Is Mommy coming back?”
He was not quite six years old when he asked me that question about our mother. I didn’t know the answer then. I was only nine. I knew he needed me. I knew he was sad and worried and really, really scared. I told him the first thing that came to mind.
“Yes. She’ll be back.”
It took a few years, and in that time, he and I grew very close. I helped him with his homework, did his laundry, and beat up his bullies. I tucked him in at night, made his grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup, and wiped away his tears.
Now, he’s thirty and I’m thirty-four. We’re both parents. Both have been divorced. Both wounded. But I will always be the big sister.
His fatigues are packed for the war zone, again: for the fourth time. Fuck.
I left him a message. And then he left me one. And then finally today, we talked.
“Am I coming home, Sis?”
“Yes. Yes, you are coming home.”
“With my tags on my toes?”
“NO. Not with your tags on your toes. You’re coming home to kiss your son.”
“Take care of my wife & son, Sis.”
“You’re the best sister and mom I’ve ever had. I love you.”
(I catch my breath.) “Watch your ass, baby boy. I love you too.”
Oh dear God, please watch over my baby brother. Keep this 6’4″ soldier safe and bring him home where he is loved most: where he has a son who needs his father; a wife who needs her husband and a sister who wants to keep a promise that he is coming home safely.
Losing a child of any age is one of the worst, hardest things for a parent to bear.
Throughout the past two years I have often heard, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
Well, I have a bone to pick with God: I am NOT as strong as He thinks I am.
Somehow, I managed to get through my husband’s year long tour in Iraq. I had to. Late in the evening in September 2007, I hugged and kissed my husband, as he rubbed and kissed my h u g e pregnant belly and got on a bus. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again. I can still see his big, goofy grin as he smiled and waved good-bye. I stood there, watched the buses pull out into the darkness and I prayed to God that he would come home safely. I prayed that our son would get to meet his Daddy; the same prayer I prayed every day for the next year. I got into the truck, hugely pregnant, and I lost it.
I cried the whole way home.
27 days later, my son Robert was born.
I’m not so strong.
Now, seven months after Robert’s death from SIDS I can’t seem to “get it together.”
I’m pretty smart. I know that I am grieving. I know that everyone grieves differently. But I’ve had enough. I don’t want the panic attacks that happen for no reason. Panic attacks that I shouldn’t even be getting anymore because I take medication to prevent them.
Tired of being tired because I can’t sleep at night. Every time I close my eyes I see Robert in his crib when I found him, dead from SIDS, or in the hospital on the gurney.
I’m starting to get mad, really mad. Mad at my husband because I had to go through another major event alone. Mad at the Army for not letting Joe be at home for Robert’s birth. I’m mad at God.
This is how my conversations with God have been lately:
Me: “Why did Robert have to die of SIDS?”
God: no response
Me: “Guess I should have been more specific when I asked you to bring Joe home safe so Robert could meet him.”
God: no response
Me: “I’m a good Mommy, why do I not to get to have my baby?”
God: no response
Me: “I think you and I need a break!”
God: no response
I read a book the other day about a soldier’s account of his time in Iraq. It told of his missions and what he saw and what went through his mind while he was overseas. It was interesting, it was scary, it was so sad. It gave me an inside look, a first-hand account of what my husband went through in the year he was gone. It made me wonder. How would my book read, my first hand account of being a mom on the homefront, holding down the fort? Maybe it would be an interesting read, maybe it would flop. I really couldn’t tell you, but I figured I would try.
I believe Dan got word that he was on alert in February of 2004. That was a scary day, we spent the day at families houses telling them the news. I held it together, mostly, I was really okay until his sister asked me “How are you holding up?” I lost it! I cried because I was mad, I was hurt, I couldn’t believe it. But we still didn’t know when he could leave, it could be tomorrow, next week or next month, we just did not know and that was probably the scariest part. Would I have time to tell him goodbye. Would the kids understand what was happening? What was I going to do? I spent a lot of time crying, always in private, sometimes to friends, but mostly into my pillow. I had to stay strong, I had to make everyone think I was going to be OK, when really I wasn’t sure. I mean, how could I be?
We never really talked about him not coming home, but it was always on my mind. I didn’t think I could handle that, being a widow at 24!
I tried not to think about it, but it was always there… just under the surface.
Finally word came.
The official orders, I am sure I still have them saved on my computer somewhere, along with every email and IM conversation we had while he was gone. He was going to leave on Veteran’s Day 2004. Kinda fitting right? We prepared as best as we could. And bright and early on November 11th we headed out to the unit to tell our soldier, my husband, my kids father, goodbye – perhaps for the last time. All of our best friends and our families were there. It was a tense atmosphere, so much crying from everyone around, talking, laughing, and just a lot of quiet thinking.
