I’ve been MIA lately so I have a LOT of catching up to do. We’ve had so many changes in our life that I haven’t had the mental energy to write at all. When I do get home at night, I have so much studying and homework to do that blogging gets put on hold. However, today is a holiday so, even though I have SO many things I want to blog about, I felt like I needed to write this post.
Today would is Veteran’s Day. It is also my father’s birthday. I always thought it was so cool that my dad’s birthday was on Veteran’s Day. He spent his entire career in the Navy. So, for me, Veteran’s Day was always about my Dad.
Yes, I totally realize that hundreds of thousands (I’m sure I’m WAY underestimating) of men and women have served our country. These people go above and beyond being a good person… they leave their families to fight for our freedom. As corny as it is, that thought makes me super emotional.
However, I still only think of my Dad on this day.
10 years ago, my dad committed suicide.
He’d been a heavy drinker for as long as I could remember, and he wasn’t really present for most of our lives. When he and my mom were married, he was always out to sea on a big ship. They divorced when my brother and I were really small, and we only saw him sporadically after that. At one point, it had been nine years since I’d seen him.
He made my graduation, but missed my wedding. He met my children, his grandchildren, only once when I was pregnant with my fourth child.
I felt a lot of pain because of his absence. The void felt personal… like he just didn’t like me enough to put any effort into seeing him. This feeling that I’m not good enough has carried onto my adulthood. I still feel like I’m not good enough and I’m 40-years old (that’s still so hard to say).
The last time I saw my dad was when Charley, Frances, and Jeanne hit back-to-back in 2004. Both my ex-husband and I had three-day weekends, so we used it as an excuse to visit my dad. He lived in Alabama, which was only six hours away.
Well, that’s not true, its only true if I75 is NOT at a standstill, you DON’T take Hwy 441, and you DON’T miss the turnoff to I90…which, I promise, will make it a thirteen-hour trip (and that’s only if you turn around when you see a sign that says Lowndes County, Georgia). Obviously, this was before the days of smart phones and mobile GPS.
To make a long story short, the man who met us at the gas station wasn’t the man I remembered. I remembered a clean cut, Navy man (who, to be honest, dressed a little like he was still in the 70s). Still, he always looked so polished.
The man who met us had long scraggly hair, was missing a tooth, had a huge beer belly sticking out of his open shirt, and was wearing sandals. I understand it had been nine years, but I was NOT prepared for the change.
Again, to make a long story short, we didn’t stay long (that would be a HUGE blog post). We ended up leaving the next day and got home before the worst of the storms hit…and just weathered them out in our house. I asked my dad to come with us, but he didn’t want to leave.
Three years later, he’d changed his phone number and never called to let us know… and we had no idea how to get back to his house, and knew no one who could contact him, or check in on him. We didn’t have an address to have the police to do a wellness checkup.
Then, one night, we found out he was dead.
He had shot himself with a shot gun. I was angry and devastated, and every emotion in between….and I was eight months pregnant. The hardest part was that there was no explanation. No note, no goodbye…. nothing. Just silence…
Even worse, after traveling from Central Florida to Southern Alabama, I wasn’t allowed to go into the house because I was pregnant, but I learned from my brother and ex-husband that there were no pictures of us on the walls. There was no indication at all that he had a family who loved him and missed him. The living conditions were too deplorable to describe.
We found out later he had lung cancer, and again (super long story), the condition of his house meant that he’d been really sick and really weak for a really, really long time.
As you know, I work in the funeral industry and I meet a lot of families who had loved ones who’d served in the military. I’ve met the most amazing, wonderful people and my heart breaks for them all. However, some of the families I meet affect me more than most because I hear stories that are similar to the situation with my dad.
I hear the same affliction from all of these families…PTSD.
Now, I wonder if my father suffered from this. His father was abusive (which I only learned AFTER my beloved grandfather passed away), and he served his entire career in the military. Could one of these situations (or both) have caused the PTSD…which led to the heavy drinking and smoking?
I have more questions than answers.
Since my father’s death, I have so much more respect for people who serve in the military, and for holidays like Memorial Day, and Veterans Day.
I’ve never been in the military, so I can never know what our soldiers experience. I won’t even pretend like I could imagine that I could picture what they experience. However, I do know that when these holidays come… I hold them in a much higher regard than I did as a child when I saw them as just another holiday.
To my friends who serve, or have served in the military… and for all of you that I don’t know… you all have a special place in my heart. You see things that most of us could never imagine, and if we did, would give us nightmares.
These soldiers serve their country to protect Americans who, you have to admit, really don’t give them a second thought.
Please support our troops. Some soldiers come back with few problems, some come back with MANY, MANY problems.
Forget the damn Kardashians (sorry, I will never understand why they are famous), and think about the men and women who give so much for strangers who don’t appreciate them as much as they deserve.