Real Life Ranch Wife

The Seven Stages of My Husband Being Gone

From being a strong, independent woman to feeling bested by a leaky sink, the stages are certainly a process.

From being a strong, independent woman to feeling bested by a leaky sink, the stages are certainly a process.

My husband, Jim, has been abandoning his family — I mean, working away from home for periods of time — ever since he worked on big outfits that pulled a wagon twice a year. We now run a feral livestock gathering business, and he’ll be in a different state for the foreseeable future. Here are the seven stages I go through every time he leaves me to take care of the home place by myself, assisted only by our three children, who are feral and hard to gather even for a professional.

No. 1: Strong, independent woman in charge

“Don’t worry about me, babe — I got this,” I say as I cheerfully kiss my husband good-bye and wave at his pickup and trailer as he leaves the driveway. I have a tall stack of hay, all the horses are shod, and the fences are up. What could go wrong?

No. 2: Some things start to go wrong.

It’s been two weeks since Jim left. The kitchen sink leaks, my horse threw a shoe, and a half-ton bale of hay fell off the stack at a weird angle that I need to fix in order to feed the hay underneath it. It’s still okay; Jim left me a handful of household tools that don’t require electricity and his old shoeing outfit. I totally got this.

But all I can find is a screwdriver and a pair of rusty pull-offs, which leads me to…

No. 3: Phone a friend

“Hi, Fred and Jan — it’s Jolyn. Can you come over and help me fix the haystack?”

“Hi, it’s me again. I turned one of the hound dogs loose and now I can’t catch him. That was three days ago. Can you come over?”

“Hi, is it possible to reshoe a horse with a screwdriver? Yep, thanks. See ya in a few.”

No. 4: Despair

My husband has been gone for 3,183 days. Okay, it’s only been four weeks, but it feels like nine years. I have to change the bucket underneath the kitchen sink every time I wash dishes, we’re almost out of hay, and I lost the screwdriver. I’ve decided I didn’t want to catch that hound anyway and barefoot really is better. The only thing on the upswing is my wine consumption.

No. 5: Acceptance

This is my life now. I’m officially a single mother with three kids, a bunch of sore-footed horses, and a flooded kitchen. Jim’s gone, he’s never coming back, and he took the only dogs that actually listen to me. But it’s fine, it’s fine — it’s all fine. How many times do I have to say “fine” before it’s true? Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine…

No. 6: On the other side

I’ve made it past the six-week mark, which is historically the hardest stretch of Jim’s being gone on a cow contract. I’ve reached the point where I truly am fine, which coincidentally rhymes with wine, and I can actually handle minor household repairs. The kids located the screwdriver beneath the couch, so I was able to fix the sink. Well, my 10-year-old daughter fixed the sink, but the point is it got fixed, okay? She also used a wrench, so I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the screwdriver. Probably just roll it back under the couch.

No. 7: Daddy’s home!

Whenever Jim comes home from a contract, I put on a pretty dress he’s never seen before, a full face of makeup and a spritz of perfume, curl my hair and stand on my tiptoes to give him a loving kiss in the driveway as soon as he steps out of his pickup.

Well, that’s how it happens in my mind. In reality, he rolls in two hours past dinner, I’m wearing the same jeans I’ve worn for the last five days, my frizzy hair is twisted into a clip that I’ve had since 2005, the mascara I put on after breakfast now looks like heavily smudged eyeliner, the kids are fighting and we’re all barefoot.

But we’re also all gathered in the driveway with dust on our toes, waving at the white dually with Daddy in the driver’s seat. And by the way he kisses me through the rolled-down window, I know we’re both satisfied with the view.

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