As I write this it has been 1 year, 2 months, and 22 days since we started talking on Skype.
What a journey we have been on in this very short time.
When we met I had only been living on my own for four months. This was a big step for someone who had married at 16 and never lived alone. Almost 11 years of not having to depend solely on myself was a difficult habit to unlearn but I was determined that I’d never be so codependent again. And although it would be dreadful to live without you - loving you has taught me more independence than I could have ever learned on my own.
When we met it had only been a month since you drove out from North Dakota and were living in your 24 foot fifth wheel on a beachside campground so you could be closer to your kids.
When we talked on Skype on Halloween night 2011 - my first thought was that you had the nicest face. I trusted your face immediately.
It was a gamble for me to get on a train six days later to visit a stranger but I never make decisions where I don’t trust myself. I told one friend who lived nearby you, where I would be.
When I got off the train and hugged you for the first time, you felt so soft and cuddly. You felt comfortable and safe and although I was nervous that you wouldn’t like me - I never felt unsafe as I climbed into your truck.
When you pulled over at the Beaver Boat Ramp to turn on my air bag and you kissed me - I wanted so badly to keep kissing you. The dark hour long drive back to your oceanside retreat was fantastic. We talked as if we were old friends and electricity jumped between us as our hands brushed and eventually embraced. It was exciting and exhilarating in the way that only falling in love is.
When we finally made it back to your place we couldn’t stop kissing. The evening was amazing and mind blowing. I questioned myself only once briefly but decided this was all too good to think too hard about. It was beautiful and passionate.
You showed me your scars. You let me touch them. I heard the shame you felt in your voice. I kissed each of them softly and told you I didn’t find them ugly at all.
The next day we walked hand in hand along a cliff overlooking the ocean and although we barely knew one another; without noticing the almost absurdity of it - made plans to return there in the summer.
It wasn’t too much later that you told me you had PTSD. As you explained the severity to me over the phone, I cried as silently as I could as I listened to the heartbreak in your voice. I didn’t have a good understanding of PTSD but since you had already taken it upon yourself to read and learn about polyamory which is important to me - that gave me the idea that I should learn about PTSD. So that is what I did. I started reading and learning and I still haven’t stopped.
For the next month we saw each other almost every weekend and then some. You surprised me, I surprised you. You brought candles, you sang to me, you danced in my living room with me, and your presence stole all of the oxygen in the room. The line between reality and dreamland got very fuzzy. Every time we parted ways it was more difficult than the last. Never knowing when we would be able to see each other again.
The longest we were apart was nine grueling days before Thanksgiving. Both our first Thanksgiving without our kids but at least we were together.
Not too long afterwards you tried to run away. You told me that you were too messed up and I should walk away. I told you that was stupidest thing you had ever said to me.
Exactly a month from when we met in person your world fell into disrepair and you had no one else to turn to. Panic was in your voice as you told me you had nothing left to live on after your card had been stolen.
Without thinking twice I told you to come stay with me. You had met my children the previous weekend and they were absolutely smitten with you. I told you I would help you and that we could figure this out.
So you came to stay with me and Madison. You changed our world. Suddenly we had a man in our lives who wanted to spend time with us. Who cared what we did and that we all sat down to dinner together. By the end of the first week I knew I never wanted you to leave.
But you were broken. Not even one year prior you had woken up in a hospital following one of your many surgeries to a balloon with a note tied to it from your now second ex-wife; telling you she was leaving and taking your kids. Well over a thousand miles away she took them.
Your kids, your reason for living... your inspiration, your heart and soul were ripped out of your life with absolutely no notice.
Moving in with me meant being hundreds of miles away from them when just two months prior you had sold as much of your belongings as you could and driven over a thousand miles so you could be less than fifty from them. But she wouldn’t let you see them when you were that close, what difference did it make that you were a few hundred miles away when the risk to staying was ending up homeless; you reasoned.
Hell followed close behind though as the anxiety and stress accumulated from her never ending lies; complicating the simplest tasks.
In the end she got her wish of never having to feel like the mother of a wounded soldier again. No longer will she be burdened with caring for you.
Perhaps she could never accept that the man who went to war was not the man that came home. This is not uncommon but either way she punishes you and your poor children to this day for her own pain that she cannot handle. The pain she causes radiates to everyone who loves you and them.
I guess I’m lucky. I have known you are broken from almost the beginning. I have known that one day you will be wheelchair bound. I have known that your wounds will never completely heal. As Plato said - “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
It is my honor though to walk alongside you, learn from you, and grow as individual because of the insight I am given in this position as your partner, caregiver, and advocate.
