...and here we are, again, with the holidays around the corner. This is always SUCH a fun time of year for pilots and their families.
Steve has been an airline pilot since 1999. Steve has been with his current company since 2006. Yet, it isn't a guarantee that he will be off for Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Years.
In October Steve was preparing his bid for his November schedule. Typically Steve flies out on Monday or Tuesday, and his home by Wednesday or Thursday. In a typical month bidding works in Steve's favor. But, when you have to bid in a holiday month that just complicates things. Ah, and this year we have a new twist on Thanksgiving...we are traveling with my extended family to a vacation rental in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The property is being rented from Wednesday to Sunday. Sounds like a dreamy Thanksgiving with a nice long weekend to follow...unless your pilot is working on Thanksgiving.
On the day his November schedule came out, which was mid October, Steve kept checking online....over and over. Until finally it came up...Steve got his schedule for November!
...and he gets in on Thanksgiving Day...at 16:00 something.
And there, despite Steve's best efforts, our plans needed to change from what we hoped for, which was driving to the property on Wednesday like every one else.
This is the real life of an airline pilot...living one month at a time, hoping for the best and getting what you bet would happen.
This is what I hoped for our Thanksgiving: the kids would get home from school on Wednesday, and we would set out on the 4 hours drive to the vacation house. We would arrive rather late that evening, but that is okay because the evening will be filled with food, booze, and togetherness.
On Thanksgiving morning Steve and I would wake up to the wonderful smell of coffee (my Mother, Sister, and Brother-in-Law are typically the first to rise) and we would come down to hot coffee, and beautiful scenery.
We would start preparations for our Thanksgiving Day feast, perhaps while still dressed in our pjs, and over the next hours we would all have our hand in the kitchen doing our assignments.
Around 1p, dinner would be served. The rest of the day, after clean up, would be lots of resting, talking, and chilling. Perhaps we would include a nice walk/hike to help digest. Fresh mountain air is always such a nice thing after a large meal.
But guess what, the above scenario isn't going to happen. Instead, Wednesday afternoon the kids will come off the bus and we will have a somewhat typical evening. We will have dinner, perhaps take out, and then I will let the kids watch a movie.
Thanksgiving morning will be lazy. Perhaps we will watch the parade and more movies. The kids and I have been invited to our neighbors, who are so gracious, for some afternoon appetizers. Somewhere in the day I will make sure the car is totally packed so that when Steve gets home around 17:00 something, we will hit the road and head out to the vacation home. Then our Thanksgiving weekend can begin...about 24 hours after we had hoped...missing Thanksgiving dinner.
We gave thought to me taking the kids down on Wednesday evening, and having Steve drive separately after he got in. I have come to realize this thought is only in the heads of people who have a pilot in the family. It isn't "normal" that a family travel separately for a holiday...only "normal" for a pilot family. But, I am deciding against driving separately. No need to put extra mileage on the cars. Not to mention, there isn't really a way to celebrate a holiday when your spouse isn't there.
When you husband isn't there on a holiday, there is a void in your heart. You can be in a room full of people...even family...yet, you can still feel so alone. You can feel so isolated. No one understands this feeling unless you spend a holiday without your spouse.
I have felt this loneliness many, many times over the years, and I don't think it will ever get easier. There are two times I miss Steve the most: on Sunday (these are family days, not work days) and holidays. I can handle Steve missing our anniversary or a birthday...I have grown accustomed to his absence over the years. But, it really just stinks when your husband isn't there for a holiday...plain and simple.
Do you know that I have actually cried at Christmas mass before? It was because Steve wasn't with us. Yes, not having your husband with you on a holiday really can get to you. You think certain aspects of this pilot wife thing can get easier, but not when it comes to missing holidays.
Steve's December schedule came out, and he is off Christmas Day. He actually gets in on Christmas Eve around 19:00 something. Typically Polish people, as I am, will celebrate Christmas Eve with a very nice meal. I am not sure how we will handle this next month, but I am glad Steve will get in at a decent time, and that we will be at our house Christmas morning.
As stated, I am Polish. My Father is an immigrant, as is my Mother. Growing up I knew Christmas Eve as the special event, not Christmas morning. We would eat a dinner of beet borscht soup with mushroom pierogies, followed by fish and other delicious foods. After dinner we would open our presents. Santa Claus wasn't really in the picture. Waking up Christmas morning and running downstairs to see what was under the tree never happened with us. I didn't have that as a kid, but Steve did and loved at how magical it was for him. He very much wants to have one year where the kids run downstairs to see what Santa left them under the tree. Believe it or not, the last Christmas morning we had at our house was 5 years ago when the kids were still toddlers and don't have any memory of the event.
Our oldest child is 8-years-old...this may very well be his last year of truly believing in the magic of Christmas. Steve very much wanted to be home and he worked his magic and was able to get Christmas Day off.
He surely had to work at his bid to get the day off...he really strategized his bids. At one point he was asking me if it was okay if he worked all weekends in December, just to have Christmas Day off. In these instances I always answer with "whatever you want to do." Isn't it something that a father would sacrifice all weekends off, just for that magical morning. While other people may take for granted a standard work day/week, families with alternative work schedules really have a lot to consider with their schedules and how it impacts the family.
We are going to wake up Christmas morning at our house, and for that I am very thankful. Steve also has all weekends off in December, so that means he will be enjoying Christmas parties and pageants. all of which he has missed before. I am beyond thankful for his presence this December.
New Years? I haven't even gotten that far in life yet...
Despite the melancholy mood of this blog post, I am very thankful for Steve's job, even though we have to deal with what we deal with. I also realize that I am very fortunate to actually see my pilot on Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, as I know many fellow pilot wives won't see their beloved on these holidays.
I want to wish you a very very Happy Thanksgiving. Wishing you happy times of togetherness with your family and friends.
In case you missed them, here are some past blog posts about holidays: (gosh these really are all very melancholy posts!)
What a Pilot Really Wants for Christmas
A Pilot Wife Kind of Lonely