Saturday, May 16, 2009

One Long Month Later

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.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am without words. That was so beautiful. Thank you, Bert, for sharing. With love, Sue

Banjo Jones said...

I'm real sorry for what happened, Bert. Please take care of yourself.

The older I get... No regrets please.

The older I get, the more I realize how much time I've wasted that could have been productive. Not for one second do I think ...