Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day: Every time we say, "Good bye," you're frozen in my mind as the child that you never will be again.

First and foremost, I present my previous ramblings about Veterans' Day.

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.


Emma Petersen said...

Do you know how incredibly brave you are writing this post. I cried as I read it because all of it was so familiar. People don't understand and unless they go through it themselves, they never will. I have the utmost respect for you. There is nothing whiny or ungrateful about you or this post. It's the truth & so many wives/sig others need to read it so they know they are not alone.

Hugs. Super big hugs.

Heather Griffith Brewer said...

I'm so so sorry. I wish more people could understand that military service is sometimes as much of a sacrifice for the families, as it is for the military member.
Last week at the airport I watched a man in uniform saying goodbye to his wife before boarding our plane. I felt so bad for them, and I feel even more sympathetic now in light of the fact that even if that man returns, it may not be the same one.

I think that you have every right to say what you do, because it is so true. I'm truly sorry for your loss, and I am keeping you in my thoughts.

Amber said...

I'm so sorry for you, and for your family. I haven't walked in your shoes, so I can't truly understand. But I can understand that some experiences can change and scar someone forever.

I remember being in Las Vegas in 2005 for my sister's wedding, and seeing scores of soldiers marrying. They were all very young, maybe 21, the men in their uniforms and their young brides in white. All getting married before they shipped off to war. And it made me sad. They looked so happy and hopeful. And I worried what the future held for them.