Month: September 2011

This American Game – This Family’s Tradition

  I remember when growing up that my family would watch baseball at home, the only time my brother and I are allowed to have sodas, Fritoes and beandip. My parents were such fans, we drove to Yuma or Scottsdale to watch spring training teams play. I am a San Francisco Giants fan, not because of Barry Bonds, but because of Wilie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal.  Also, because my youngest daughter became a LA Dodger’s fan.  Giants v. Dodgers…a storied rivilary.

  I am not a hardcore fan. Not like my Mom, who is the one I would call when water cooler talk would turn to trades or stats.  I follow my Mom’s teams during the regular season, so I am informed when we chat on the phone. I usually start watching games once the playoffs teams are established.  Except for last year, when I started watching the Giants early in the season, just because of Tim Lincecum.

  But, last night, the last regular game of the season was something to behold. The storied Boston Red Sox imploded, the Atlanta Braves crashed and burned, and the Tampa Bay Rays rallied from a seven run deficit, to beat the NY Yankees and capture a playoff berth from the Red Sox.

  I was one of a multitude of fans of this sport that stayed up to the wee hours of this morning, to watch the replays, the commentary, the interviews of this extraordinary night. It took me back to weekend drives to Arizona in our Corvair (that’s a blast from the past!), to my mom and I going to a midday game at the Padres stadium (having taken the afternoon off from our family’s business to do so), to taking my son to the same stadium and having field seating, hearing this young, not so easily impressed, man say “wow” when he saw how close we were to the action, to huddling with my youngest daughter in celebration of her 18th birthday, as she began her first year in the Navy, under an umbrella at Atlanta’s stadium in a June rain shower watching the Braves and Orioles for the first time.  A tradition continues, and I would wager, not just in my family.

  They don’t call it America ‘s game for nothing. Playoffs…here we go!

“God Did Not Give You To Me, To Let PTSD Defeat Us”

Chet and I

From a journal entry dated 21 April 2005 – Last night he came to bed not long after I, because he had not slept much the night before. 

He said, “It’s like I’m on duty  – four hours on, then sleep for four hours, or four hours sleep, then up all night.”  All day long.  

Yesterday was when members of his troops were shot.  Next week on the 28th was when he was shot.  He said “I saw that guy’s face.”  I asked him, “Was he killed?” He said that they told him they heard screaming all day and into the night and then one shot and no more screaming. 

I asked him why he hated the Michael J. Fox character on “Platoon”.  He answered “Because he had a conscious…he had not gotten to scared, mad, don’t care.  He never got to don’t care and not at don’t care stage will get you killed or others killed.  I said that “Platoon” was a movie.  That character was just that, a fiction character.  “Calley wasn’t fiction”, he answered.  I told him I had forgotten about Mai Lai.  Calley wasn’t fiction.

He then told me the reason he didn’t have flight mode was because I didn’t put pressure on him when he was sleepless, or fragile.  It made it ok for him to go through these rough months.  He said he’d gotten better over time, to the point, it bothers him now to be like this.  (That was the first time I remember him every saying this.)

He said,  “I need to tell you that you got a compliment.  Our guy Ray, the group leader, said to him ‘Your wife really cares about you because she is involved.’  I said to him ‘Because I am in the wives group?’ He answered, “No, not just group, all of it.  Salem.  You came to Salem, all of it.”

“Well, why not?” I asked him.  “I am crazy about you.  And when I met you I didn’t know what you had, the extent of the PTSD.  When I realized the extent of it, I wasn’t going to let it defeat us.  God did not give you to me to let PTSD defeat us.”

When I met my husband, I was forty-two and he was forty-seven.  We both had been married twice.  I met and knew I wanted to know him.  He met me and says he knew he was in “so much trouble”.  Trouble, because he had been diagnosed with PTSD, was going to counseling, was on medication for depression, and he found a face he was drawn to, but he was so very gun-shy.

We were married nine months later.  It was the beginning of our journey with PTSD and the journal entry I posted above, is indicative of how far we had come in seven plus years of marriage.

