Friday, November 14, 2014

What a Year It's Been, Life After the Army

It’s a strange thing thriving in a marriage that was all but over just a year ago. 

I look back at where we were at this time last year.  We pulled into Massachusetts, home, after 7 years away.  Back to where the faces were familiar but none of them really knew me.  They thought they knew the struggles of the past 7 years but really couldn’t even begin to imagine what it was like. 

When I think about my very first positive pregnancy test – it was the most exciting day of my life, everything changed that day but there was a black cloud.  I did what every suspicious woman does, did a double take at the calendar, ran to the store, peed on a stick and waited.  When that “pregnant” popped up I screamed and jumped and cried and turned to share my excitement/fear/love with…my dog.  I was alone, again.  Will had returned from deployment and two weeks later was gone for another two weeks.  He learned he was going to be a father 3,000 miles away from the baby.  

This memory, the mixed emotions of that day and so many others like it, will stay with me forever.  Like many military spouses there is a little bit of sadness in every happy occasion while we were dependents.  The end of our army life doesn’t change the past.  I wouldn’t want to take the army out of our lives but it wasn’t all homecomings and Ranger Balls.  (haha balls)  The people I was now surrounding myself with daily will never understand any of this.  On top of this there was the other thing, the whole reason we were home, the injury. 

If I had a dollar for every, “everything happens for a reason”, “it’s all part of the plan” and “but the good news is that you’re home” I wouldn’t be stuck in a soul sucking job. 

The injury that destroyed the man I married and left me with some unrecognizable shell of a human, someone who wanted to rejoin the world but didn’t know how or was afraid to try.  Looking back on the move, I posted pictures on Facebook and updates of our progress from one coast to the other.  When I look at the video of Addie seeing snow for the first time in West Virginia all I can think of is the look on Will’s face when I told him to stop throwing snowballs at my window because he was about to break it.  The way he morphed into the monster I didn’t know.  How scared I felt as he marched over to me, bracing for impact sure this would be the moment he would finally hit me.  The humiliation as he stuffed snow down my back in anger just to be sure my day of travel would be as uncomfortable as possible.   Driving through tears was nothing new to me by this point on our trip.  That is a story I would never share with my family because that is not the man I married but this is the baggage that I carried across the country with me.

As our life together improves daily I don’t feel bad about almost leaving.  How could anyone stay married when marriage looked like that?  I was in constant fight or flight mode with one priority, my daughters.  I think it’s important for me to keep these memories, I haven’t seen that monster in months, not since he walked up to me and told me that he was sick of being miserable all the time.  It’s like those words killed that monster, much like Dorothy he had the power to go home the whole time but he just had to believe. 

I have let go of the guilt for that period of time.   Everything I did, everything I planned, every thought was done to protect myself and my kids. 

But here we are, a year and a day since returning home.  I always said the first year home would be make or break and it was.  Together we are working on what seems to be the beginning of our happily ever after.  There are still so many things to work on, like any marriage.  I do know that ours needs extra TLC, this is what comes with his injury but we are both committed to being the best versions of ourselves.  

We are far from done but we made it this far – both scarred and changed but we are here.  Together.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014



That is total.  After 100% there can be no more.  Last week a letter came in the mail with Will’s new compensation from the VA and in it were new ratings - he is now considered to be 100% disabled as far as the VA is concerned.  We were pretty shocked, we weren’t expecting this to just randomly show up but there it was.  A split second, a bad judgment, a momentary lapse almost 5 years ago sent a vehicle rolling down a river bank in the middle of nowhere Iraq and left my husband 100% disabled.

Of course the pay is much better; the jump from 90 to 100% is a little ridiculous.  The first check hit 2 days after we got the letter and – well it was nice.  He can’t work, he’s obviously earned this money so I have no guilt in him receiving it but in all honesty I don’t want it.

They can take it back, all of it.  Take back the CRSC and the back pay (well technically, they still have that so I guess they would just keep it).  Take everything back and just give me my husband back.  I used to call him my jester, I want that back.

But we are lucky, he came home.  I never let myself forget how incredibly lucky we are.

Mourning is tricky when the person you are mourning is still alive.  But I am still, after all these years, mourning the man who didn’t come home from that deployment.  The man I didn’t see when we first locked eyes at SeaTac airport.  The Ranger who I sent off not even 2 months before.  I’ve somewhat been at peace with this for a while, the out of nowhere gut punches are fewer and further between than ever but with this new rating they all came back. 

He is never getting better.  Ever. 

Of course I already knew this.  But just like the first time I saw “not fit for duty” on an actual piece of paper this killed me.  I can’t really talk to him about this, that’s the last thing he needs so I am just kind of carrying it around.  I had a hugely ugly/snotty cry in the car last week and if I let my mind wonder it finds these incredibly dark places but I am trying to look at the bright side.  They pay, some tax breaks in my state, some other things.  This new rating is a good thing and he is still the same person he was the day before we got the letter.  
Just like you never really know what being a grown up is supposed to feel like I have no idea how to be the wife of a disabled vet.  Just like I have been doing most of my adult life I will just keep faking it until I make it.