--COME ON, LET’S GO
…I hope you had a swell Thanksgiving. This was the first time I didn’t overeat and I’m happy about that today.
…Watching “Homeland” has really made me aware of PTS Syndrome and I wrote this the other day:
He frightened me now.
Mother worked evenings and so it was just the two of us. If I’d had friends or more activities I could have made an excuse to be away from him, but even so Dad always told me to sit and watch TV with him.
Once in a while he might ask a question—“Did I have a boyfriend?” “How did the little girl I remember ever turn sixteen?”—though usually we sat on opposites sides of the room, me leafing through magazines, him brooding, knocking back bottle after bottle of Schnapps. After only an hour, he’d start to growl, the noise a wounded bear might make, something guttural and evil-sounding. At first I thought he was complaining about the referee’s calls on Sports Center, but his eyes were always closed, or worse--fluttering half-open.
And he sleep-walked. One night I caught him rummaging through the cupboards in his underwear and black socks. When he turned around, it was like seeing a blurry-eyed corpse, drool sliding down his mouth, his irises swirling and out of focus.
I knew he had killed some men. He just came out with it one night while we were ending pizza. It was as if he was merely announcing that he’d washed the car or read the newspaper.
I didn’t ask how. I didn’t know what to say or do, and he seemed to want to let it die then and there.
War changes a man, that’s pretty clear, but I didn’t know it could destroy him.
He got creeper, started flailing at the air, pounding his fists into the sofa, beat his hands on the coffee table. I figured it was just a matter of time before it was me he’d be bashing.
One time I faked a movie night just to be away from Dad. The film I saw was an inane comedy. After it was over, I watched all the people trundle out. I sat there in the dark for an hour. I prayed God would forgive me for fearing my Dad. I prayed God would change my Dad back to the way he was before he went over there.
When I got home, Dad wasn’t in the living room. I searched the house and found nothing. The next morning I took my usual path through the backyard on the way to catch the school bus and that was when I saw his body hanging from the tree that used to have my swing.
After the funeral, the world conspired to keep me in fear, keep me deflated and my heart shattered. But I won’t let it. I’ve learned guitar and most nights I play at the Veteran’s Meeting Hall. I play all different kinds of songs, yet everyone carries a message of hope. I’m not afraid to give the soldiers a hug or pat their hands. There’s no bringing Dad back, but seeing those men smile, hearing them laugh, well, it seems to be worth it.