I've always taken issue with the use of the phrase, "Happy Veterans' Day." There is no such thing!
I don't often let myself think about how being a veteran has changed my husband. On this day, though, there is no hiding from it. Last night was one of the rare nights when I let myself break down and cry about how becoming a veteran has changed him. He, however, didn't notice I was upset. He doesn't anymore. If he did, he didn't say anything about it. He doesn't do that either anymore.
The changes in him caused by PTSD as a result of his deployments go by largely unnoticed. Every once in a while, though, I'm painfully aware of how very different he is. Last night was one of those nights.
When he deployed, I stood there in tears clutching small children watching as my husband filed onto a bus and pulled away for the airport on two different occasions. The first time, I fell to the ground screaming crying while I clutched two toddlers--each arm around one. A mother I had never met came up to me, said nothing, but hugged me tightly. I cried as my husband was taken away. I had no idea that I would never see that same man again. I worried that he would never come back alive. I had no idea he could return, but so very very changed.
I stood at the airport, not once, but twice and ran to him when he came home, but the arms that held me tentatively belonged to a man completely altered by war. Even after therapy and drugs, he's not the man I married. I can never express how grateful I am that he survived those deployments. I worry that some will think I'm being whiny and ungrateful. I am so very thankful that he is alive. I have Sheheyanu-ed many many times. Still, I mourn for the man he was.
I love this man. Despite the hell we went through, I love this man. I have a new respect for this man who came home and was willing to work through these problems not once, but twice. But you know what? I loved the man he was too. I liked that man far more.
I miss the man who would rub my back in bed. I miss the man who would randomly reach out and hold me. I miss the man who was more aware of the world around him. I miss the man whose main interaction with his children was talking to them or playing with them rather than screaming at them. I miss the man who had enough patience to deal playfully with his children.
When TheBaby was born earlier this year, I saw glimpses of just how sweet and gentle my husband once was. He cooed at her. He held her and refused to put her down saying, "The others had to be without me for so long. She doesn't have to, so I don't want to make her."
With the others, he has very little patience. Yes, he's a good father and he loves them dearly, but he can't deal with them the way he used to. The "War,"stomped all over anything remotely resembling patience that he once had. It takes very little to annoy him. I find myself pleading with the kids, "Please don't even ask Daddy. You know how he gets."
Our poor son has it the worst of all. Dh was gone for TheBoy's first year and you can absolutely see the detachment. They butt heads a lot and dh often has no idea how to parent him. TheBoy is a good kid. He's smart and sweet and very stubborn. Dh adored him as a baby, but by missing so much of our son's first year, it created a rift.
After the first war-time deployment, when dh came home to our twins, they were initially a bit timid, but in only a matter of moments, they excitedly, "Daddy! Daddy-ed," at him. With our son, I placed him in dh's arms and while TheBoy didn't fuss, he obviously didn't know who that man was. TheBoy was the only one of our children for whom "Dada," wasn't one of the first words (it was both the twins' first word). When he did start saying it, it meant, "Telephone," because that's all he knew of his daddy.
I feel badly complaining because my husband is still a great man. He parents. He helps at home. He supports me in our decisions. He's generally a nice guy. But you know what? The man I married was even better. The man I married was gentle. This man is gruff. The man I married was sweet. This man ignores. The man I married wanted to be a more attached and loving parent than his parents were. This man calls his children, "pain in the ass" behind their backs and is more likely to yell AT them rather than talk WITH them.
This man is a veteran. The man I married is gone. I hate Veterans' Day because today, of all days, I'm thankful for my husband's sacrifice, but I'm painfully aware that I traded the wonderful man who was my husband for this man who is so very changed--this veteran.
The title is from this song.