Finally the time came for the soldiers to line up and get on the buses that would take them to the airport. There were hugs, and kisses and more tears. Then we all got into our cars and headed to the airport to watch them board the plane.
It was so very cold out. But I don’t remember being cold. We all gathered at the fence at the air strip. Dan was on every single news station. One of my favorite moments, I have on tape somewhere, Dan leans through the fence and kissed Nick goodbye. The whole QC got to see that. That was right after Nick proclaimed that Daddy had to take Blankie with him so he would not be scared, which brought tears to everyone around. Instead we tore a piece of Blankie off and Dan put it in his breast pocket, where it stayed until he came home. We said some more goodbyes and tried to hug through a fence, which was incredibly awkward by the way. Then they had to board the plane. We stood and waved, all of us until the door closed. I was still not ready to say goodbye so I didn’t get back in the car, I stood on a small hill and just watched, soon I was flanked on either side by my mother and my mother in law. That too was caught on video and aired on local television. And we waved, somewhere there’s pictures of us waving until the plane looks like just a speck of dust that is on a photograph. I don’t remember much after that. I don’t remember driving home. I don’t remember going to sleep that night. I probably cried. I don’t remember but that’s probably a good thing.
I remember waiting, a lot of waiting.
Waiting for mail, waiting for phone calls, waiting for the computer to beep that he was online and of course waiting for the call saying he was coming home.
But those are all stories for another day.
A wise woman told me to write up my story and tell the hell out of it. So, here I am.
Sometimes, I feel like I have the only kid like mine. My son was diagnosed between 3 and 4. He is one of 3 I have, with special needs. For the time being, I’m focusing on my oldest.
We knew something was not right with him. He threw an 80 lb. mattress across the room at me. How does a 3 year old do that? He never slept. He would have meltdowns and throw things at me. I have gotten black eyes from everything from a book to an army boot to the back of the head.
Thankfully, I had a wonderful doctor tell me how to deal with the meltdowns and those came less and less often. However, he would wander. We had two incredibly scary events where he wandered off when he was 5, but he had angels and off duty police officers watching out for him.
When we got the Autism diagnosis, I knew nothing about Autism. Most people equate it to the movie Rain Man. I had never seen the movie so I had no clue. All I knew was Doug Flutie, an NFL football player, had a cereal that’s proceeds went to autism awareness. The only reason I knew that is because I saw the commercial once while my husband was watching a game. That’s all I knew. Nothing else.
So, the journey was rocky and hard. The first year my husband was stationed in Korea, so he was not around to learn what I did.
I relied on “friends” I thought that I had to help. Instead, I got investigated by CPS (child protective services) for making everything up. The only thing that was founded was that I was stressed. (Gee no idea why???)
My son’s first year in school was horrible. Open classroom and he would have meltdowns. They did not want to deal with him, so 5 out of 5 days he went to school, he was sent home early. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing or how the school should have been handling him.
Thankfully, the school he was moved to had a wonderful Spec Ed teacher that knew what she was doing, to this day, I will still kiss the ground that she walks on.
He improved and stayed in school. Had messy moods and lack of sleeping so we had to join the medicine bus. So many doctors and specialists, “you should do this” and “don’t do that and this and that.”
The kid is a loving, sweet amazing kid. He has a hard time showing that. He has many co-morbidities along with his autism. ADHD, ODD, Anxiety, depression, hypermobility, OCD, etc.
In our journey with him, we realized he wasn’t like most kids with autism. So many can use an iPad and it’s nothing. A phone and no problem. With my son, he can not tell the difference between reality and what’s on the iPad or phone. We tried. We tried so many times, so he could be like his friends or brothers. But it ultimately turned out so, so, so, so bad.
When he was 11 a child that bullied him at school told him that triple x rated stuff on the internet was bad and if you looked at it you were super special because not everyone’s computer can look at it. Ever since that day, my son has been fixated on it. At 11 he had no idea what it was, just that it was special and not everyone could see it. As he grew into puberty it got worse and worse. I still don’t think he knows exactly what its supposed to mean to a person, because his thinking age is around 10, but he knows its bad, he’s told his therapist it’s bad. He’s tried to look at it on the internet at school.
We had everything on our cable blocked so that he could not watch it or order it and somehow he got around it and we had a $900 bill. (I’m still drinking coffee to cope with that one)
Now he’s in a dark, dark place. He’s obsessed with death. He writes and writes and writes about death scenes. Then he tears them up. He talked to his therapist, but he sees no problem. We can not even let this child watch cop TV shows it’s that bad. Nothing to do with magic, or death.
