Tuesday, November 8, 2016

We'd Be Better Off Without You (Part one)

I know what you were thinking......
Everything will be OK without you.  

You said it a million times; sometimes more than twice a day. Some days you just told me with no expression  on your face. Other times, you yelled it at me when something didn't go the way you expected it to. Other times it came out, striking me with each spit covered word as they left  your mouth. You used to tell me all the time that I would be fine. The boys....well, they would be so much better off without a dad that didn't give a shit. We had friends who would help, family, I'd have the cars, the house, all your things whether it be old or new and we wouldn't have to worry."You'd be well taken care of and you wouldn't have to put up with my shit anymore. You could live a normal life. Sell all my shit and take off for a long trip. You don't understand. You will be so much better off without me here on this Earth. You all would be so much happier if I wasn't around".
Sometimes I wonder if you really and truly believed that....
Or if it was just something you told yourself to justify the way you were thinking?
 How I wish I could tell you how much better off we are without you here...
But, I can't.
The night you walked away with a gun in your hand was one of the longest nights I can ever remember experiencing in my entire life. I remember being on the phone with the 911 emergency operator and speaking very softly to you from the top of the stairs. I remember trying to cover the bullet holes you shot into the wall with your coat and how my hands shook bad enough that I couldn't grasp the sleeves enough to even move them. I remember never once, leaving your eyes as I whispered "You are home. We will get through this" as I was at the same time trying so desperately to let emergency personnel know you were OK and that we didn't really need them there. I just remember the last time I saw your face which was distorted and at the same time, absolutely crushed at the moment you realized what you had done. I remember staring down at you, my heart breaking as I took in the tears that were flowing. I've seen you break down so many times before but, this....this was so different. You told me you were OK, that we were OK and the last words out of your mouth was "I am so so sorry, Mommy". I looked back up the stairwell to calm the dog and looked back and you were gone.
The police called on the phone. I remember them questioning me, wondering if you were holding us hostage with a gun or were we being held captive? Were you pointing a gun at us? Were you in the house? I replied yes,  you had gone to put the gun up as promised and that you seemed like you were back from whatever dark place you were in. They made me go look for you down in the basement and how my heart shuddered at the thought not just from facing you again but, you had made it so clear that the garage was off limits to us all. I opened up the door and saw the basement door was unlocked and slightly open. You were no where to be found. I remember feeling panicked, wondering where the hell you had gone and the police on the phone didn't believe me. 
They asked me outright if I was lying to them. That it was a crime to harbor or shelter you which I couldn't understand because you weren't some criminal. I remember their tone being so very nasty to me and no matter what I said, they just wouldn't believe me at all. I was then told to gather up our boys and walk outside with our hands above our heads. It was bitterly cold that night and I had no coat on and only slippers. Your boys, just in pajamas with bare feet. I did as I was told but, the rage I had building inside scared me more because we were being treated this way. We stood forever being watched by the police while they searched our home. They went through everything. They tore up our house while we sat outside and watched. They brought in police dogs and made me get something that smelled like you. I remember I kept asking if I could please put my children in the car? We were out there for a while watching as many trampled in and out of our home, tracking in mud and cow manure all over our carpet and floors. I could remember the smell of fear; acrid, and burnt at the same time. It seemed it painted the cold Winter wind that blew through that night.
It seemed like hours had passed and we were so bitterly cold. A police officer was yelling at me asking questions about you. You were deemed right then and there as a "deranged combat vet on the loose". I remember standing tall and telling that man everything I could quickly get in pertaining to your wounds and that something was really wrong with you. When I told him to please let me go look and that you had PTSD and TBI, he said "So?". They didn't care about you. They didn't care about us.
I can't remember much more after that. I can remember that my world shattered, my heart had finally fallen to pieces as I couldn't understand how this man was once your friend. How I had sent many pots of chili, loaves of pumpkin bread and more to feed them when you were working. How if anyone, he could understand what it was like and I began trying to convince him as well as plead for your safety. I remember an older gentleman officer pulling me aside and telling me he would back our car down to the end of the road and he would let us get inside and turn the heat on. I remember crying to him and asking him "please, please that man doesn't care. They won't give him a chance. They will just shoot him". It turned out he was a Vietnam Veteran and he said "we'll do everything we can for him and I know....trust me honey, I do know. I am going to try and get to him first". He was the only one nice to us that evening.
The cops that were there kept looking at us like we were the worst walks of life he had ever seen. It was almost like we could have had a crack house, with sex slaves chained to the wall; running a sweat shop in the basement and they still would not have looked at us with the same disdain. 
