Join us for a Networks Live webinar on December 5th, as we discuss how military spouses can turn a passion for writing into a successful publishing career. Our guest speaker and author of the book Life, Recalculated, Denise Rivera, will lead a discussion that will include how the challenges of military life can result in independence, how opening yourself to hearing about the experiences of others can be enlightening and Denise’s hope for other military spouses to share their unique stories with America.
Story by Denise Rivera
It’s been a few years now, but I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot near the pier at Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia. I was staring out into the water waiting for my husband. He told me he would be ready to leave the ship at 4:00 but it was now 5:30 PM. Patience is a virtue, right? I closed my eyes thinking how I had to talk to him again about making me wait. But then my thoughts drifted to something deeper. I just didn’t know how we survived the past year with the tragic loss of my brother in law. In fact, I almost didn’t know how we survived anything. I suddenly felt like my feelings were about to explode. If only I could have run down the pier screaming without any consequences.
Instead, I decided to sit in front of my computer and write. My word program became my shoulder to cry on. I hoped to type away the anger. The long deployments, the loneliness, postponing our life plans and saying goodbye to friends every time we moved. What was all this for? Sometimes, I just didn’t have the answer.
But while I was typing away, I discovered another emotion. I felt it was important to express my gratitude for my wonderful military journey and to pay tribute to all of the people I met along this journey that changed my life.
There’s this song by Madonna that resonates with me called, This Used To Be My Playground. One line reads, “Why do they always say don’t look back? Don’t Hold On To The Past. Well, That’s too much to ask.
And I agree. When I was at my lowest point alone, with the date circled on the calendar with my husband’s return, I would take out my box of pictures tucked away in the back of my closet. I always thought my mom was crazy taking so many pictures when we were kids. And yet, when I needed perspective, it was was the old, faded pictures that would put me back into place. I wondered why there was always cake in so many of our pictures. So I dedicated a chapter in my book to my family and eating cake.
The best part of writing my memoir was meeting my husband Diego. He swept me off my feet all the way to Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i. My romantic dreams come true! And if that wasn’t enough, he wore a military uniform every day of his career. But what I didn’t anticipate was his love and ability to hold my hand when I couldn’t breathe. When it got too hard. Whether it was a phone call on board ship that I had to say “over” when I was done talking or a love letter in the mail. And in the next decade, an email off the USS Saipan, then the USS Halyburton and then the USS Theodore Roosevelt and so on. But I learned that with every goodbye, there was me waiting at the pier with a hug, a kiss and a welcome home sign.
And then there is the one person in my life that I love with all my heart. She is an example of courage and grace. Does God answer prayers? Yes, and her name is Mallory. Just when I was ready to give up and close my heart forever to having a family, I read an article in Marie Claire magazine about foster care adoption. Her voice spoke to me loud and clear. I went from feeling sorry for myself to wondering what I ever did to deserve her. Mallory’s life changed so much too: from foster care to military daughter.
Sometimes I look back at my life and I think ‘I don’t ever want to go through that again!’ And why did Mallory have to struggle so much before we were allowed to love her?
Then I think I regret nothing. I would change nothing. I would live this life again if it meant I could hold Diego’s hand forever even if I have to wait months before I could see him again. He has served our country honorably and I’m so proud I get to be his wife. I would re-live this life again if it means I get to hear Mallory call me mom for the first time—over and over again.
And this is what this book is about. Paying tribute to what was hard, because it only made us stronger. Honoring all the people I’ve met especially other military spouses and to all the things that made us laugh and made us love.
And one last line from Madonna’s song “Say goodbye to yesterday?” Those are words I’ll never say.