My husband and I have been watching his behavior as of the last 2-3 months and I’m not liking what I see. Neither does my husband.
His moods are very erratic. One minute he’s happy, the next he’s angry and ready to fight. Then he’s happy. (Note: he has not touched a soul, just has gotten angry with words) These mood changes make me think he’s bipolar. We were warned that he probably was a few years ago. We knew it was coming.
Now we’re questioning the doctor, because my husband and I are so completely and mentally drained from dealing with his moods and trying to keep his brothers from upsetting him. The doctor is trying to tell us that he’s making it all up and that we just have to deal with it. My first thought, no lie, was, “The fuck you mean deal with it? I’ve BEEN living with it! We came to you for help on how to KEEP dealing with it, asshole!” I, of course, did not say that, because I was too tired.
This kid has been in-patient 7, lost count after that, times for being bullied and being suicidal. I’m scared to death something is going to set him off. Granted all sharp instruments are kept under lock and key. We continue to try and understand what is going on, but our son can not tell us because he does not remember the mood swings.
His doctor said, because he does not feel bad for being angry and mean, he is not bipolar. DUDE, he’s autistic, he’s not going to feel bad.
I had 2 major surgeries and he bumped what I had surgery on, I started crying and he didn’t give two craps. That does not mean he’s not bipolar!
It’s hard to keep him busy. He gets bored with puzzles and crosswords and TV, because we have seriously toned down everything that he can watch. I’m just at a loss on where I should go from here. There’s probably a lot I left out of his story, I’m sorry for that.
Here’s another twist on his story. He legit thinks he’s from another dimension. He thinks he is a female from another dimension, that he will leave to find when he is 18 years old. There are artifacts all over the world that he has to collect in order to remain safe in this other dimension. He thinks that the here and now is just temporary. Because of his beliefs with this, he can not watch or read anything that involves fantasy. Because he can not and will not be able to tell the difference between what is real and what is not.
His therapist and I had a long talk today about it. I had to stop from bursting into tears, because I have never heard of another child like mine. I explained that to him and asked what do I do. He said I do what I’m doing… Be mom.
It did not help when he said that in the 13 years that he had been doing what he does, he had never met another kid like my son.
Sometimes, being a mom is rough as hell when it feels like no matter what you do, it’s out of control. You know all those books you read before you have kids? I never read any chapters on Autism or special needs and I sure as hell never read any on how to deal with this kind of life for your child.
I guess I should add that I am dealing with my own depression and anxiety right now. My anxiety is off the charts and my shrink threw me into counseling. Didn’t even ask just threw me in. I also have a chronic illness and it flares up in the form of pain when I’m extremely stressed out, the last 3 months I’ve gotten little relief.
It’s sad to say at this point, I’ll deal with me as it comes. I just want my son to be okay. I know I need to worry about me, too. If he is okay, then I can be okay.
Basically, I’m writing this because I just need to know I’m not alone. I’m so tired. My gut instinct with this kid is never wrong. My gut says he needs help with this anger thing and his doctor is being stupid.
Almost 7 months ago, I gave birth to my first baby. Four days later, I sat on a cold set of bleachers for 6 hours and said goodbye to my husband. Surrounded by his family, I watched him hold our beautiful baby boy, give him a kiss goodbye, grab his rifle and get on a bus. His destination? Afghanistan.
The bulk of the deployment wasn’t too difficult. He called often, and I emailed him pictures every day. Our son grew. I held my breath each time someone unexpectedly knocked on my door. But my husband is on his way home right now. And this is where the trouble begins.
Where in the world is my husband? No one will tell me. I have a “window” of a week when the Marine Corps told me he would be home. It’s halfway through the week and still no word.
Is he in Afghanistan? No.
Is he in the U.S.? No.
Is he in Russia? Maybe.
But no one I have talked to who is there has seen him. Has he been able to eat? Sleep? Is he even safe? Did the plane he was on crash? (Most likely not, as I would have seen that on the news)
I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHEN I CAN HANG ANOTHER TOWEL IN THE BATHROOM!
I am not the first woman to go through this, nor will I be the last. But in the midst of a bad day, or a trying time, don’t you always feel like you are the only one who is experiencing your troubles? “There can’t possibly be another wife going crazy because she doesn’t know where her husband is”, I think to myself.
