Well, it does appear that I am back in the saddle as it were. Two weeks home on R&R leave a week of travel to and fro, and a wee bout of the B’dad blast and I am back at it. There was no greater joy than packing my kit on the 2nd of April to go on leave. There was no bigger dip in my motivation than on the 20th when I packed to come back. When we lifted off from
I used to hate Texas, with a passion. Not for any real reason, other than I was stuck there a few times for training, and I once lost a girlfriend there. Long story, for another time…
Yet when we finally cleared customs there was about 80 people there to great us. There was plenty of cheering, whooping and hollering, offering hugs and handshakes plenty of back patting, and a few kisses from some grandmother types. Some of the soldiers made a spectacle and kissed the ground, kind of annoying as most of us had been gone from less than 90 days, but if they wanted to kiss the crud from the shoes of others, so be it. As for me, I just wanted to get out of the airport out of uniform and on another plane for Los Angeles. I traveled with SGT Monkey, (his nickname) neither of us cracked a smile until we got to the doors of the terminal and a gentleman handed us two ice-cold Coors silver bullets. It was the first real smile I’ve had in nearly 2 months. Taking it from his hand, I smiled at him and for the first time in nearly 10 years, I meant it when I said “God bless Texas!” SGT Monkey and I had 2, and I was just about drunk, when the bus pulled up to take us our terminal for our departing flight. My uncle was there waiting for me, and his new bride. She was nothing like I’d pictured my dear Uncle marrying. She was simply stunning, and reserved. First block checked (beer), second block checked (see uncle in Texas). We had a quick lunch and I boarded another jet airliner. I tried to listen to the song God’s Grace on the plan as we entered CA airspace, but I just couldn’t, the words hit me lit a sledge hammer. So, instead I listened to Going to California by Zeppelin instead, it was enough to again allow a smile to creep across my face. An agonizing three hours later I landed at LAX, quite a different atmosphere there. But then again it was LA. I few people patted me on the back, and said welcome home. A lady stopped me and as she choked back a few tears she said thank you. There was a story there that is all to familiar to me, but that is between her and me.
I finally got to baggage claim and was walking so briskly I almost didn’t notice my wife standing there. That woman just slays me, each time I see her I fall in love all over again. The kiss was, well it was cause to smile. Stepping out in to the fresh air of home was just the best, and then we hit traffic. First bout of slight PTSD, being in traffic unarmed was a little troubling. I felt boxed in, and claustrophobia set in at once. The ringing in my ears was nearly immediate, and my heart began to leap into my throat. I tried to tell myself to relax, but that was not possible so soon after landing. I guess my anxiety was apparent to my wife, she placed a hand on mine and I felt myself relax. That woman just slays me. We dropped off my bags at home and I changed (block 4 checked). We then drove to my sister-in-laws home to drop off our dog. I missed that dog so much. She is like a child to DJ and me. My In-laws were there Mother, Sister (older), Sister (younger), & Brother. Father-in-law is in Israel. Always such a joy visiting the in-laws, as I am not a Jew, the parents in-law just love me. I initially was hurt by this reaction, and then about 5 minutes later I stopped caring. I love my wife she loves me, and that is all that matters. After we picked up the dog, we went home and I collapsed on the couch and held onto my wife like there was no tomorrow. This moment still lingers in my mind, for I truly felt like an adult, I understood love, I understood commitment, I understood what it meant to care so deeply for an ideal so intangible as the bond between a man and a women who are married, I held her until I fell asleep, a deep dreamless peace. It was wonderful.
The next day we had to depart for St Louis, it was time to go and see my parents. I used to hate St Louis second only to Texas (I grew up there and had an angry and lonely childhood, and my teen-aged years were rough). When I got off the plane I felt at home, like something that had lingered over me was now gone. Standing there with DJ, I was finally able to let my anger go. My parents were just wonderful to her. Accepting, and loving, and glad to have a new addition to the family, my little sister loves her to no end, and my mother has another daughter. It was good to see my dad as well, (this was not the house I grew up in, but strangely it still felt like home). We had a huge meal, and talked and laughed for hours. I tried to consume more than three beers, and although the mind was willing the body said no. Again sleep came, and I embraced it. Again peace.
The next morning DJ and I set out for Illinois to see my Grandparents, I had not seen them in nearly 3 years, it was a visit that was long over due. DJ, lost her grandparents years ago, and I was especially excited for her to meet my Grandmother, they got along famously, and I was happy to see them talk as if they’d been acquainted for years. I missed them terribly over the last few years, but with Officer Candidate School, Intel Officers Basic Course, and of course being here, visits to the family have been impossible. We were only able to stay for a couple of hours but happily I was able to see them. As we were leaving Grandpa, went to his safe, and Grandma to hers, they both handed my a stack of money and said to have a nice dinner with my wife. This was simply hilarious to me, when I was a kid, I’d get a $20 and think I’d hit pay dirt. Now I was an officer, and steadily employed, and they were giving me money. I tried to protest, but they weren’t having it, I have such affection for them, I miss them terribly. We departed after lunch, and DJ and I headed back to St Louis, passing by and through St Louis Union Station, we headed in to Chesterfield for dinner with a family that is also very near and dear to my heart.
The KR’s, the mother Elaine has been like a mother to me most of my adult life, she took me in as a teenager when I left home, she was a saint. I recall at one time there were 5 teenagers living there her two, and 3 not her own. 3 lost teens that she took into her home, clothed, fed, and nurtured. I can honestly say without this woman’s intervention in my late teens I would not be where I am now in life. Her son Lou has been like a brother to me for nearly 20 years. Karen, Lou’s sister like a sister to me for just as long. It is strange for me now to reflect upon these things. Things that I have not remembered, or pondered for so very long, being in that house I was bombarded with fond memories of closeness and family that I didn’t have with my own at those fragile years of my youth. Being there with DJ, again helped me forgive and let go of so much of my anger.
The KR’s embraced DJ, as they had me so many years ago, Lou and his wife have two young boys, and Karen has a new born of her own not, and so Elaine (mom) looked at me and asked what all mothers ask of their children (real and adopted), she asked when we were having children. Translation, when would she have another grand-baby to spoil? Again I felt peace, and another block checked. After leaving I felt as if more of my past had been let go, and my mood was light. In just 48 hours of being in St Louis, I’d managed to forgive the past slights against me, forget the misery of my youth, and forgive myself for being so angry for so long. In just 48 hours I felt a change in myself I never thought possible. I felt free of the burden of my past.
More to follow…