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Strength will kick in when parents need it

By LISA SMITH MOLINARI | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: February 17, 2017

Everyone knows Murphy’s Law — “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” — but few know that buried in the fine print of this famous decree, there is a Military Spouse Clause that reads, “And when it does go wrong, it will happen during deployment.”

Most military spouses have endured car breakdowns, hot water heater leaks and computer “blue screens of death” when our active-duty spouses were on travel or deployments. Those home-front mishaps are annoying, but what about when our kids are injured or sick? Is the emotional strain of handling a major parenting crisis too much for one military spouse to handle?

About 14 years ago, my husband Francis was away on temporary military duty. I was at home with our three children in a suburb of Virginia Beach. Hayden, Anna and Lilly were playing on our backyard play set with two other neighborhood kids. I did yard work nearby, then took Lilly into the kitchen to get something out for dinner.

“Mrs. Molinari!” the bushy-haired neighbor boy and his little sister startled me out of the pantry. “Something’s wrong with Anna’s arm!”

I ran outside expecting to hear some cockamamie story about how Anna scraped an elbow going down the slide backwards. But instead, Hayden was crouched beside Anna, who sat on the ground, holding her arm.

“What’s the mat ...” I stopped cold.

Anna’s tiny forearm was markedly bent at an unnatural angle. Her big brown eyes were wild, but she whispered to me, eerily calm, through gritted 5-year-old jack-o’-lantern teeth.

“I fell.”  I could see that survival instinct had taken over my fun-loving daredevil daughter.

I scooped Anna up, and as she held her deformed arm tightly to her chest, I put her in our minivan along with the other four children. I called the bushy-haired kids’ parents, and asked if I could drop Hayden and Lilly off with their children while I took Anna to the emergency room.

They hesitated, still bitter about an incident the week prior, when Anna tipped over a bottle of hot pink nail polish on their white carpeting. But I knew they couldn’t say no. They owed me for watching their kids all afternoon, and besides, I had no other options.

At the emergency room, I called Francis, but got his voicemail.

“Honey, Anna broke her forearm, both bones. I’m at the hospital. The doctor says he has to move the bones back into place … They’ll give Anna morphine, but she might be awake. She is ... we are ... so scared. Call me.”

I made the second call an hour later.

“Francis, are you there? The nurse gave Anna morphine so that she wouldn’t feel the pain, but she just got agitated. They said she is one of a few people who react adversely to morphine. They have to set her arm without it ...” I said, my voice cracking with fear.

Another hour later, I called a third time.

“Honey, I don’t know where you are, but the doctor set Anna’s arm. She’s better now, but it was really scary. They asked me to leave the room, but I stayed with Anna. They made me sit in a chair because some parents faint. When they pulled on her broken arm, I held her face in front of mine and she screamed like I’ve never heard before. But it worked, and now she’s in a splint. Please call.”

By the time Francis called the next day, Anna had the first of three casts she would wear during her childhood. This one was purple.

Over the years, our three children racked up the typical childhood injuries, stitches, colds and flu.

As a military spouse and mom, I learned that I was much stronger than I ever knew. When forced to manage crises alone, something primal kicked in. A strong, calm, nurturing, unshakable force I didn’t know I had deep within me, waiting to be tapped.

If I could, I’d add an addendum to Murphy’s Military Spouse Clause that says, “Don’t worry; you’ve got this.”

Read more of Lisa Smith Molinari’s columns at: themeatandpotatoesoflife.com.

Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@googlemail.com.

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