Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Memorial Day

It's funny, looking back I notice that many of my posts regarding my feelings and experiences with post traumatic stress and other Iraqi aftershocks are reflected by wands.

Sometimes they stir up the sentiment and emotion, lying shallow beneath my surface, other times like this, I select them as they so adequately reflect those that have surfaced on their own.

Those are the worst ones, the ones that come of their own accord. Without warning. That's the worse part of PTSD, you don't have any warning, or control over when it happens. You never know whats going to set it off. You think you do, and you shy away from those things. And after you finally conquer the fear of those triggers, you end up tripping over new ones.

Today I took my Priestess out for Sushi, her favorite lunch and her favorite restaurant. It was our own little celebration of her college graduations before the big one tomorrow. She is the first one in her Mom's family to graduate from college so EVERYONE is coming.

We've been going there for years, we know the owner and staff quite well and my daughter even worked there for a while. We have our regular seats, and I've become comfortable there. I don't need to sit with my back to a wall, and monitor everyone's movements, although the urge is still there.

I love the Ninja roll, my usual. It's hot, spicy and messy, but I haven't changed my order in over four years. Its comforting. There is a traditional Japanese greeting that is announced by all the staff every time someone enters the restaurant, my own little warning bell. It too is comforting. I chewed slowly as I watch the man lumber in with his large bulging nylon briefcase. It seemed to cold for the beads of sweat near his ears.

His face was flushed and I remember thinking how out of shape he must be. But more than that, there was something else out of place. I couldn't place it. He excused himself to the restroom as I replayed his entry over and over, my wife's voice echoing in the background. His suit was fancy, expensive, but his watch was a cheap five dollar knockoff. And so was his briefcase.

His briefcase.

It was then that the feeling of absolute terror took me. I put my arm around my wife and hugged her tight. There is a rear exit next to the restroom. I looked at her, so happy, so excited. She was still talking but my heartbeat drowned out her beautiful voice. As I looked down at the briefcase, through my throbbing heartbeat, I swear I could hear the ticking. I remember thinking, she graduates tomorrow, one more day, one more day. I held her tighter, the light and life in her eyes has always been so calming. I told myself it wasn't a bomb, it wasn't a bomb, it wasn't a bomb...

The Sushi chef behind the bar looked at me, looked at the briefcase, looked at the back door and looked at me again. He shared my concern for only a moment before he looked up and smiled at the returning customer. Apparently, the man had a very "close call."

He wasn't the only one.

There is a whole generation of us. you see us everyday and you'd never know, the battles we fought, and how close we came to death over there. While I can recount a handful of thoughts, I cannot express in words, the feeling of almost dying so many times, since I've been home.

Memorial Day is this Monday, and what is remembered lives, remember them.


Gordon said...

Brave post. Brave and extremely enlightening.

Thank you very much for sharing this.

Also congrats to the Priestess!

Connie said...

So true. We become hyper-sensitive to what might be, and that's not easy to live with at times. I never got sent down-range in service (got the shots multiple times though, but kept being shuffled to other positions) but have been overseas as a civilian since my son was a baby. I knew the risks when we went to Pakistan, but... well, the day the nearby church was bombed, I was outside playing in the Embassy courtyard with my baby and a little boy who lived next to us. The unmistakable, too loud, blasts, followed by the Marines announcing 'this is not a drill...' and a terrified Japanese girl (there was a US/Japan softball game going on) running into the compound screaming and crying... I'll never forget, and I wasn't even a member of the church that was hit. We would never have been there. Now, every time there is a bombing, riots, an unexplained bang, or gun fire (still in the middle east, guns are celebratory) my heart tightens and my skin chills... I have to go through my "It's ok, we're ok, this really is a very good place" mantra. I also tell myself that the alternative to thinking too much, would be ignorance and naivete, which I would not want. Let's just hope that 'freezing', followed by 'racing', is good exercise for our hearts.
Congrats again to your wife.
Blessed Memorial day - may we never forget.

Fast Freddie said...

witch doctor Joe, a friend sent me a link to your blog. I am not a pagan or into witch craft but more spiritual than religious. I am a Iraq combat veteran too and I have been having a lot of ptsd issues lately. Its been hard to deal with because I feel like I cant tell anyone because I am still in the army and don't want anyone to think I am a pussy. you know how it is. but your essay really hits center mass with me and it is a weird relief to know I am not alone. Who do you talk to about your ptsd? I would like some more information if possible.

Rangers lead the way!

WitchDoctorJoe said...

Thank you Gordon and Connie.

@Fast Freddie, first of all, I love the name, cause I get the pun. Genius!

I can relate bro, the worst parts of my PTSD were right when I got home. Remember the first time you walked into a grocery store? I cried in the produce section. What made it so much harder was not being able to trust anyone enough to tell them. After all the only ones who would really understand were there with you right. But you cant tell them either.

I dont have any secrets to success bro, my post was about how I still have trouble from time to time. What has helped is this blog, writing it down, somehow gets it out and thats a big help.

If you want, you can talk to me. I am a certified chaplain, so everything we talk about is privileged communication, and I cant and wont violate anything said in confidence, which includes email.