"Our Son Is Off to War and It's Tearing Us Apart!"

The couple felt as if they'd lost their connection years ago, and their son's imminent departure exacerbated the stress. Could they get through it?
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Her Turn

"Is Today the Day?"

"We recently learned that our son Sean will be going to Iraq," said Annie, 53, a fund-raiser for environmental causes who has three children -- Sean, 24, Tom, 21, and Jennifer, 19. "Since college, Sean has worked as a technology specialist for the State Department, but he joined the National Guard after 9/11. A few months ago, his unit was called for active duty. Some troops have already shipped out; others will go over the next few months. We won't know until it happens. Every morning I wake up and wonder: Is today the day?"

"Living in this limbo is horrible, especially when I feel so isolated from my husband. It's hard to explain: Charlie is just not present anymore. Even when he's home physically, he's distant and self-absorbed. I'm sad, depressed, and lonely; it's as if a dark malaise has settled over my life. Charlie and I have been together for 26 years but I barely feel a shred of connection with him. And that makes Sean's leaving even more difficult."

"People used to say our family reminded them of the old Michael J. Fox show Family Ties -- you know, liberal parents, conservative son. And it's true that my husband and I are Democrats who opposed this administration's invasion of Iraq, while Sean's politics are distinctly right-leaning. But no matter how scared I am, I would never tell him he should not go. My role as a parent is to help my kids discover who they are.

Their Background

"I met Charlie at a party in San Francisco. I was 24, fresh out of graduate school and focused on my career as an environmental engineer. Soon after we got married, Charlie, who's a microbiologist, was offered a research position at a medical center in Denver. We thought it would be a great place to raise kids. Once we moved, I easily found a job, too, and stayed at it until I had Sean.

"Those child-rearing years were busy, but great. We loved being involved in all the kids' activities. We began drifting apart when Jennifer started high school and I went back to work full time. I'd stayed in touch with my colleagues, so I was thrilled when they asked me to come back on staff. Since Charlie was working crazy hours, we weren't spending much time together anyway. This also meant that we hardly ever had sex.

"About four years ago, Charlie formed a biotechnology firm. We expected the new venture to be dicey financially, but the real problem is that one of his business partners is a lunatic. Charlie comes home every night wound tight as a corkscrew. He'll complain about this man, and I'll make a ton of suggestions, but he has never once taken my advice. Why discuss something if you're not going to do anything about it? I can be supportive up to a point, then I get annoyed. My perspective is, the first time you have a problem, it's the other guy's fault. The second time, it's your fault for not finding a solution.

Continued on page 2:  Her Turn, continued


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