HAPPY HOLIDAYS INDEED

I was making plans for a special dinner. A memory from years ago began to run through my mind like a short film. Not a happy fun film, but one that my former husband starred in.

He saved his outbursts for holiday dinners. Special dinners, that took planning, nice china, silver, candles, and flowers. In other words, thoughtful and time-consuming. We would even change from our jeans and sweatshirts to enjoy the special evening.

The first outburst occurred on our first Thanksgiving in Virginia, having moved there upon his return from Vietnam. Our son was just three and fortunately not ready to sit through a fancy meal. After several bites, he angrily touched on every negative subject he could think of. He had sustained serious head injuries in Vietnam in 1967 and spent time hospitalized in the Philippines, Japan, and finally had been medivaced to Fort Lewis, Washington. He recovered well enough to be reassigned to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C, When the next Thanksgiving rolled around, I was not anticipating a rerun of the first outburst, in fact, I had put the incident out of my mind.

Alas, this was not to be, and I asked myself, how stupid can you get? My son now understood big words. I tried to direct the outburst in another direction or shut him up, but he was on a roll. Without acting crazy and calling more attention to myself, I calmly started clearing the dishes, quietly seething from a wasted evening.

After our daughter joined the family, the outbursts began to subside. I’ll never understand why they began in the first place; however, as I look back, I wish I had thought to question the surgeons about his long-term prognosis. However, I’m not sure even they knew. For instance, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was not officially recognized until 1980.

I do believe that his Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) affected his actions, his personality, and his thinking. TBI doesn’t improve with time. He recovered physically enough to advance from captain to lieutenant colonel and then transitioned into civilian life with success.

Until the fateful night when he said, “I’m divorcing you,” and the subject of divorce took over my life, I had no idea he had been fooling around behind my back.

One trait that he excelled at was being a prevaricator, a master at not being able to tell the truth. He had put money from his salary into a personal account. He lied about going to evening meetings or his company sponsoring a trade show over the weekend. His company did not sell products shown at trade shows. On one night when he was supposed to be attending a college course, I found a credit card slip that showed he had been at a seedy motel thirty miles from the college. This is just one example. To list them all would require an entire page.

Questioning him was not an option as he would deny, deny, deny. I wish I had some helpful advice to share about how I handled his deceitful personality. I did question him from time to time, but he would look at me with his head slightly cocked and then say, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” So, I showed him his bank statement. His response? “The bank made a mistake!”

It crossed my mind more than once to divorce him, however having accepted his divorce ultimatum, I could have come away far worse had I initiated the process myself.

Nancy

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