2005 was a big year for us for several reasons.  Megan, who had been eleven when we married, was in the Navy and had been for almost a year.  I had been going to a six-week session of the wives of the PTSD group my husband was in.  At the time of the journal entry, I had pretty much given up on us getting a house, but in July of 2005, we would move into Evansridge.

I am sharing this journal entry with my readers because it the beginning of a turning point for us.  Chester was at a point where he wanted to be better, but his “anniversary”, when he received his trauma on April 28, 1969, surfaced every year.  Every year from 1969 to this day, he relived his troops being wounded, he relived his own wounding, he relived and is reminded of his own role in taking life.  It was distressing to know that after a year of doing fine, he would approach his anniversary and anxiety, or anger, or flight mode would set in.

I realized from the group session I had been in, that spouses and family members were not equipped with the tools to manage the stressors their veterans were going through.  The group counseling merely scratched the surface of the second-hand PTSD wives and loved ones were experiencing.  I didn’t know what was needed.  All I knew,  was in that group setting, I wasn’t the only one going through anniversaries with my husband, I wasn’t the only one suppressing my own emotions, I wasn’t the only one waking up at three in the morning to hear the TV or the Playstation going, I wasn’t the only one going through the day, in the same house with my spouse, with only a handful of words being exchanged… if I could have used that group meeting for an extended period of time,  I am sure others did, as well.

 

“Reduction in Force”

I have always worked, with a few exceptions, I have always had a job. I was the new mother who had her new baby in daycare at three months and was back on the job.   When the kids were all school age, I had the them up at six am, out the door at seven am and at work at eight am.

So, imagine my surprise at fifty-six, to be suddenly without work. I had been laid off due to “reduction in force”, is the formal term. Job hunting was not like back in the day when you read the Sunday paper…no Craigslist is the place now…or Linkin. I updated my resume, attached it to my inquiries to employers looking for a paralegal/admin assistant.  I would then document the non-replys. Employers are so inundated with resumes, they barely respond. So much for job search etiquette.

I went through a period of self-examination.  I went through a period of recrimmination. Then, one morning, I think I was reading a magazine, Oprah, Vanity Fair, Whole Living…take your pick, but somewhere I read that at some point in your life you must take a risk and do something that you are passionate about.  It was not a magazine article, it was Bethenny Frankle’s book, Coming From A Place of Yes.   Of all books I have read this year…The Help, the new book on Malcolm X – Malcolm X, A Life of Reinvention,  the biography of the President’s mom, A Singular Woman…it was this young woman’s book, Coming From A Place of Yes, that inspired me to try and write.  Write about my husband and our experience with PTSD.  Write to the wives, the mothers, fathers, siblings of PTSD veterans, the ones that don’t get counseling…this could be my target audience.  My husband has always said to me – write…just write…about anything and everything…but just write.  I was too consumed with my job to write, until now.

Over the years, I have several journal entries with my thoughts or his words on the subject of his PTSD and how he managed (or was unable to manage).   I started to write and got about fifty pages into it before I went to visit my grandchildren and put the project down.  I started this blog during the summer, not knowing if I could be a blogger or have something of value to say, but in trying to recount some incident of worth, or some random thought, or in trying to describe the raw disconnect of PTSD, I found myself wanting to get better at expression.  I found myself wanted to become a better communicator, a better writer.

Bear with me in this journey of mine.  I may have lost my job due to a “reduction in force” , but I just might have found my passion.

Unchartered Water – Golf, et al

At the beginning of the year, we lost a lifelong friend of ours. My husband went to California to ride the wave of grief with his friend, who was doing his best to get his family through this horrific loss.

Part of the healing process for our included helping my husband with a dream of his. My husband wanted to put on a golf tournament.   He wanted to fundraise for judo students at the dojo he volunteered at.  All competing students needed funds to help offset their travel expenses to competitions locally and nationwide.  It takes the community, families and donations to offset these expenses.  He and our dear friend Sam had long talks into the wee hours of the morning about the logistics.  My husband came back with an idea and we began to work on the plan and logistics.

