Veterans Day Blues

One of my sons is an army veteran.  He was deployed to Iraq and spent a volatile 15 months as an infantry Sergeant in and around Baghdad. I cried every single day he was gone. I prayed to God every day to keep him safe. Every single day God told me to end my prayer by singing the Doxology of “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow”. It seemed weird but I had to do it. Maybe God just wanted me to praise Him through the tumult and so I did.

After my son’s deployment ended, a part of him returned to the United States. A part of him was missing forever. My son came back as a stranger to us and a stranger to himself. He has spent the last few years trying to find himself and heal from wounds that are not visible. He has PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and multiple blast TBI (traumatic brain injury).

My son is a talented carpenter who sometimes doesn’t know the word for hammer, wrench, or level. My son is a lover of nature who sometimes goes for a walk in the woods behind his home and suddenly does not know where he is or how to get home. My son is a loving devoted husband and father who fades away from his wife and daughters at times, as he remembers the atrocities of war, especially on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

My son is a Pastor who reaches out to others with PTSD and other wounds of war. He can relate to them in a way that no other Pastor in our area is able. I have questioned God as to why He has not healed my son. But maybe the very reason is so my son can reach out to those with PTSD in their darkest hours and give them hope.

 

 

 

Alzheimer’s and Eagle Scouts

My dad had Alzheimer’s. It is a horrible disease and I pray that a cure will be found soon.  About the time my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, we had moved him and my mom in a mobile home on our property which is in a rural area. My dad had never run away before but one evening he took off running and didn’t stop. He was just gone and we were all in a panic. There are several wooded areas around our home and it was getting close to night. On top of that it was getting cold and a drizzle of rain had started. A search ensued.  Several people gathered and we searched high and low. My mind was swimming in fear of him being lost, alone and afraid. Little did I know, he was having the time of his life. He was putting all of his Eagle Scout survival skills into action.

A couple of hours later, a rural neighbor spotted him near a wooded area which was about a mile or two from home. We’d found him! As I approached him, he was chuckling with a big smile on his face. The first thing he said was “you walked right by me and didn’t see me. I was hiding in a ditch with leaves over me as camouflage”.  A mixture of relief, irritation and then pride swept through me.

What had caused me fear, gave him a couple of hours of freedom from his inner prison. He’d had a couple of hours where he was in control of his life and he was able to have a great adventure. I’m glad he had that time of feeling proud in duping us all. For a brief period, he had the upper hand. I love you dad.

 

Maybe I should explain

I’m not blogging to promote anything. Just One and Me blog was created to reach out to just one person who may be experiencing some of the feelings I felt (sometimes feel) when coping with life changing experiences. I hope to add some helpful resources to my blog as time goes along. Can I be perfectly honest here? I don’t know how to do a blog. At all.  I started it to help just one (person out there somewhere) and me (because writing is very therapeutic).

So far, as a beginning blogger, I’ve touched on child abuse, mental illness, alcoholism, ptsd and grief. I’ve got a lot more of that to share with you. But, if I could go back in time and change anything, I would change nothing.  Everything in the past brought me to where I am today, and today is exactly where I want to be.

I’m a young person in an old body. I love to laugh, hug and tell people “I love you”.  I have a husband who I love very much. He is my second husband but who’s counting? I am the mother to three adult children. I have several grandchildren.  I started smiling as I typed the last sentence. I love them all so much.I hear one of my grandchildren shriek “Nana” and my heart leaps with joy.  I am blessed. I have hope. I have love, I have contentment. I have peace. I hope to share it all with you.

 

Line of Duty

My husband and I just returned from a camping trip. We enjoyed the wonderful changing colors of the landscape. I am so grateful for this day, this life and this world of natural beauty.

We got back home about 3 hours ago and the first thing I did was take 4 days of soggy, wet mail from the mailbox. There was a letter from the Department of the Army addressed to my husband. Of course, I immediately alerted my husband who immediately opened and read it. Enclosed was the Report of Investigation Line of Duty and Misconduct Status Report plus the State of Medical Examination and Duty Status Report.

