by PJ Feliz
I will kiss you this once, with you knowing that I love you
and then…I will let you go
I’d managed to successfully eradicate most of the major holidays from my life over the last nine years, except for Christmas.
My daughter refused to give up this last tradition based on the grounds she wasn’t about to, “Let me destroy both our memories of her childhood just because some of them were unpleasant”.
Those words bore into my psyche, and I muddled them about, worrying that perhaps I’d been a bit too transparent in my personal endeavors to cauterize my emotions.
What the hell would she have done with the knowledge that I’d been about one quarter toss away from requesting a lobotomy? I’d recanted in favor of a holiday purge, telling myself this would suffice since surgery, and its sidekick rehab, sucked infinitely.
I really thought this decision would stand up to Sammy’s hawk-like scrutiny better than telling her I was going to let a mad doctor scramble my brains about with a rusty spoon, and for the most part it did.
However, when she leveled her laser-beam eyes on me, as if to say, “Stop fucking with my life because you can’t control yours” I realized that I’d seriously miscalculated her military brat super powers or my drinking habit had seriously taken too many of my brain cells hostage.
Taking a deep breath I pushed the rest of the conversation away for another time and walked to the kitchen to grab another beer.
I sat back down in my reading chair feeling the old memories lap against my brain begging entry into my reality. I hesitated knowing that when I opened the door, the emotional current would swoosh in to drown me with all the pain and loss from bygone days.
I decided to crack open the door and try my best to control the turmoil inside. It worked for the first few minutes, but then chaos doesn’t play well with others.
The memories began slowly—images of her father and me, our dual military careers, and the wonderful countries I’d traveled to and the bases where we’d lived.
But when the next wave hit, it crashed into me with the violence I’d been anticipating. I sighed and let the fear, guilt and anger course through me ripping open old wounds and waking the hidden scars.
My daughter’s missed birthdays and holidays caused by deployments, military exercises and training classes paraded through my brain as the bone-deep sadness gripped my soul.
Sometimes memories are the worst form of torture.
The images surrounding my marriage bled across the silver screen in my head, betrayals and lies from both of us spread across the time and distance of thirteen years culminating in another military divorce statistic.
While my ex and I were globetrotting, Sammy had lost her only set of grandparents which caused a huge rift between me and my older brother and Sammy’s family shrank once again as we were denied contact with her only cousin, Noah—and her world began to silently implode.
The horrors of that time paraded through my brain with fanfare and fireworks for my excessive drinking, depression and anxiety disorders while my only child withdrew into the fears and insecurities she earned as a young child and carried into her early teens.
She’ll be fine, children are the definition of resiliency.
When my divorce was final, I deployed as a single parent, without regard to her life once again, because mine was more important—and in my head this solidified my personal failure as a mother and even more so a decent human being.
But that shouldn’t mean a child’s feelings and needs
should be given any less priority than an adult’s…
Personal punishment and self-loathing wasn’t enough to make the memories stop so they skipped back to the ultimate deceit—the betrayal of the heart…another failure in a litany far beyond simple karmic salvation.
I’m convinced my next life will involve a third world country prison camp complete with daily beatings and random rapes.
Of course my soul’s greatest horror will be to witness these crimes, without the ability to defend the victims—this will do more damage to my soul than any physical punishment ever could.
I believe, in my heart and soul, that punishment is linked with penance and forgiveness—that there will be a reckoning for injustices committed.
And as I begin to break down emotionally, I wondered for the ‘nth’ time if following my convictions throughout this life will ever allow a blessing or just magnify the curse.
Remember why you started…
July 4th, in the United States, is a day for family and friends to gather together and celebrate their freedom and hope for the future—I hate this holiday more than the others combined.
The multitude of lives destroyed during the twenty years I was on active duty service is still unbelievable to me.
I don’t know all of their names, but I know they existed. They are the sons and daughters who have long since left this world, leaving nothing behind but the broken hearts of those who loved them and tear-stained photographs.
You’ve survived everything in your life so far…
As a retired Veteran, I lack both the common decency and sobriety required to rejoice in either Memorial or Independence Day events since they highlight the pain and suffering that engineered my youth.
I can’t celebrate holidays that glorify loss and death—I prefer the stupor of alcohol to the public’s perception that my life is somehow worth more now because I served my country and I’m still alive.
There’s a story and reason behind every person…
I reject public labels and refute praises by civilians who have little to no idea of what the word service entails.
If you truly want to honor me then invest your time or life into something bigger than your own personal agenda. Try giving up a portion of your life to one, specific cause…preferably one that will only repay you in loss and damages.
You want to understand me, know how I feel and see the world through my eyes? Then learn how to give—give until it hurts—then do it again and again until you think there’s nothing left inside of you, then keep giving until your knees hit the ground, and then give again because it’s never enough…because the giving never ceases and a soldier never sleeps.
You define what’s important to you by what you dedicate your time to…
Why can’t you just accept the idea that I’m not proud of my life—thatmy life serves as a constant reminder of their deaths?
How could I possibly accept accolades for my military service when it was fate and laughing gods who chose that I should survive while my brothers and sisters perished?
My best friend was one of the Fallen—one man who gave up everything nine years ago for what he believed in.
Through his sacrifice we all secured the basic human right to live in freedom so I will never dishonor him by saying my commitment was in vain, my losses were too great or that I regret one, single day of this fucked up life.
In truth, I see myself as a tainted soul, abandoned by heaven unto this world, while the real heroes were carried into the bosom of Abraham. I walk with my head held high because my life exists solely because of their sacrifices.
If I got rid of my demons; I’d lose my angels.
Never think that because I completed that phase of existence, with my life intact, that I was able to walk away unaffected or that I don’t suffer from hidden scars.
You will never know my soul, never gain access to the deepest parts of my heart and never understand my motivations—the walls have been reinforced…no one is allowed access.
Please understand that there are things in this world that shouldn’t be shared; tragedies and knowledge that are inconceivable to a lovely mind—you need to accept this as fact, nod your head and move forward without judgment.
Your destiny is different than mine—a uniquely happy and blessed fate—full of the wonders of this life…and I couldn’t have wished for anything more than this for you.
It’s because of all these things that I’ve made the conscious decision to take all my demons to the grave with me. I refuse to let them free, to roam upon the earth, where they might stumble upon the innocent and feed upon precious souls.
I have given up my life, my body and parts of my soul to ensure you live in freedom and ask but one thing in return—that you understand freedom is a gift, but it’s not free.
I love you here, right now, from afar and in the next life…