When Christine Lay’s husband came home, she described the feeling as “amazing,” if she could even put her excitement into words.
You might know Christine as the mother whose son, Jamey, received a service dog from Veterans United Foundation. But there’s a lot more to this military spouse. Her husband, Andrew Lay, returned home in July to El Paso, Texas, from deployment after being away for nine months.
Although she said their relationship grew stronger because of this challenge, it wasn’t always easy maintaining a sense of normalcy at home.
“It was hard having a kid and not having my husband here,” Christine said. “Basically being a single parent again is really, really hard.”
Even knowing for several months that Andrew was going to be deployed, she had no idea what to expect when that time came because it was his third deployment, but her first time experiencing it. “We heard so many horror stories about deployments, but it was probably a lot better than expected because we were in contact so much,” Christine said. “We were very, very lucky that we were able to talk almost every day through the Internet, Yahoo Messenger and Skype. He was able to purchase his own phone so he could call and text.”
The biggest adjustment during deployment, she said, was the change for her son, Jamey, especially because he has autism. She made sure to keep everything as normal as possible and to not uproot Jamey, who is five and a half years old and non-verbal. According to Operation Autism, unforeseen transitions and changes, which are common for military families, can be particularly traumatic. Although many military wives go home for Christmas, she and Jamey stayed where they were.
“He (Jamey) was very emotional in the beginning when he (Andrew) first left,” Christine said. “It got to the point where it was okay, and I had a poster made of my husband and put it in his room. Now that my husband’s back, it’s like he never left.”
During Andrew’s absence, she said her greatest support systems were her family in Arkansas and other Fort Bliss army wives who would call and come over to check on her.
When her husband returned home, communication in their relationship was even better than before. After Christine didn’t sleep for a week prior to his arrival because of the excitement, she said everything is now back to normal. “It worked out a whole lot better than I thought it would.”
As for giving advice to other military spouses in her position, she says the key is to not stress your spouse or yourself out, which she learned from experience. “Put on a happy face no matter what,” Christine said. “You kind of have to sit back and take it a day at a time.”
Photo courtesy of Christine Lay