I will mold my children to be productive, educated, motivated, well-rounded citizens. And if duty calls, I will defend my country with my life if necessary. That is a Navy wife's—and a Sailor's—duty.
Petty Officer Ramirez has served on board the Simon Lake (AS-33) and the Monongahela (AO-178). She is currently assigned to Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic, in Norfolk, Virginia.