Friday November 27 2015
Waking up at 10:14 a.m.
Irish Oatmeal with Strawberries, Maple Syrup, Cinnamon, and Kefir. Yerba Mate Tea.
I hop in my car and drive down to Goldsboro, North Carolina. It's a nice quick drive. Listening to a podcast about the history of the confederate flag. Listening to The Beatles. Stopping in Emporia for a small lunch: Chic Pea Salad with Bread and Tomatoes, Corn Tortilla Chips with Avocado, and Grapes.
After 3 p.m. I arrive at my dad's house on Joscara Drive. His wife, Patty, went to Honduras for a couple weeks so he's all alone at home. I figured I'd take advantage of having some father-son time with him. He's mowing the grass with his ride-on lawnmower. First thing we do is fix up the basketball goal and shoot around for a little while.
He bought stuffed Salmon from Sam's Club. I help him prepare the Broccoli. We enjoy a delicious dinner at the table. Finishing off with some Sweet Potato Pie that my mom made.
We get into conversation about his time with Desert Storm back in 1990. Within the past year he was diagnosed by the VA with PTSD, not on the extreme spectrum of it though but enough to be considered officially disabled. In general he acts completely normal but there's an under current of anxiety and depression he experiences that causes him to not sleep well and get aggravated easily. I always just passed it off as part of his personality but according to the doctor he's got a form of PTSD. He describes the harsh conditions he had to endure being over there in Yemen in the middle of nowhere desert.
Dad: "I was there when we attacked Iraq the first time. When we attacked Iraq in January. Right after that’s when everything – sirens were going off – they were shootin' scuds. I mean we didn't have any hit where we were but we didn't know. I'd get up and put on my chem gear in the middle of the night two or three times. Wouldn't sleep. I was worried we’re gonna get blown up. They had us taking some kind of pill every day. They gave us a shot. We went out in the middle of the desert – I mean, there was nothing there but a concrete pad. That was it. We built a base, you know, out of tents. All it was was a runway."
Me: "So what was your job there?"
Dad: "I was a 1st sergeant."
Me: "Did you ever go out on the field?"
Dad: "A couple times we went out in the middle of the desert. When the fighter jets would come back they would drop their ordinance before they landed. And we'd go out and blow it up before, you know, we didn't want anybody else to get it. In a Humvee we had C-4, you know, explosives. One day we were out there – it was like four or five of us – and we see these Arabs coming up to us on camels. We didn't know what in the world they were."
He starts laughing in suspense.
Me: "You didn't know if they were friendly or not."
Dad: "They turned out they were okay but we still weren't sure. But we'd blow the stuff out there in the desert."
Dad: "You live in fear. Everything that happens, even in this house – I get worried about everything – I don't care what it is. And when you're in the military you're taught to react right then. Sometimes I get real angry cause that's how you're trained. You're trained to survive. Your reaction is to do something right then. We were trained like that. To react now! I mean, I worry about a lot of stuff – little things that happen around here, man, I get all worked up over it. I think sometimes I take it out on [others]."
According to PTSD symptoms you don't have real close relationships with your family.
Dad: "But you know I don't really have a close relationship with anybody in the family, to be honest with you, if you think about it. I mean, I don't know. That's probably why I don't sleep at night."
I start explaining to him how lucky I am that nothing drastic ever happened to him out there. I mean, he could've died and I could've grown up without a father even around. He tells me he almost went to Vietnam three times but didn't. I might not have even been born if he did.
We walk over to his neighbor Rex's house for a little fire pit gathering. I stay as close as possible without catching fire. The heat makes me sleepy. Meanwhile, the little dog roams the perimeter barking at ghosts in the woods.
"Enjoy it while you can," Rex says to me, referring to the struggles of being a senior.
Back at dad's house. We lounge in the living room. I help him set up Skype so he can chat with his, now official, daughter, Charlotte. His camera driver isn't working on his laptop so I troubleshoot it as best I can but no luck.
Sleep 1:30 a.m.
[i] Images by me.
Posted by James Robert Smith at 4:30 PM