Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Today my mother-in-law was buried next to her "only love" --- my husband's father, who died 32 years ago. "Mamaw" had left specific instructions about her funeral service which were followed to the letter. The service was very simple yet very beautiful. I've never sang Amazing Grace with so much "feeling" before. Not having been blessed with a singing voice, I usually sing very softly -- for the benefit of those around me -- but not today.

My mother-in-law had "suffered" from Alzheimer's disease for five to six years. She'd been a very independent woman until her first symptoms appeared. But what she really suffered from was her family; her own children and grand children. Most families who have had a loved one with Alzheimer's know that most of the suffering is done by the family; the Alzheimer's "sufferer" is usually in a "happy place."

My mother-in-law was a dear, sweet woman. Her faith in God never wavered. She would do anything for anybody in the name of God. In our small town she was known as "that sweet Midge Ross."

We, her family, did not always serve her well. Without bringing skeletons out of the closed, I will say that my mother-in-law was not blessed with "good" children. Her daughter abused her emotionally and financially until the day of her death (March 20, 2008); her son, my husband, put her through "hell" during his addictive years --- before we met. Perhaps worst of all, I abused her by disassociating myself and my family from her daughter's family because of my own set of ideals and standards; my "code of honor," if you will.

When my two sons were in Iraq at the same time in 07, it occurred to me that perhaps it was that "code", those very ideals and standards, my unsuppressable need for justice passed on to my children, that put them in to harm's way. I have always had such a strong sense of right versus wrong, good versus evil; my life has been (figurative, never literally) black or white with NO shades of gray. That's not to say that I have lived any where near a perfect life--- very far from it.

Inherited from my father is my need to give. If I see someone in need, I will stop and try to help them (which really makes my husband angry). If I learn of a financial hardship, I will do what I can to provide resources. On a trip years ago to New York City, I saw a homeless man across the street and tried so hard to give him the 1/2 of my turkey sandwich I had in a to-go box from the "All Star Sports Cafe" on Times Square (his homeless/my extravagance). He didn't want my sandwich. When the family and friends who were with me saw what I was doing they ran across the street to "save me." I just wanted to save the homeless man. Or at least ease his hunger pains.

In my opinion, no one should ever hold themselves up as "better than" anyone else based on their financial status, job, material possessions, the automobile they drive. NO ONE is any better than anyone else -- Period.

Maintaining these standards and ideals has not always served me well. I have burned many bridges because people have violated "my" code. My husband's sister and her family not only violated "my" code, but society's "rules" of decent behavior.

In my mind they became people with whom who I could not allow myself or my (albeit "grown") children to associate (though they make their own decisions). We tried over the years to be examples for this family, we provided financial assistance to them, we "mentored" them, we tolerated as much as we could. We reached a point where "enough was enough."

Yet, I myself violated my own "code" by not spending holidays with my mother-in-laws' family; thus causing her heartache. All she asked of us in the last few years was "to just get along." But too much had been said, done, allowed to happen. Was it worth it for me and mine to stand firm if the result was to deny a sweet old woman a few hours of pleasure with all of her family by her side a few times a year. Probably not. Definitely not. I stand ashamed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sad Times

You all will remember Kayli, Austin's girlfriend before, during and for a short while after his deployment. She's such a sweetie and I felt so bad they didn't stay together. She and I are still in touch and I'm sorry to tell you that Kayli lost her father yesterday.

We had been IM'ing on Sunday and she knew it "wouldn't be long," but he went very quickly early Monday morning. Kayli is relieved that her Dad is no longer suffering and assures me that she and her sister have lots of family and friends to help them out with whatever they need. Kayli was definitely "Daddy's girl." She spent three years attending college in Kansas on a basketball scholarship but went home when her father became ill. He had gotten better and she went back to school Fall 07, only to have to return home at the start of her last semester. She's diligently finishing her classes by e-mail and will graduate in May.

My heart is breaking for her. We talked on the phone yesterday afternoon and for a 22 year old who just lost her father she is handling it remarkably well. She'll still need lots of comfort and strength as she gets accustomed to live without her Dad.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Parental Post Deployment Distress Syndrome

Today was Parade Day in our town. I took the day off to watch the parade with friends I've watched it with for many, many years. Our church youth group always sells "chairs", snacks and drinks in this particular spot to earn money for their summer trips. So many past Parade Days me and my kids were the "workers", though usually one or the other of them were in the parade. It was a bit sad to walk down there by myself, without them.

But worse was when the High School ROTC marched by. As soon as I saw them come in to view I turned my back and said to the two friends I was talking to, "this is going to make me cry." Cry was too mild a word to describe what happened to me. I did cry, heavingly so, and I trembled and became lightheaded. These two friends patted me on the back and said soothing things and it (and the ROTC) passed in just a few minutes.

It is hard to say exactly what about seeing those young people in their Army ROTC uniforms set off this "event." Was it a reminder of the years that Kris and Austin were in the ROTC and that I miss them so much? Was it the reality that some of those cadets would soon be joining the "real" Army and going off to war? Was it just a reminder of the military that got too close to me? Or a longing for my life when all of my children were home and I was Mom?

Most likely it was a combination of all of these and possibly more. "Parental Post Deployment Distress Syndrome" is what it felt like. Not to diminish the very serious PTSD suffered by those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I believe that I, and many mothers who have lived through one or more deployments, also experience residual suffering.

In total, as a mother and a mother-in-law, I have "survived" five deployments; the last with both of my sons in Iraq at the same time. Mothers cannot endure such emotional distress during the deployment(s) and have it just vanish when our children are back safe in the US. We just can't do it. Yes, the fear of impending tragedy goes away as soon as they return. But the experience of living in complete fear for so long leaves emotional scars on all of us.