Sunday, March 1, 2015

Veterans who never come home

Veterans who never come home.  No, not those who are killed but those who die in spirit and personality.  Those who return in the flesh, but who never fully return to their former civilian lives.  Those who have left their minds in the war zones, and their spirits have become disheartened.  Seeing people killed on a regular basis is not something the human brain can fully wrap around.  Seeing people who suffer, or may be tortured, or may be children, old people and civilians who did nothing to deserve death or torture, takes its toll on any human mind and is forever burned into memory.  

At 20 years old, what do any of us know about life?  Certainly not I, a young woman living in a small town.  A woman raised by her grandparents, raised 'old school' raised in a sheltered environment.  My grandparents grew up during the Depression and when the 1960's rolled around, they had a difficult time with what looked to them, like the youth and the world had gone completely mad.  Young people were adopting new norms and casting off the old ones their parents and grandparents had known and embraced for so long.  Hard for the older generation to comprehend.  The adults were certain that America's youth were spoiled rotten and had lost their minds completely and thoroughly.

Tough times for young people too.  Many new rules were put in place to keep us in place because adults felt rules were the only weapon they had to make us toe the mark.  Places such as schools were having a hard time embracing the new thinking and piled more rules onto the already long list of rules.  Rules like: Guys who had hair touching their collars would be sent home until they got a more 'reasonable' haircut.  Girls could not wear skirts or dresses that did not touch the floor when on their knees (I kid you not) or they too would be sent home to lower the hemlines.

Girls were beginning to want more from the world they felt was 'sexist' and decided to attend collage in droves, taking courses they actually intended to use in the workplace once they had a high school diploma.  But small town schools did not keep up so well with the new ideas.  I remember going to see the guidance counselor who, of course, was a guy, just before graduation.  I remember him telling me: "Well, looking for a career is probably a waste of time.  You, like most young women, will probably just get married and have some kids anyway."  I was dumbfounded,  any ideas of further education shot down before I even got started.  Having been sheltered as the youngest in the family, I wasn't trained to open my mouth and argue with him.  I felt disheartened. That was a sign of the times.  

My grandparents, who adopted me, were growing older.  The biggest thing on their minds was to 'marry the youngest child off.'  It was all they talked about and they never fathomed a woman could be single and take care of herself.  So the first guy who was nice to me, after high school, was on their radar sights to marry me off to.  I had wanted to attend airline stewardess school, but my parents discouraged me with 'we could never afford that' talk.  They knew nothing about financial aid and the guidance certainly never talked about it since he did not encourage women getting any further education.  So, right after high school, my parents convinced me to get a job and a car, for the short time I would be single.

Come to find out, the guy they were pressing me to marry would become my worst nightmare.  He was abusive and a narcissistic psychopath.  He was suffering from PTSD but what does a woman at the ripe old age of 20 know about that?  For years and years my family went through a living hell, but after all, you cannot get anyone help for a condition that supposedly 'does not exist.'  As a young woman, I began to wonder if it was me who had the problem, since he would point out it must be me with every abusive statement from his lips.  

After marriage, we moved to the small area of Yates County, near Penn Yan, NY where his job was.  From the get go, the nightmare never let up.  We constantly walked on egg shells and for a long time, covered up the shame of physical and verbal abuse.

Small towns, such as Penn Yan, offered no help in those days because the Sheriff's department in small towns was a 'good ole boy'  from way back.  My husband worked on all their cars and, what was I accusing him of; how in hell could this nice man be abusive?  So whenever I did call for help, I got a constant barrage of 'well, what did you do to set him off?'  They refused to arrest him, but then, they did not live at my house.  He was always able to pull it together long enough at work to appear to be a nice guy