Department of Army, your black and white army speak reports state that the soldier reported for weekend duty, was released for the evening and didn’t return at the appointed time the following morning. A welfare search ensued. He was found deceased in his vehicle. Medical Diagnosis: Acute Ethanol Intoxication.

I’m sorry Department of Army, but you missed a few sections in your reports. My husband’s son (my stepson) completed several overseas missions including Afghanistan and Iraq. Our boy, who had a huge fear of flying, shoved that fear down and sat in the cargo hold of a shaking plane, dropped out of it in the dark, landed in the desert and waited for his contact in hostile territory.   Your reports are incomplete. He couldn’t sleep at night due to recurring nightmares. Not just nightmares, but images of things he had actually seen and done while serving his country.  Flashbacks that haunted him, kept him up at night and ate at his soul. Yet, he would willingly do it all again because he was a good soldier and a loyal soldier. Army was structure and it was how he functioned best. He was a brave, loyal, honest, sincere, kind, funny and loving person. He was a loving and devoted father to his sons and he was a beloved son to us. I don’t see that in the reports. Department of Army, you get a flunking grade for those reports. They are incomplete.

We tried to help him with everything we had in us. Several times he went to detox but not for the right reasons. He didn’t try for his own sake until the last time of rehab. Finally, he really wanted to beat this addiction and recover. We were so hopeful! Thrilled!! Everything we hoped and prayed for was coming together and we could just imagine a much better life for him. He stuck with it for the full 30 day inpatient program, made his own arrangements to get back home and had already set up an appointment with a counselor locally. Our boy had just been released from a 30 day in-patient alcoholics program of which he voluntarily entered.  Life was good. Three days later, he was dead.

I’ll never understand it. But, I would like the world to know that I couldn’t be prouder of him. He did the absolute best he could.  Shouldn’t we all?

My Saving Grace

When I was 8 years old, my mother married the “other man” mentioned in previous posts. I gained 3 stepsisters and a stepbrother and our blended family began.  From now on, I will refer to my stepfather as my Dad.

My Dad was probably the most influential person in my life. He was a kind, patient, hardworking man who loved us. He was also a new Christian and our life together included attending church and church activities, seeing my Dad reading the Bible at the kitchen table every morning and hearing my mom sing along to gospel records while cooking supper. But, even back then while living the picture perfect family life, there were some cracks, some obvious signs that things are not always as they appear.

A constant battle of wills sums up my entire relationship with my mother from day one to present.

I was not a problem child but on occasion, my mother did use spanking to punish me for some childhood wrong. I don’t resent it.

But, I also recall my mother making me lean over a piece of furniture and my butt getting several lashes with a belt, which is abuse. Cutting a switch from a tree and whipping me with it for a long, long time is abuse. And, the verbal abuse cut the deepest. I believe my mother was and is mentally ill because she is still proud of those times where she took control and made me bend. The times she won and I lost. That surely is mental illness.

My dad took the opposite approach. He would take me into my bedroom and sit beside me and “talk”. Just talk about my behavior, about his expectations and he was so kind and calm. I would break inside because I did not want to be a disappointment to him. He never laid a hand on me. He never raised his voice. With him, it was never about control but about understanding. Our talk always ended with a plan of discipline (grounding or whatever), a hug and affirmation of love. My dad showed me a better way. My dad was my saving grace.

These stark differences in parenting made an impact on me. If just one person reads this and it stops them from picking up a belt, then my story has a purpose. Just stop for one second and ask this question. Is it about controlling a child or is it about shaping a child? Is it discipline or is it punishment?  Is it anger based or reconciliation based? Just stop, put the belt down and breathe. There is a better way.

