Lately, I have been watching as my Marine Parents friends post about their Marines EAS’ing. (End of Active Service) All of them are joyous about this event. Some of them may be skeptical about how things will work out- and rightly so. Our sons left as boys and came back men. Men with scars.
In our group, my son was one of the first to get out. In October 2007, I quietly seized my magnifying glass and started watching his every move. When his three-year marriage fell apart after 6 months out of the Marine’s and he came to stay with me, my scrutiny increased. Oh, I was cool. I practice what I preach. I didn’t tell him what he should or shouldn’t do. I never said pick up your room (I didn’t need to) and his bathroom was always spotless. He smoked but respectfully, outside and away from my sensitive lungs. He drank some beers and sometimes gin. I said nothing. Well- I probably gave him some looks. Those of you who know me… know I would have to give some looks. It was great to have him around- but we both knew- it wouldn’t last long. He needed his privacy. He had been on his own a long time.
I tried not to talk about his time in Iraq. If he mentioned it, I listened. I knew of a few horrific incidents and I didn’t need to know much more than that to understand that he would need time to heal.
He signed up for classes and didn’t care about them at all. He took filler classes in order to get his GI BILL money. He moved to San Francisco to a trendy part of town where he could hang out with other people who like to read, write and solve problems. He found a bar he could go to where no one bugs him. An old people’s bar he says, where they have trivia games and good beer.
I saw some slipping and sliding. He had some bad days. He tried his hardest to be Zen. But, you know, people always mess that up. If I was trying to gauge if he needed help I asked him abstractly. “What do you think Vets need right now?” He knew what I was doing, but somehow it made it easier to talk. He told me what they needed. He said upon their exit, they should be given orders to report to their civilian job in 2 weeks, or a month… and that their civilian job should be sensitive to the needs of a Vet. (VA days, PTSD etc.) (The jobs could be mostly Gov’t jobs at civic centers, state, city, forestry or park & rec. etc. and temporary so people could rotate in/out.) They need to get normal fast.
Nick found the whole job hunting experience demeaning. His infantry training, Security Force training and leadership training didn’t mean anything to the places he thought he should apply. Borders Books didn’t even want to know about his military experience. Preferring he left those four years blank. (At his request, I did get involved in that and they ended up rewriting their applications after I battered them for a year.) “Can you run a cash register?” one of them asked. He pivoted and left. They were too stupid.
Now- August 2010. Almost three years later. I see healing. Oh, I know he may still have bad days from time to time. But a couple of weeks ago he text me to tell me that he was in a crappy mood, he didn’t want to talk to anyone, but was thinking about me, and wanted me to know that he loves me. I already know that- but the progressive part of this was he was letting me know he was going underground for a day or two- so I wouldn’t have to worry. That was good.
Tonight he called and said that he was listening to a Willie Nelson album and thinking of me. I told him I blasted Willie Nelson to him while I was pregnant with him, but he remembered it from later when I drove my old ‘78 Nova back and forth to his Dad’s to get him and bring him the 50 miles back to my house- and we listened to Willie Nelson & Leon Redbone full blast -all the time. (Maybe this is how I lost my hearing? )
He told me that got signed up for his classes at San Francisco State University. He got the classes he wanted and he sounded happy. Now happy is what I have been waiting for. I’m happy now too. He also said he was getting organized- with an actual organizer. Wow, I said. Maybe you could help me get organized.
Sometimes life is two steps forward and three back. But, I have a feeling my kid has actually turned some corner here. The only thing that will make me happier is when the rest of my friends can say- Welcome Home Marine- put your civilian clothes on and just take your time unwinding.