Even before I got into fire, I had a job that would take me out of the country for often months at a stretch. One thing I found that made it easier on my SO at the time was doing my best to be â€œpresent-in-absenceâ€. Iâ€™d leave notes in places where I figured heâ€™d find them (favorite books, the cereal box, his line pack, inside CD cases)…Iâ€™d write whole piles of letters to him or keep a journal, written to him, while I was gone and give it to him when I got back, so heâ€™d know I was thinking about him. Iâ€™d try to include him in trip planning, get him fired up about the assignment too (hard to do on unpredictable fire assignments).
In all fairness, though, I have to say it didnâ€™t work; the relationship cratered after one particularly out-of-touch three-month absence. And it wasnâ€™t because he didnâ€™t support me, or wasnâ€™t proud of me or didnâ€™t love me or didnâ€™t trust me; heâ€™d just signed up to have a girlfriend, not a 4×6 photograph on the shelf and the occasional e-mail. I think itâ€™s harder for guys too because when itâ€™s the girl whoâ€™s gone, they feel kind of stranded or displaced…like it somehow diminishes their manhood that itâ€™s the female whoâ€™s out having â€œadventuresâ€. No matter how liberated or progressive or caring or understanding a person is, or either gender, itâ€™s hard to cope with bucking the traditional gender roles. I had one boyfriend who was incredibly proud of everything I did until the day one of his buddies told him I was a better man than he was; that was the day before he dumped me.
It takes a special person to be a â€œfirespouseâ€…most of the folks I know on fire are either single, divorced, on the verge of divorce after every assignment, or married to another poor pyro with â€œflames in their eyesâ€. Firecookieâ€™s totally right…itâ€™s all in the mind.
Good luck to your son,
Nerd on the Fireline