 

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Begin at the beginning continued

So….. as my aunt is driving us down the road and my mother is crying and banging her head on the dash of the car, the other man is seen walking down the street. Coincidence? Who knows, who cares, it happened. At this point in time, no one realized my father had walked through the front door and put a gun to his head. A mad dash to the airport ensued. As we were waiting in the airport ticket area, the police arrived to tell us my father was dead. I don’t remember how it happened but my next flashback is of being back in the yard of my aunt. I looked toward the back door of her house and see the other man leaning against the door frame sobbing. My mother had a complete breakdown and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. My siblings and I were loaded into our family station wagon and my Uncle proceeded to drive across several states so we could live with another aunt until my mother could recover. My only memory of driving across multiple states was of my uncle pulling off the road to fix us bologna sandwiches. I was confused and afraid and all I could do was cry because he put mayonnaise on my sandwich and I didn’t like mayonnaise and I was too afraid to tell him. I didn’t lose just my father that day, but also my mother. My father’s suicide and how the aftermath was handled, shaped my whole life.

Even though I do not blame my mother for the suicide of my father, I do want to add that I think she, as a parent, handled it very poorly.  I suppose it goes along with the the time period of people not talking about unpleasant things and counseling was taboo and a sign of weakness. I want to say that she did the best she could but I don’t really believe it. So, to be honest, I wish she would have taken me to counseling. I wish she would have said something positive about my father, just once, in all the years that followed. You see, the only words she said were to make him out to be a horrible monster, and that horrible monster was a part of me. So, in turn, I felt this constant struggle of the part horrible monster being in my DNA but I loved him and missed him and had no one to talk to about it.

Fifty years later, and after finally getting some counseling for myself, I finally told my mother that if she said anything negative about him again that I would walk out. I didn’t want to hear it anymore. She said “I thought you always blamed me” and I told her that I never blamed her. Fifty years too late but she has not said a word since. Fifty years!! Cuss words are not typically in my vocabulary but Fifty Fucking Years. For the love of God and all that is Holy, surviving spouses of suicide, please get yourself and your children some professional help. It is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. Don’t wait fifty years. Do it today.

Begin at the beginning

Hmmm. So much to share but don’t know where to begin so I will begin my story with my first traumatic experience at age 5. My father committed suicide. The last memory of my father is of him coming to my Aunt’s house. We were playing outside. He came to the yard, put us in the car and drove away. I remember that I was excited because this was going to be a surprise for my mother. “Is it perfume?” I asked. I don’t remember his answer but I know it wasn’t the surprise.

A little backstory: my mother wanted to divorce my father. She had met another man who made her feel loved and special. This other man was also married. I don’t know all the in’s and out’s of what transpired between the two of them and don’t need to know. I don’t blame my mother or the other man or my father. Anyway, my mother and the other man arranged a meeting with their current spouses and stated that they wanted to divorce and marry each other. Long story short, my mother decided to give her marriage another try and we all picked up and moved for a fresh start.

Sometime shortly after, in a new State, my father intercepted letters between my mother and the other man. At the time of the big “S” (suicide), the other man was in the same vicinity and he and my mother had made contact. The other man wanted to take mother, me and my siblings back to our original home town. He felt like we were all in danger.

Back to the big “S” …. My father drove us to our house, took us inside, sat us down and told us to stay there. In the meantime, my mother discovered we were missing. My aunt and my mother pulled up outside in my aunt’s car. My oldest brother, seeing a chance to escape, grabbed me and my other brother and ran out the door. I’m 5. I have no real idea of what is going on. We are on the steps leading down from the porch. My mom is at the bottom of the steps screaming for us to get in the car. We get in the car. My Aunt tells us to get down in the floorboard. I can’t resist looking up and out the car window. My father is on the porch pointing a gun alternately at himself and at my mother. She is yelling “go ahead, you can’t hurt me anymore”. He slowly shakes his head and walks inside the front door. Mother gets in the passenger side of the car and my aunt drives away.

I will share more of this story later. My heart is pounding and it is still so overwhelming. I’ve had 55 years to come to terms with it but I need a break before I continue.