Somewhere in the night, I found my heart, wrapped around a bedpost in the dark. Screaming in the gray abysmal predawn light, my father has fallen through the the ether of his nightmares. He cannot find his way back without my guidance. I have been through this before, the initial terror, the realization of what is happening, the rush out of bed, the gentle brush of my hand on my father’s cheeks. Slowly, his breathing evens out, his eyes open. I know he’s not actually awake. In the morning, he won’t remember a thing, not even the terror. He’s laying diagonally, with his feet off the bed, his pillows on the floor. Tomorrow, he will attribute his aches, pains and exhaustion to the cats keeping him up all night. It may be kinder to let him believe it.
I manage to settle my father back into bed, his pillows beneath his head, his feet tucked in upon the sheets. I shuffle back to my room where my heart is wrapped around the bedpost, knotted and impossible to untangle. This is not the proud, strong man who raised me, who never cried, who kissed my boo-boos and could fix anything. I swallow a lump of shame at these thoughts, because I know I am being unfair. This is the same man and he is just as strong. I know how much he had to hide from my brother and I when we were kids, why he never dated or remarried, why he threw himself so hard into work and why he was so strict with us. He is the same man, but his walls have fallen; he has lost his camouflage.
There will be no sleep for me. My mind has become tangled up with my heart. So many thoughts ping inside my head; so many emotions swell inside me: hope, fear, love, sadness… As morning comes, I select my only option: resignation. This is the hand my father has been dealt. We will work through it together. My father is as stoic as ever; he’s a man that never gives up the good fight. I can do no less. He’s my dad and I love him.
- Healing PTSD: A Family’s Experience with War and Recovery (ducttapeandbubblegum.com)