I still to this day do not understand.  
As time ticked by, more and more cops showed up. I kept thinking Wow, this is the most policemen I have ever seen in one place in this small town. It was you, they didn't need all these people. They knew you. I desperately scanned the men and mentally checked off the names as I found their faces. I remember being called out of my car and police staying with the kids. I was asked questions about your stability, had you wished to kill anyone, were you a threat to any person in particular. I couldn't believe they would ask me this especially from the ones who knew you. The ones you used to work with, the ones you helped move or the ones you showed up at their family's funerals for in support. I heard a man say at the front of your truck, "if you see him, shoot on site". I remember feeling very weak and that my body just stopped working and it seemed like time just stopped. I remember thinking I suddenly couldn't breathe. I could hear them talking softly to each other and how the words "crazy", "asshole", "fucking war vets are goddamn dangerous" and how those words stung and stabbed every time they made it to my ears. My view on the world changed so drastically that night.
For so many years, I always thought if I lost you....it would be in a fire, bravely rescuing someone and ensuring their safety. It would be in the line of duty when you were on the police force gunned down by a bad guy, and when you went to war......well, I think I felt way before you did you wouldn't be coming back. In 2013, someone hit you head on and took away all the progress you had made. All that hard work...gone. It seems like you just really never got a chance once you came home. I remember desperately trying to stop the bleeding from your head, seeing where your skull had been crushed inward, blood everywhere on my hands and when they flew you by Life Flight, I didn't know then if you would be ok or if my last words to you were enough to show you I loved you. Yes, those scenarios often lurked in the back of a worried wife's mind but, this? 
This.....I couldn't lose you like this. It didn't make sense. 
Minutes turned to hours; they wouldn't tell me anything. We weren't allowed back in our home until early that next morning. They called the home phone every five minutes. They had the SWAT team in places around our neighbors homes, cars alongside the road, and police officers with K-9s. Some weren't even with our local department and I never could figure out why they would come from different cities. I was drawn to the backdoor and there I sat with your service dog. Just positive that you would be walking in at any minute and already searching the memory rolodex and contacts in preparation of your defense. They would call every few minutes on the phone asking me over and over again if you were in our home, if I was hiding you and how I could go to jail for harboring a criminal and how it would  be awful for my boys to see both parents go to jail. They threatened, they tried to see if I wasn't telling the truth by yelling at me to just tell them where you were. I didn't understand that and I kept yelling at them you weren't some common criminal, they knew you and they know you wouldn't hurt anyone. How would I know where you were if I was begging to keep searching? If I opened the door to look out or to let the dogs go outside to use the bathroom, they would instantly call and wonder if I had talked to you, did I know where you were and on it went. It seemed whenever they would call me, there was another call following shortly after asking me who I was talking to on the phone. I couldn't get it through their heads that there were two officers calling me back to back asking who I was talking to. 
Our home looked like a bomb went off. Toy boxes emptied, closets torn up, beds flipped and more. The boys and I spent the time frantically trying to pick things up, put things back in place and clean up the messes. We were familiar with mass cleanups and of hiding. We were absolutely terrified of what was going on. I knew at any minute they would find you and I was ready to go and be there at the jail when you arrived. I wasn't allowed to use either cell or home phone as I was told they were monitoring me and I would go to jail. All I could worry about is you were missing your medications, you didn't have a heavy coat to be out all night in and you never ate your supper. Seems so stupid to admit that I was thinking those things but, I guess it was a way for my mind not to completely shut down. 
A sheriff's deputy had come to the door and my body just went absolutely weak and still. I still remember how my heart was going to come through my chest and explode all over our front porch. He had a file in his hand that was pretty thick as he explained they had a file on you and you were "undependable and dangerous". I kept arguing and shaking my head profusely although he just remained silent and kept lifting that folder as if to say "Lady, I got this file to prove you wrong". He explained to me that they had been having issues with you for months prior to this. How you had been found many many times sitting in your truck, "zoned out" and unresponsive, in a church parking lot facing a cemetery which was less than 3/4 mile from our home. He explained that they were constantly making you leave, telling you that you needed help and I just couldn't believe what he was saying. All I could think to respond was "He is severely afraid of cemeteries. There is no way in hell he would ever do that. He was deathly afraid of being buried, afraid of boxes in the ground and he just wouldn't be there.". But, it was all true. He showed me the reports. How in the world did I miss this? Why would you be in the one place that terrified you the most? Most of all? If this had been happening for months, why had no one come and talked to me about it? I don't know what I would have done but, dammit I would have done what it took to care for you.I remember feeling crushed that you lied to me about tinkering with a friend, and how you must have felt to go to that place. How alone you must have felt and scared....I couldn't understand how we had been through so much shit together and yet, you had once again lied. Why you felt you couldn't tell me you were blacking out so much? Why couldn't you have just talked to me?
