30 Days A wife says good-bye: one family's finances
By Ellen McGirt

(MONEY Magazine) – Vicki Robbins AGE 50 HOMETOWN Seattle WHAT SHE DID Scrambled as her husband Rocky Silverman, a physician's assistant and major in the National Guard, prepared to head to Iraq. He returns next spring, five months before his 60th birthday.

ACTIVATED?! Rocky's been in the National Guard for 24 years, and nothing. Now he's going to war?

FIRST MEETING of the family support group. Everyone else is so much younger. All I did was cry.

HE MOVED ONTO THE BASE an hour away. He got me my military ID so I can access his e-mail, get on post or go to the PX. This is really happening.

HE CALLED. He went through the soldier-readiness program: physicals, financial readiness. They wanted to pull a tooth on the spot, but he got permission to see our dentist, who believes in Novocain.

A NIGHT AT HOME! Steak for him. He didn't make it at the last minute. Again. I gave it to the dogs.

HE MADE IT HOME FOR THE WEEKEND, but we had to shop for things he'll need there: a laptop, a new PDA, a scope for his rifle, wraparound sunglasses, medical software, polypropylenes for cold-weather training. $6,500. Can we afford this deployment?

CANCELED our dream vacation, a cruise. We get a refund, right?

HOME FOR A DAY. After four years of marriage, we finally completed our wills and powers of attorney. I didn't cry. Rocky gave me all the passwords to his financial accounts and told me his 401(k) asset-allocation ideas. I said we're going to make more money with me at the helm. He didn't laugh.

WE STARTED TELLING OUR FRIENDS about his deployment. How can we see them all before he goes?

THE HOT TUB ON OUR DECK needs maintenance. I had to crawl into a space and futz with it. Disaster! He called and said just turn it off until he gets back.

A NIGHT AT HOME! We had the grandkids over, then he packed. And unpacked. And repacked.

SPENT ALL DAY trying to get our cruise deposit and air fare back. Four phone calls, three e-mails and one threat of negative publicity. Small victory.

HE TRIED TO TEACH ME how to use our gun. I didn't want to, but I was afraid to disappoint him. Evidently, I made a hideous mistake! He said, "Argh! Turn on the alarm, pray the dogs bark and use pepper spray if anyone breaks in."

HE'S OFF. I got six invites to visit friends tonight. I stayed home in case he called. He didn't. --AS TOLD TO ELLEN McGIRT