Friday, May 7, 2010

Saturday, May 1

I'm starting our story from the day his deployment ended. These entries are composed from memory, my journal entries, and the notebook I used to log Jay's unusual behavior.

Busy Day

Jay has been home for a week. He woke up groggy but ready to get going. He hadn't slept well as he kept getting up to check the locks on the doors. A few days before he had installed little alarms on them. They don't connect to anything but just let out a shrill beep whenever the door is open. Normally, people would have these set just at night time. But Jay insists they stay on all day so he knows when the door is open. There is also a setting on the alarm so that instead of a shrill beeping there is a small ding-dong sound. That is our compromise during the day. So now if you come into my home it sounds as if you are walking into the corner market. Welcome! How can I help you today?

Jay and P (our daughter) spent the afternoon removing speakers from the truck to put into my car when Jay gets to feeling better. While they were outside our neighbor struck up a conversation with him. I glanced outside and saw them standing together and smoking. Jay has been very out of it since beginning his medication and I could only imagine what the neighbor must have been thinking since I wasn't there explaining Jay's behavior. Jay appears high or drunk. Very much NOT what is actually happening to him. It turns out that the neighbor is a Vietnam vet who was badly injured in the war and I would later learn as I spoke to him a few days after, his life was saved by a medic. He felt a connection with my medic-husband, maybe even a protectiveness.

Jay decided he wanted to go visit my parents and my brother. My brother lives next door to my parents as does my grandma (Mamaw as we say where I'm from.) I had told my mother to tell everyone what was happening to Jay so that they would be prepared. I explained that it was hard to watch but to act as if everything was ok. They didn't have to ignore that things had changed, but Jay didn't want them to be alarmed. I knew that she did her best but I knew they were all more than shocked when Jay walked thru the door.

My dad is a vet himself. And although he never saw actual combat, he had been deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm and witnessed more than enough destruction. I could tell that he was upset at what was happening to Jay. It tugs at my heart in a good way though. Jay and my dad are VERY different. Dad is very straight-laced: no smoking, drinking, cussing etc. Jay chain smokes now (thanks to his nerves) , has had trouble with alcohol in the past, and cusses like a...well, not a sailor, but like a soldier. He also has a complete sleeve of tattoos on one arm and half of one started on the other. My dad loves country music, my husband is death-metal to the core. They could not be more opposite and it has been obvious ever since Jay and I got together. But now, as Jay is struggling, my dad has opened his arms to him and all differences are irrelevant. They are just two comrades and my dad's heart has gone out to him.

My mother is a saint. She had a brain tumor removed over a decade ago and while she has seemed to recover, she still battles memory loss and confusion at times. She has assured Jay that although she doesn't know exactly what he's going thru, she does know what it feels like to be scatter-brained and lost all the time. She was quick to make Jay feel like he was perfectly normal even though his behavior showed otherwise.

We went up to visit my brother and his wife. My brother, E, and Jay are really good friends. I could tell that E was very upset by what Jay was going thru. Jay's tics were very obvious and his medication had made him very wobbly. He had a great time visiting with E and his wife, S, though. He was joking and almost seemed like his old self. He was plowing thru a box of Swiss Cake Rolls when he had a really bad attack on their kitchen floor. It was scary for everyone but we just sat back and let him finish. I rubbed his back while he gasped and hit his head. It seemed to last forever. But, finally it was over and we all pretended that everything was ok. It took everything I had to not start sobbing right there on the floor.

Jay would have stayed up all night anyway, so it was nice to be around family til around 4am when we finally decided to go back down the street to Mom's house. The thunder and lightning were really terrible and he was so afraid. He was smoking on the porch and just shaking. I begged him to go inside so we could go to bed. He was just so afraid of sleeping. Finally around 5am I was able to get him in the house, get him undressed and into bed. Which of course was actually a blanket on the floor in the living room next to the door. My sister's bed was available since she was out at a friend's. But, just like at home, he needed to be near the door at all times.

Before he fell asleep he told me that my family makes him feel safe. This means alot to me. My family is full of really wonderful people. We are not rich and successful. But we have great character and that means more than anything.

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