No one told me this would happen, but it did. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a part of post-military life that no one ever really talked about. I never anticipated this. But I suddenly found myself crying, and that’s when I realized what I was battling . . .
My parents and I were getting ready to walk into a magical, olden-time Christmas village. I was pushing my stroller, with our infant son snuggled up inside. It was cold and snowy – the perfect time to visit the Christmas village. This was a tradition. We loved always coming here, and I was excited to be joining my family for the tradition again!
I pulled out my camera and was ready to start snapping pictures when a bright red, “no card in camera,” message blinked back at me.
Tears welled up in my eyes and a heavy cloud filled my chest. With a lump in my throat and trying to keep my tears at bay, I said out loud, “The camera card is not in my camera.”
“It’s okay, Lydia. You can use my camera,” my dad replied.
Rationality left me, and I lost it. Tears erupted down my cheeks, as a panicked feeling overtook me. Continue reading →
As I reflect on this past year and all that has happened, there has been a multitude of highs and lows. Big things are playing out in our family’s life right now, but the one that has topped the charts was welcoming my husband home from deployment!
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“Mommy, why does daddy have to work for so long? Why can’t he come back?”
A lump caught in my throat as I bit my lip to fight the tears that threatened to spill out. There was no denying it had been a rough day for us. Daddy was already gone for several months, and we were still waiting for the end to be in sight. That day was particularly rough for all of us, and my 3-year old son was just expressing his desire for daddy to return from deployment.
He didn’t understand why daddy had to be gone for so long.
I continued to stroke his hair while his head laid in my lap.
“Daddy just has a very special job, buddy, and he can’t come home until it’s finished. But, I know he thinks about you every single day and he can’t wait to give you a great big bear hug!”
“Yeah,” he smiled. I could still hear the pain in his voice.
I gripped the steering wheel as if it was my one and only lifeline. Hot, angry, hurt tears made trails on my cheeks as I watched the radio clock tick another minute.
Midnight. 12 a.m.
It was a new day, but I felt as though it was a night that was going to linger endlessly and never take the pain away. Our one year old son (our only child at the time) slept peacefully in his car seat, clueless of what was going on.
Clueless. Oh, how I wanted to be clueless of the man my husband had become. I wanted to be clueless of the fact that the man who returned from Afghanistan was not the same man I had tearfully kissed goodbye several months back.
I noticed it that ride home after our initially joyful reunion. The man sitting next to me had changed. He had become a stranger, despite the countless letters we wrote during the deployment.
As the months went by, I noticed how different he’d become. He struggled with his belief in God. He became angry and distant. He grew stressed. His fuse drew shorter and shorter, and he became all too familiar with the taste of alcohol.
I found myself praying every morning; praying that we would have a good day that day. That I would be able to reach through the shell of the man I had married.
He never became abusive. He was just angry . . . all the time. He said things I knew he didn’t truly mean. But, I was weary. I watched the man I loved so much deteriorate before my eyes. I felt as though I didn’t even know him anymore.
Then, we found out we were pregnant with our second baby. I was terrified. I did not want to bring another baby into this. I did not want our children to suffer with a father who was slowly becoming an alcoholic.
I released the grip of the steering wheel to pick up my cell phone. I paused as I listened for the voice of my mother-in-law.
“Mom? I can’t. I can’t do this anymore. Evan got drunk again and we fought, and it was awful. I left. I have Ian in the car, and we’re sitting in the Walmart parking lot. I’m prepared to just drive right now and leave. We might be at your house tomorrow.”
I was serious. I was ready to leave without even saying goodbye. I wasn’t thinking divorce. I just wanted to get away; for us to take a break from each other. My husband needed help, but I didn’t know how to help him.
Then, my mother-in-law surprised me.
“Lydia, you know that dad and I will be here to welcome you with open arms if you decide to leave. But, is this really what you want? Are you sure you’re ready to throw in the towel just yet? Leaving might make him wake up to what he’s doing, but it also might not be the best solution. If you can work through it, don’t give up just yet.”
I cried. No, sobbed. I didn’t want to leave, but I also didn’t want to stay. I didn’t want another night of alcohol, another night of fighting that would just leave me full of hurt and praying for the man I originally married to come back.
I put the car into drive and found myself on the dimly lit road back to our home. Continue reading →