I remember your service animal staring out through the back door and there he stayed the whole night and morning with me, waiting for you to come in. He whined incessantly, howled as loud as I can remember hearing it from him and I don't know who was shaking more; me or the dog. I think looking back now, he knew where you were.  I often wonder if his heart broke that night too. At two in the morning, for some strange reason....I felt an empty ache in my heart and my soul just shattered. We sat in fear and watched as armed men in black set up in the neighbors yard with guns pointed towards the back of our home looking out over our neighbors pastures. I kept thinking "Do they really need to set up so many officers for one man? Do they have to do that in my neighbors' yards?" Someone had called again and asked me for the millionth time had I heard from you and I screamed "No, goddammit! If I did, I would tell you. Please just hurry!!!" He replied that they could see you sitting in the pasture under a tree. My heart just stood still as I thought you were ok, everything was going to be ok. I began collecting my purse, looking for documents on a USB drive to take with me and my mind was going in a million circles. The hours ticked by it seemed and I remember how silent everything seemed; the kind of silence that drives you insane. 
I don't remember what time it was when the knock came on the front door. I remember opening it up and finding your buddy, also a recently returned combat Veteran, standing there with his hat in his hands. I know that I looked at him and looked around to see so many more standing on that small front stoop with their heads slightly bowed and hats in their hands. I said "Oh thank God, you found him!" and when my eyes darted back and forth among the faces, your buddy looked at me and said "Honey, he's gone". It didn't register at that second, the tears that were steadily falling down his face, or the way his hands gripped his hat so hard it was shaking. I remember telling him to give me just one second and I only needed to grab my purse and your meds and I would be on the way to the station. He just kept standing there, never moving and I will never forget how he looked at me and said "Honey, he's gone" and how I argued with him that you would be home anytime now and that everything was going to be ok. That you would be so pissed off at the damages done to our home. He just stood there in front of all those people shaking his head softly and saying "Honey, I am so sorry. He's not coming back. He's gone home honey. He's not in pain anymore. God, I am so sorry." I don't know who hurt the most at that moment, Him or Me.
I remember falling on the stairs. I heard a guttural scream that I still don't remember coming from my mouth. They had found your body sitting up against an old tree, in the pasture behind our home; gun still in  your hand, and that you had been there a while. I remember them telling me that the coroner was on his way but, the cause of death was your taking your life with a gun to the temple. I can remember thinking "But, he promised! He promised me he was putting his gun away in the safe and that we would be ok!" I wanted to go to you. I begged to just take me to you, I didn't care what the situation was and they wouldn't let me.
I wanted to run to you. 
I needed to see you. 
I needed.....you to come home. 
It was the one and only thing I ever asked from you. 
Not money, not a roof over my head, not even the ice-cream sundaes that you sometimes brought to me just because....
I just needed you to come home
I was so angry. I was in shock. I still have this numbness and often, my heart begins to pound like it did that night and I break down into tears remembering. I remember sitting in your chair, curled up with your blanket and looking out at the window. Wondering if you were finally at peace.....were you ok? Were you finally out of pain and misery? Was this really what you wanted? It was New Year's Eve and all I could think was how you would laugh in the past when I would say "whatever you are doing at the stroke of midnight, is what you will be doing that year". I always thought going to bed before the ball dropped in NYC would mean that we would forever be lazy that year as that was our norm but, all I could think was "we were being held at gunpoint and somewhere between 12-3, you were alone and looking at that gun."
I can tell you this......
We weren't sighing a breath of relief when they came to my door to tell me they found you. 
There were three of us there that night with you and all I could think about was your best friend.
Was she ok? Would she be ok? Where was she? Would she forgive us?
There wasn't a parade or dancing around because you weren't coming back through the door.
There were no high fives or joyous shouts in celebration
We didn't laugh, smile or thank the good Lord above that you were dead. 
You said we would be happier. 
You said we would be so much better off without you....
You lied. 
Because what we thought was a nightmare that night? 
That was a lie too because what we didn't know then
was the nightmare was just beginning. 
 But, we were so much better off without you........