Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Fruits of Dependency

Don't tell my wife I've written this because it will make her unnecessarily self-conscious about her "situation." You see, over the years, she has learned to become quite dependent on me. She needs me, and I don't want to burden her with the thought of it now. There's no point in stirring the pot and making her self-conscious.

The story begins in 1980 when I found her as a shiftless wandering waif on the campus of the University of Missouri where we were both students. We met one day when I rushed in to her rescue as she brooded over a college algebra book. I've always been a humanitarian. Well, those few minutes of assistance turned into a lifetime of dependency for her. She spent the next two years stalking me relentlessly until she broke me down. Not able to take it any more, I finally asked her to marry me, and so at the ripe old age of 19, she had found and married the man of her dreams.

After about a year of marriage, I saved her from the dreary routine that so many college students follow when they start and finish their college educations at one institution. She started at Missouri, but since I was ahead of her in school, I let her put off finishing her schooling once I graduated so she could follow me to my next duty station (I was a newly commissioned Marine officer) in Quantico, Virginia. That was good for her because it allowed her to get up bright and early in the morning to drive me to work and to finish what she was doing during the day in time to pick me up in the evening.

Six months later, I was transferred to Pensacola, Florida for flight training. It was in Pensacola that I did two important things for her: (1) I let her restart her education at the University of West Florida (without finishing there), and (2) I let her become the mother of my first son, Rob.

When Rob was about a month old, I let her (and Rob) accompany me to my next duty station at the New River Marine Corps Air Station in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Once there, I let her get busy getting acquainted with Rob and I also let her enroll in school again at Golden Gate University where I went ahead and let her finish her bachelors degree. She had put it off long enough.

I was sent on a number of deployments, so since she was starting to catch on to all of this child-rearing stuff, I decided to let her put those skills to work and take care of Rob while I was away. That's also when I let her have a (limited) power of attorney so she could learn to manage our finances and other important matters while I was away. She did well with that, so I let her do it again when I later deployed to the Mediterranean. (Then I let her do it for the rest of our lives.)

Now that she was the master of all that I had let her do to this point, I decided that before - just before - my next deployment, I would grace her with another bundle of joy. Bryan was not my first choice in names for this little treasure. My first choice was Jessica - after Jessica Lange. One key thing kept us from naming Bryan Jessica: Bryan was a boy. I did like the name Bryan for him though, so Bryan it was. It worked out in the end because it turns out I don't like Jessica Lange's politics so we would have had to change his name to Shania until I found out I didn't like Shania's politics either. Things worked out for the best. I'm glad he was a boy.

So, I let my wife juggle this growing family while I went off to the Mediterranean for six months again. I did go a little soft on her and tell her that I would get orders out of the deployment cycle for a few years after that deployment. At first, I planned to become a recruiter for officers in Roanoke, Virginia, but those orders fell through after I had let her shop for and purchase a house there with me.

My next plan was to let her move with me to Pensacola where I would be a flight instructor. She liked that. What she didn't like was what happened next, but it did make her a better and more complete person.

We had already made a trip to Pensacola where we bought a house. It was a nice house. When we returned home to North Carolina as I was about to wind down my tour there, I was asked by an old friend to give him a hand by lending some flying and carrier (helicopter aircraft carrier) experience to the squadron he had just taken command of. He wanted me to join his squadron for a 58-day deployment to the North Atlantic. After telling him repeatedly, "no," I finally agreed.

I told my wife that I was going to let her, Rob, and Bryan stay in North Carolina a little longer while I went off to Norway with this new squadron I was about to join.

Well, I was out flying on a Saturday, letting my wife have a little "Q time" with the boys on the weekend so I could help train our pilots to operate around the ship when we were recalled to the base a couple of hours into our work. Once back at the base, we were informed that we were likely about to be deployed to the Middle East because Iraq had just invaded Kuwait. That was a temporary setback in our plans to move to Pensacola, but I got the wheels turning upstairs and came up with a solution.

Since my 58-day deployment had just turned into a deployment with no end in sight, I called Marine Corps headquarters in Washington and told them not to cancel my Pensacola orders for another month so I could get my family moved to Pensacola. When I say "so I could get my family moved to Pensacola," I don't mean that I was actually going to be involved with the moving part of it. I let my wife handle that because the movers weren't going to be able to move "us" until after I was already on my way to the Middle East.