We spent a bittersweet first Christmas with my children. You sobbed big crocodile tears for your little ones that you missed so much and weren’t even allowed to speak to on the phone. I thought you might die of a broken heart.
Somehow we made it through to the new year though but spent January battling the lies and bullshit. Still we had moments of extreme pleasure and extreme hell.
Our first Valentines Day together was amazing. My doctor had just told us that my blood pressure was out of control so you took it upon yourself to make the madness stop. You surprised me with the best Valentines Day I had ever had. I will never forget it.
A few days later in the wee hours of the morning I brought you a little cake with a lit candle for your daughter’s 7th birthday. I held you in my arms as you sobbed.
It took a few months but as time went on it became easier and easier to let go of the anxiety.
We enjoyed each other’s company and spent a lot of quality time together. I felt so loved and fulfilled.
My children were able to feel loved and supported in the still difficult time because of you. They both continually express gratefulness for your presence in their lives even though we all had to come through a divorce to get here.
I had told you at some point that one day when I was in a better place I was going to have a baby, probably on my own but it was on my to do list. You surprised the shit out of me by telling me that you wanted to have a baby with me. That changed all of my dreams around.
It wasn’t too much later that without even thinking or talking about it - we started trying. The first time we knew it didn’t work we both realized how bummed we were and talked about it for real. Sure that it would take us a year or longer - we had a lot of fun in the making. Although it felt like an eternity it was only three or four months later that we got our wish. Right around the 4th of July - we conceived a baby of our own.
By that time - I was already deep into my roll as your caregiver. I lived and breathed PTSD land. I used all of my skills to manage your many health issues, doctors, and medications. As many of your stresses and issues compiled the year seemed to carry on even longer.
Your demons we battled brought us to the edge more than once.
Just this past Christmas I wasn’t sure if you were going to make it but you have surprised me by seizing the opportunity to utilize the help that is in front of you.
The extreme anxiety I felt just a few a weeks ago is almost a distant memory. I have hope because you are determined not let PTSD win. I have hope because you are determined to take your life back. I have hope because you have in this short time, shared more truths with me. I have hope because each time we reunite - you rebuild the trust bit by bit. I know that one day I’ll be able to stop worrying that you will leave or die.
You live with demons that the average person could not handle. You live with never ending physical pain. You live with the knowledge that your children’s lives will never be the same because of a few lies that a court room judge never even bothered to have investigated.
None of the people who have fucked you over and nor those who have believed the lies and bullshit could survive for one day in your shoes. They will get theirs. Just wait baby.
I have struggled with my insecurities. I have struggled with yours. I have struggled to make sense of the craziness that is our life as a blended and broken family.
I have struggled with my demons and with yours. I have struggled with my pain and with yours.
I struggle with a system that feigns its concern for you and every other Veteran in this nation.
I struggle with an invisible wall between me and the rest of the world who doesn’t live in PTSD land. So few willing to poke their heads just around the glass to see what it is their self elected politicians have allowed to happen to the souls that they send off to war in the name of “Freedom” and “Security”.
When I weigh these struggles this is what I find.
You make it all worth it. I can’t imagine my life any other way.
You are strong.
You are brave.
You continue to be loving, kind, and caring.
You continue to love with your whole heart.
You continue to sweep me off my feet.
You continue to fill up my love tank.
You helped me to find my passion.
You helped me to find purpose and meaning.
Although this is nowhere near where I thought I would be now - I can’t imagine my life any other way.
I will continue to care for you. I will continue to advocate for you. I will continue to fight for you. Not because you are perfect or blameless but because you are a good man down to your core. I see it in your eyes. I see it in the eyes of every little child that wanders up and starts talking to you. I see it in the eyes of every animal that trusts you. I hear it in my daughter’s voice when she tells me how much she loves you and how grateful she is to have you.
No one is perfect and few people could go through what you have been through and become the kind of man that you are. Whenever you talk to a stranger I wonder if they realize what an amazing person they just had the good fortune of interacting with. I often wonder if your friends know how lucky to have you as a friend.
*Late edit: Yesterday you were kind, patient, loving, attentive, and protective as I gave birth to our baby girl. You held me as I sobbed and touched me continuously as I needed. You were amazing in every way. I couldn't have gone through the most difficult birth I have ever had - without you by my side. Thank you for this wonderful Valentines Day gift.
Submitted By: Maria E.
This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.