Thursday, October 6, 2011

"and I dream I saw the bomber death planes riding shotgun in the sky turning into butterflies"

I find the note on Dave's desk and I am startled at the blatant emotion, not his style, red flags jump and scream in front of me.  I have just picked up my mother's ashes at the post office and wiping my eyes I direct my car downtown to the veterans' conference where my husband is waiting for me.  The morning is emotionally charged and it is only just beginning.

I park on the street plunking quarters into the meter and head into the theatre.  A woman with long grey hair is on stage strumming a guitar and she is wearing jeans and Birkenstocks with socks and a tee shirt emblazoned with the American flag.  Post-hippie entertainment and her soulful lyrics take me back to a more innocent age, me with hair I could sit on and lounging around a bonfire at the river's edge, guitars crooning Judy Mitchell tunes.

The panel is here to discuss PTSD.  Included are Jacob, an Afghanistan graduate who passed out during a July 4th celebration his first year back and woke up on a park bench, weeping.  And Miranda, widow to a marine sergeant dismissed by military psychiatrists who said he drank too much caffeine and that's what caused his manic, rocking behavior, his fingernails bitten to bloody stumps.  Miranda heard him cussing and screaming in the master bathroom and opened the door to see no one but her husband staring down the mirror.  Miranda is a nurse and she found him in their backyard.  She thought he was unconscious and as she lifted his head to perform CPR she touched his bare skull, half his head blown away by a self-inflected gunshot wound.

There are medical people here and I am drawn to the psychiatrist, a recent veteran of Mideast Asian persuasion.  When he returned he had unexplainable rages, especially in traffic jams when he would flash back to a roadblock,  bullets raining down on him and his buddies and he did not keep a weapon at home or in the car because he would have used it.  He tells us soldiers' brains exposed to combat show an increased growth in the "fight or flight" response. Like the professional baseball pitcher who over uses his arm the muscle becomes over proportional and over developed and now works against the body, grinding against the bone.  The soldiers become overly hyper vigilant, everything represents threat, the lawn mower not working, the empty cereal box, the unfolded towels. "These guys are trained to solve problems with violence," is his unfortunate message.

It is 1:45 a.m. and I don't know where Dave is. He left hurriedly, saying he needed to be gone, a common occurrence.  The conference has frightened him and he is restless. This is what it's like. 

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