Monday, May 28, 2007
Memorial Day tears~
Last night my husband Bruce and I sat on the patio at dusk, rehashing the day.
It had been beautiful. The weather cooperated for our son's high school graduation, which was a milestone for me, as well as David. He's the youngest. I'll have an empty nest, temporarily at least, when he's away at college. I think this will be fine. I've looked forward to it, but still . . .
"Are we going to the parade tomorrow?" I'd asked Bruce. Tomorrow was Memorial Day.
"I suppose," he said.
I mentioned that there would be a ceremony at each of the cemeteries in town. Taps would be played in honor of the dead who'd served our country in war.
"That would be tough for me," he said.
"It would be too emotional?" I asked, tentatively.
He'd been a Captain in the Marines. He was going to get drafted, so he signed on to become an officer. He was sent to Vienam after OCS at Quantico, in Virginia. Then, Camp Le Jeune after Nam. I really don't know much more than that.
He came home in 1968. I was in still in high school. We didn't know each other then. We met twenty-four years later. He would never talk about Vietnam. But he teared up watching war movies.
I tried to get him to talk. I felt shut out. What had happened? What was it like? How could he not share with me? I loved him. I would never hurt him. I could share his pain.
He wouldn't talk.
I let him be. For years.
But this night he seemed open. So I asked what it was that made it so difficult after all these years, not just for him, but for so many other veterans to speak of the past.
This is when the grenade split the air between us. My husband accused me of tossing it, but I didn't even know I'd held it, let alone pulled the pin.
This is a subject that stays buried. I need to understand. I can't ask questions. He won't answer. It isn't that he doesn't trust me to be gentle. Yes, it might help if he talked, but he won't. He stormed into the house.
I sat alone. He had every right to keep his experience to himself, but I felt hurt. Shut out. His hurt was bigger though; I'd swallow mine. What choice did I have, anyway?
In a while, he returned and spoke haltingly of learning that survival meant making decisions, quick ones, life or death ones. He said sometimes those decisions were made "for the greater good." Those who couldn't make decisions got their men killed. He said he was in charge of his men, it was his responsibility to bring them through alive. But some didn't make it.
We sat silently watching the goldfinch at the feeder. I changed the subject.
Today we went to the town common for a simple Memorial Day ceremony. We stood with others in front of the memorial with names of local men who'd died in war from WWI to Vietnam. It was one of many ceremonies being held across the nation. Dignitaries spoke. Veterans spoke. There was a gun salute, and a bugler.
I stood beside Bruce. He'd begun wiping silent tears long before the bugle blew taps. I put my arm around him, grateful that his name was not on the monument. I hoped some of his pain drained with each tear. That was all I could do.