So, I let her move our young family to Pensacola and set up our new home by herself. That enabled her to hang the pictures where she wanted, set up the furniture where she wanted, decide which of our boys had the top and bottom bunk, and so on. Speaking of furniture, the combination of letting her move the family to Pensacola and the power of attorney I gave her also inspired her to buy some new furniture. She sent pictures to me so I wasn't shocked with the new stuff when I returned home (like I would have noticed). I guess in a way, I let her buy that furniture, so I deserved what I got.

I was deployed for eight months then I flew to our new home in Pensacola after my squadron returned to North Carolina. We got reacquainted and then she asked me when I was planning to retire from the Marine Corps. I had been in the Marines for about 17 years at the time and could retire in three years, so she was wondering if the flight instructor tour would be my final hurrah.

I did what any husband who had let his wife do as many things as I had over the years would do: I answered her question without really answering it. I told her, "That depends." Then, I followed that statement with what seemed to be a rhetorical question, "Are you planning to get a job to support us?" She claimed that she could. Hah! Time for her to get a little reality check! That too would be good for her.

So, she enrolled in courses with the College of Financial Planning, then got an entry level job with what I will refer to as "a major brokerage firm." This company took pretty good care of her. They got her to work on getting her stock broker's license, then it was a parade of other licenses after that. I was starting to be happy I let her do that.

Since she was on a roll and I had just been promoted, I left her and the boys in Pensacola while I was stationed in North Carolina with a squadron that was about to be deployed to Bosnia and Liberia. While I was in the States, I commuted back and forth from North Carolina to see my family, but once I was deployed, I was deployed. That was good for her too because she had the opportunity to weather two hurricanes while I was overseas. A person needs to know how to handle that sort of thing in case it ever comes up and your husband's not around.

As my deployment was winding down, I was pleased to learn that the Marine Corps had chosen me to command a squadron where? In Pensacola.

Meanwhile, my wife was about to become the Pensacola branch manager for this firm she had joined a couple of years earlier. She was promoted again and became the branch manager for three branches at once: Destin, Pensacola, and Mobile. Later, she was promoted to a training role that had her based in Indianapolis, but living in Pensacola. This allowed her to work at home when she wasn't on the road so she could see me (and the kids).

Then, she was promoted to a director's position over wealth management for the company's West Coast region. She was based in Phoenix where she had an apartment during the week and commuted home to Pensacola on the weekends.

Then, she decided she wasn't getting enough of me (and the kids), so she accepted a position as senior vice president for wealth management for a large regional bank based in Atlanta. She was responsible for the bank's Northwest Florida region. When they asked her to take on an additional role as city president of the bank in Pensacola a year later, she did that as well. Recently, she broadened her wealth management role as a managing director responsible for all of North Florida.

So, you see, she's come to depend on me quite heavily. I let her take a non-traditional route to a college degree, I let her play a large role in raising our kids, I let her learn about finances by managing our household finances while I was deployed, I let her move around from state to state so she could see more of the country, and I let her get a job so I could retire from the Marines.

Seriously for a moment, I do count her as my number 1 blessing, and I know I don't deserve all that she has brought to our marriage and to my sons (whom I let her claim as hers on occasion too).

You hear about "self-made men." Well, my wife is the consummate self-made woman. She has humbly yet relentlessly become a very successful business woman in the 18 years or so that she has been working outside of our home, all the while being a great mother and wife. Any woman who wants to know about breaking the so-called glass ceiling should spend an hour or ten with my wife. It's been hard work, but she has made the most of her opportunities.

Everybody is different. What she has done has worked well for her and for us. She could have done just as well and been just as happy had she stayed at home, but the route she took gave her another kind of fulfillment. She genuinely has no sense of self-importance over her success or her professional standing - she would probably say she's too busy to take much stock of it. She appreciates her work, but she also appreciates her down time. She manages a fairly maddeningly-paced life with balance and poise. Her sons and I are proud of her.

Again, though, please don't tell her I wrote this, lest we risk harming her self-esteem. Let's allow her to continue to be dependent on me since that seems to be working for her. We don't want to spoil a good thing, do we?