5 things that surprised me when my husband retired from the military

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Navy admiral and his wife walk through the sideboys one last time. (Photo: defense.gov)

So, everyone thinks they want to retire, right?  And, eventually, we all have to, but there’s a bunch of stuff TAPS and all those other “courses” just don’t prepare you for.  Life changes in some pretty big ways that have absolutely nothing to do with pay and benefits.

We are required to attend the out-briefing classes:  the financial preparedness (yawn) death-by-lectures, differences between all the different Tricare options (pick Prime), how your BAH stops (Wait. What?), and the drop-dead date you have to go get your new, shiny retirement ID.

Which is no joke, because I totally ignored it.  Then a month later, I couldn’t get on base because that new little scanner gizmo the gate guards all now use said, *BEEP!* Intruder alert! This lady needs a retired ID.  She’s being an active duty poser.”

I was rebuffed.  Shocked.  Pissed off just a bit.  But, then I got my stupid retired ID like they told us to.  (Not without rolling my eyes, though.)

Here are the main things I wish they had told me:

1. For the first year, there was a part of my husband that just wanted to go back on active duty

Maybe it was the familiarity, or the “dudes,” or the routine lunches at McAlister’s Sandwich Shop, but he honestly missed the Navy.  It wasn’t until we got over the first year that who he is as a retired Navy pilot began to form and shape who he is now.   It was hard to watch him navigate his life without the true north being the US Navy.  (Note:  that goes away eventually, by the way.  Then, you’ll wonder why the hell you didn’t retire sooner.)

2. While I missed him when he was deployed, him being around all the time has its downsides

While I, honestly and for true, really, really did miss him when he was deployed, I had also gotten used to not having him around all the time.  So, the first month of him being retired was a huge adjustment.  I actually had to cook every morning, noon and night.  And, I had to adjust to him just being there all the time.  All. The. Time.  “What’s for lunch?” (Me: looking around thinking ‘who is this guy wanting food in the middle of the day?’)  Trust me.  We were all safer removing all weapons and dulling down any sharp objects that first month or six months or year.

3. It might sound weird, but I miss the smell of the military

"Smelling great, Mr. President . . ." (Photo: Navy.mil)

“Smelling great, Mr. President . . .” (Photo: Navy.mil)

I miss the smell of the Navy. I know, it’s weird.  But, it’s also true.  Smell is the strongest sensory trigger for memory.   There was something in the clothes (JP5?), or in the air, (also JP5) or something (it’s totally JP5) … whatever it was, the allure of Au De Navy was and is sorely missed.  Our house just smells so civilian now.

4. At the moment your husband retires, your former shipmates will consider you struck stupid on military topics

All your knowledge and infinite wisdom somehow evaporated, or was some way captured in the picture they used for that retired ID I mentioned above.  Whatever the phenomenon, it’s a real thing.  Within the first 48 hours, I heard, “How would you know?  Your husband is REEE-TIIIIRREEDD” at least twice.

5. He’s going to grow a beard. So, suck it up and deal

Yes, honey, you look awesome. (Author photo)

Yes, honey, you look awesome. (Author photo)

Now, me personally, I love beards.  It was not some sort of hardship on me.   Quite the contrary.  But, give it a rest and let him do it.  Don’t bitch.  Just let him grow the damn beard and be grateful he isn’t a man-baby with no whiskers.  He’ll have to shave it (probably) eventually, but this is his last stand.  Let him have this moment.

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