Well, there’s surely another wife out there camped out by her computer and cell phone, waiting for a call, an email, or a Facebook update. Military wives usually have to keep it together. We have to be strong for our men, children and families while our loved one is deployed. But don’t let anyone tell you to calm down in the few days before your Marine/Sailor/Soldier comes home.
Situations like this warrant a little bit of a freak out. And it’s perfectly normal.
Especially if no one will tell you where in the world your husband is.
Today is Day 1.
The first day of this deployment. Familiar in a sort of comforting way, but also strange and surreal.
You see, this deployment is my husband’s choice. It is a civilian deployment for his everyday job- an electrical engineer at a company that makes military radios. He is installing them in vehicles in Afghanistan. He didn’t have to go.
He chose to go so that we have a chance to get ahead financially. A choice that he felt he couldn’t say no to. I feel awful that soldiers who are putting their lives in more danger are making so much less money. It just doesn’t seem right. My husband says, “hey I served, I don’t feel bad that I am taking this opportunity.” But still somehow it bothers me.
He is not responsible for the lives of 100 people this time, only his own. Later in the day I realized that I feel like this is cheating. Last time I felt guilty that he spent most of his time on base and rarely had to go outside the line. When meeting other wives, whose husbands were in further outposts and doing more dangerous jobs, I never told them how lucky I felt that most of the time, I was pretty sure my husband was sitting at a desk, a desk in Afghanistan, but still a desk and not kicking down doors or looking for IED’s.
If I felt guilty last time when he was serving as a soldier, its no wonder I feel so strongly like we are cheating now. I will be surprised if I don’t get into some sort of fight with my mother-in-law this year. She loves to get on her podium and proclaim to the world how hard she has it because her son is gone. Sorry, not my style. even more so this time. She was just posting some crap on Facebook (a picture of my kid wearing an Army hat) and commenting that my husband was leaving Sunday; to remember the sacrifices soldiers make.
Sorry lady (and I use that term loosely), I don’t even know where to start. I’m not usually a freak about letting people know he is out of town, but I haven’t put it all over Facebook yet. Its really my business to share that my husband is leaving for a year. Thanks for putting that out there. If they are our friends/family that matter, they already know. After reading that, I sent her a brochure about Operational Security (OPSEC) and the things that are appropriate to post online. I think she was pissed, but I don’t care.
And that reminder about the sacrifices that soldiers make?
Again, he is not going as a soldier.
I feel it is disrespectful to those service members over there to put them in the same sentence.
Last time I had ways to show I was proud of him – blue star flag, wearing his unit pin, etc. this time I feel as if I have none of that. Luckily, I have my battle buddies, the wives who banded together with me the last time when our husbands were all deployed. But still, it’s weird because people realize that he must be getting paid a lot. It makes me feel greedy and ungrateful for all that we do have. It makes me feel guilty that I am excited we will be able to pay off the house.
I have been trying to hold it together for a few months now. When I do this, I give the impression to people that I am a cold-hearted bitch. Because I usually am very practical and pragmatic about deployments. What good does crying all the time do? Do they just expect me to fall apart because he is leaving or gone?
The first time, I said to myself and them “Someone has to go. When some guys have to go 3-4 times, who am I to think my husband deserves not to go at all?” and we were both okay with that deployment.
We were tired of waiting for the Army to pick a time to send him. And at least he was going with his own unit. This time, we are both okay with the sacrifice because we are hoping to pay off the house. Both times, it feels like people didn’t understand how we could be okay with this. Sure, we will miss each other, sure it will be hard. (I think it is hardest on the kids) but I am proud to be an independent wife and I want to teach my girls self reliance too. We never have been the type of couple that has to go everywhere together.
Since the Army has been a part of our relationship since I met him, we are pretty used to the short-term separations. Cell phones and email has made it easier. When I first met him, he didn’t have a cell phone and had to wait in line to use a pay phone. So I got pretty used to not hearing from him. Also, as an only child, sometimes I relish my time that I get to myself. My new job is great for that as it allows me to help other military families, yet get some alone time in the car traveling.
i don’t usually get upset about deployment in public, and I don’t usually get upset about it at home, because you see, with two kids, two dogs and a house to take care of, I have more things to do than wallow in self pity. So usually the magnitude of it all doesn’t really hit me until the night before he leaves.
Yesterday, I had to drive him to the airport in the late afternoon and it was my day that I allowed myself to be sad. I let the girls have cookies for dinner, eat in the living room and watch a movie while I laid in bed and watched my own TV shows.
This morning I had to move past that and get my daughter on the bus. Somehow I was reminded of the song “This Too Shall Pass” by Ok Go. I couldn’t stop listening to it today.
Somehow it made things better.