As we mark the accomplishments of Foreign Service family members of the last 25 years, my former husband, Dan, who worked as an F.S.A. officer for 27 years, and his family, move past us to an uncertain future.
We all brought these skills to our foreign postings and were honored to learn about the problems, opportunities and rewards of our jobs. We also took pride in our friendships with others in other countries.
Several years ago, the news that my husband would retire stunned all of us. When he informed us he would be leaving, not for a specific destination country, but for a little town in New Hampshire he had never visited, and just one year before the scheduled time for retirement, we were shocked. For us, the End of the Tour would take his place.
We were told that after working so many years and building relationships across the globe, they could not afford to pay the F.S.A. officers’ salaries in New Hampshire. While there are a number of reports of American foreign service officers being fired at reduced salaries in various parts of the world, we suspect this to be an exception.
In private, Dan and I make statements to our children about how hard they must work to make a living and have a better life than the one he grew up in. We have tried to teach them to be humble. They are far better off than we were. We know our son and daughter are successful.
Dan worked overseas 16 times. He made some wonderful friends, though we never saw them much.
He wrote many short stories, and his frequent visits to Lake Arrowhead, Calif., provided the backdrop for one of his stories, “The Castle.” The vision of this region was already there when Dan and I got married. His writing inspired my writing of other stories and some of my fiction. They became the foundation of my books.
His passion for his work brought him across the oceans and the entire globe. Like countless others, he stepped out of relative comfort to go out and make a difference. They held him up on the awards given him for his many successes.
He worked for the United Nations several times. He saw first-hand the atrocities he was asked to report. He said that at the United Nations, time seemed to move at a different speed.
The horrors in the Congo still affect him.
While at the United Nations, he wrote a series of three books about his time there. It was about what he observed that brought him to this point.
As Dan was writing those books, after a year and a half of separation, he felt like “A kid again.” He finally had “something to write.” The pace of work increased as the timing of his assignments conflicted with his writing. He was able to complete three books because his schedule allowed for his writing throughout his assignments.
In all, he put in a lot of work over these 27 years. It shows up in his writing.
For many of us, the best part of our work was spending time with our families.
Dan made the hardest decision of his life. He took on a greater responsibility by traveling at a time when his family was young and most excited for his next career move. We learned how to handle difficult moments with compassion. I’m proud that I was able to help in some ways, for we are family.
We had discussions with friends and relatives as to whether it was in our best interest to go through with my husband’s move.
After some thought, we decided to move. We left the world that we had known for 27 years and completely uprooted our family. My husband wanted to get out of California and the deep blue California sky that he grew up loving. We went home for a year and a half, looking for the right place to put down roots.
At the end of 2018, Dan moved into a tiny two-bedroom home in Pembroke, New Hampshire. He was able to live there until the year-end. He’s been much quieter, certainly not the man he was.
We’ve also had very difficult moments. He and his family have gone through back-to-back medical emergencies, which has added stress to a tough situation.
We are expecting another child in May. Dan will be able to spend more time with us, and he is so happy to be able to see us growing up.
The child that’s on the way, and who will be the next F.S.A. family member, will face many challenges, but one of the most important is how he will be welcomed in foreign lands. I am certain that when he and his family are ready to move from New Hampshire to someplace else, they will be welcomed by our