One month ago today my world plunged into a place of hellish turmoil. It took twenty-eight days to climb back to the land of the living. Yesterday, I put a gardenia bloom to my nose and it smelled sweeter and more fragrant than it ever did in the past.
Experiencing the king of ironies, one month ago today, I sat in the office of my unit superintendent and finally unloaded my burden for my son’s anguish, his problems concerning post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the reason I had taken four weeks of emergency vacation in the first four months of the year. Little did I know that as I talked to my boss, my son was already dead and I would never talk to him again, except in my prayers and memories.
Today, one month later I’ve experienced five nights without constant dreams of Nick and I must say, that that has been a good thing. Although I have avoided feelings of guilt, as I truly believe I did my level best to do and say the right thing to him, some guilt must be shouldered for I missed key trigger points that should have warned me that things were dangerously wrong.
Going back to the year 1972 when I got orders for Vietnam and my World War II Veteran father admonished me to “not do anything over there that I would regret for the rest of my life” and was the exact phrase I repeated to my son before he went to South Korea, then Kuwait and finally Iraq. Just a few days before his demise Nick signed back up for the Infantry in the US Army and repeated “the admonishment” to me, but added this: “Dad, remember what you told me? Well, this time, I’m going to kill them”.
I should have recognized this for what it was, but I blew it off as just…anger. It was anger all right, but the wrong kind. It was the kind that shows a much deeper problem - one that screams out for counseling. I should have recognized the cycle of self-destruction sooner. But, my son had a whole lot of his Dad in him and I guess it’s a Marshall trait also, that we don’t seek counseling – we give it. We are an internalizing group, who suck it up when things don’t go the way we think they should, remaining self-reliant and guess what? It’s not always good for us, or those we love.
Two days ago I finally had a release of pent-up emotion that cleansed and later comforted me. It came over me so suddenly that I just surrendered to it. It was time. I have this crazy notion that grief on my part is selfish and blatant self-pity and I avoided it like the plague. I had the stupid thought that all I’m doing is feeling sorry for myself, like a big baby. It’s stupid and self-destructive and if all of this has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t know anything and grieving is okay. Besides others are grieving and I think their grief is normal.
One month ago I told my wife the same thing I’ve said many times: “I don’t have a single close friend, I just have acquaintances”. My God in heaven was I ever wrong. I have a whole lot of friends, close friends. Friends, who have sacrificed for me and mine. Oh, to go through life and not know what a friend is would be a miserable existence indeed. It’s another thing I didn’t recognize.
One month ago I started to live all over again and it was a painful entry, but now after a month has gone by, the flower blooms smell sweet again and I am surrounded with family and friends that are dearer and more a part of my life than my wildest imagination could have predicted.
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