My husband knew where he wanted to hold the tournament.  Bullcreek Golf Course and Country Club has a unique history of ownership.   Families who worked the land and then  owned the land got together and invested in the golf course. It is one of a handful in the nation that are minority owned.

Seven months later, and a thirty days from “t-day” (tournament day, we are poised to put on our first golf tournament to raise money for the judo kids.  I will report more over the next days to chronicle the last days before our event.  Note: I married a Marine veteran and the term “always an adventure”, comes to mind.

Thrill Seeker

Thrill Seeker

Three years ago this last August, I was driving home when I received a phone call from my daughter, Megan. She had been in San Diego for a conference and was flying back to Norfolk. Megan is an Aircrewman in the Navy and was flying on an H-53 helicopter with her crew. Problem was, she was not home yet…she was in the middle of a field in Tennessee. There had been a fire and they had to put down.

Her voice was strong, adrenalin filled, exuberant. I was driving as she explained what happened and the land owner who came out on his four wheeler and overalls to investigate. Mija, I told her, you don’t call your mom as the accident averted has happened, you call me, after you have been rescued and are safe on a base somewhere!

She laughed away my shock with the reassurance of accomplishment. Everyone did what they were supposed to do…everyone did their job, she reassured me. Everything else is secondary…

The Dark Side

Last night while watching local news, there was a report of an Veteran who served in Afghanistan who killed his 10 month old daughter, because she was crying. I looked at my husband, who was shaking his head. He had told me early in our marriage and when he was first treating for his Post Traumatic Stress Syndome, that he could not handle babies crying.

I remember dismissing it to a certain extent…but saw evidence over the years of the affect of babies crying, or loud crashes or backfires affect him. Anger, flight mode, fight mode, fear…I have seen it all with him. He has never acted out, but my husband has had fifteen years of counseling. He has developed some tools to handle these emotions and reflex responses.

We, as a Nation, have to make sure our Veterans are receiving the care, the counseling, the backup they need from doctors, civilians and family. It’s the least we can do.

My green eyed girl.

attack cat

“Sister” came to us when we started feeding her mom, who was a dumpster kitty near our apartment. Megan, who was a junior in highschool, chose her brother “Papi” to be our inside cat…but Sister continued to live in the trees and bushes between our apartment complex and the homeowner next door, who had a tobacco field on the other side of open space. We fed her every day. She rewarded us with rubs and her vocalizations, which were less strident than her mom’s.

A month short of the Papi’s and Sister’s second birthday, we bought our home on EvansRidge. Taking Papi out there was no problem. We fed him in the house and let him roam around outside. He had three acres to roam, not to mention making friends across the street and next door. His acclamation was complete when he befriended our neighbors across from us. despite the two Labs penned in their backyard, Papi made himself at home on our neighbor’s front porch swing.

Sister was another matter. I made the mistake of dropping her carryall with her in it when I first tried to transport her from the apartment to EvansRidge. The door spring open from the impact and she high tailed it to the neighbor’s fallow field, a streak of grey against the red clay. I was distraught, believing she would never trust me again, but my husband told me animals have a short memory, and to continue to feed her until the opportunity presented itself to catch her and cage her for transport.

I succeeded in getting Sister in the carrier and to our home. The problem arose when I opened the cage door. She took off into the woods and I figured she was making her way back to the apartment, like one of the pets you hear about on the Animal Planet channel or was made into a Disney movie. I was heartbroken and tried calling her for two days. On the third day, my husband whistled for her, like he whistled for Papi (he never wanted to confuse, Papi, it just came from his history of being a dog owner…I guess he was not going to play favorites!). He called to me, saying he heard her distinctive and plaintive cry in the high grass and sure enough, when we called to her, she came to us.

I brought her in the house after a particularly bad storm and she has been the “house” cat, eating, sleeping and using the cat box, whereas Papi is happily outside. Last couple of winters, she has no problem going out into the elements, whereas Papi becomes a multiple cat box user…he will not go out in the snow, until he can see and his feet can hit the pavement. Go figure.

I am sharing some pictures of my green-eyed girl…you can see the character!