“Timmy, are you ready?”
Diane shouted, as she rushed around the house trying to find abandoned school ties, football kits and shoes.
“You are going to be late once more and remember what you teacher said about you being continually late”.
“You don’t want her sending you to the principle office again”. Diane knew that this empty threat would motivate him.
“Why can’t I stay home today?” Timmy whined.
“Daddy’s only been home for a short time and I want to play with him again”.
“Because your father needs rest, and you have all evening to hear his stories, now get a move on”.
Her frustration grew!
At the moment, home-life was stressful, and no matter how resilient she tried to be, this was a difficult time for the whole family.
Since Roger had returned from his latest tour in Afghanistan, he had hardly spoken to her or to Timmy. All he managed was a nodding of the head, and he only seemed to answer their countless questions when necessary to appease them. Roger had been back home for the last two months, and Timmy was only allowed an hour a day of his fathers presence, no wonder he thought his dad had only been home for a short time, understandably he missed him.
“Why can’t daddy walk me to school today”, Timmy called out eagerly.
Diane intervened to save Timmy from disappointment and said that daddy had things to do this morning, and she would be walking him as per usual.
This set Timmy off, and he began to protest profusely, demanding he gets his own way. Diane raised her voice, hoping to end his countless demands and prevent yet another argument.
Furthermore, she knew it was pointless trying to reason with Roger, the doctors had told her to let him rest and take his time to readjust back into the reality of civic life. And hearing some of the other army wives talk about the ‘problems’ they had experienced, when their husbands had returned, she knew she was in for a stressful time. However, she believed that they would survive this ‘little crisis’ that her small family were about to face. In the past, she and Roger had been very close, and therefore they would get through this period, this was only a temporary set back for him. She believed that everything would be alright in time; at least this is what she would tell herself over and over again.
Who was she kidding?
Things were never going to be the same again for Roger.
Why he was lucky to be alive!
She could not remember the all the facts of how he had ended up in a military hospital, nor could she recall all the details into how he had lost his leg. All she knew was what his Sergeant had told her, how he was a hero and had saved his platoon. Sergeant Jones had added how she should be very proud of him for his bravery and courage. Perhaps she had been fully informed, nevertheless, all she knew was that her husband had gone to war and come back a broken man. Moreover, he was coping with the recovery of his physical injuries heroically. He had taken to walking with crutches so well and was able to get from A to B without much trouble and very little pain; yes he was on the mend, as he would put it. However, mentally he was truly struggling, he was unable to sleep in their bed anymore and when he did sleep; he slept sat in his armchair in the sitting room. The countless times that she had come downstairs in the middle of the night to the sound of his cries and wailing – while he was asleep. This woke her out of a deep-sleep and pieced the air and as she listened to his cries, as she had wondered what he had experienced. It was heartbreaking hearing him in so much pain, and devastating seeing he sat there lifeless, soulless, and empty.
“Mommy, where’s my tie, and my shoes?” Timmy’s voice brought her back into consciousness and away from her disturbing thoughts.
“I have them downstairs, now get a move on”. “You have exactly ten minutes to get to this breakfast table, and I am counting!” Another empty threat she thought.
The pressures of the last eight months were starting to take their toll on her and she lost her temper with Timmy on most days.
It was not his fault, she would tell herself every time she reprimanded him; he was hurting too! Timmy flew down the stairs and slid onto his seat at the breakfast table, where he tucked into his breakfast cereal while informing his mom that he had football training after school, and so he needed his football kit.
Once again he asked if his dad would be coming to see him play, and once again Diane had to find an excuse to cushion him from disappointment. How can a six year old fully understand that his dad, who was a hero and had lost his leg, was not ready to face the world that he had left four years ago? The world of school runs and football matches, of grazed knees and proud moments, of collecting milk and bread for tea, of mundane, normal civic living.
“Why won’t she just stop her screaming, and why does he have to be so noisy”, thought Roger. “Why the hell do I have to sit here and listen to this fanfare day in and day out”? “Is this what I am going to be sentenced to for the rest of my bloody days, I can’t fucking stand it, just SHUT UP!”
Roger sunk back into his chair and starting flicking through the television programmes over and over again. This was the only way he could stop the constant flashbacks that he experienced since his return. Flashes of broken memories, memories of the things that he had done, and things that he had seen while he was on tour over the past four years; things that no-man should have seen or done.
The noise, the noise, the noise of bullets flying past his head, the explosion that cost him his leg! The taste of dust in his throat and the heat, the smell of death and pain he felt as the explosion echoed around him, the blast that stole away his freedom. Suddenly he realised that he missed it! Why did he miss this life, why could he not return to his family, the family he use to miss when away on tour, the family he could not wait to return to, the family he loved. Why was he unable to look at his wife or sit chatting to his son for longer that an hour a day, compared to the hours he had spent thinking of his son and wishing he was with him when he had been away. What had changed?
Timmy bust through the sitting room door and announced that he was off to school and had come to say goodbye to his dad, his dad the hero, his dad his hero!
Roger glanced towards him but looked straight through his son. Roger managed a smile as Timmy threw his arms around his dad and kissed him on the cheek. With that he was gone! Roger was left all alone with his haunting thoughts once again. Thoughts that had plagued him since he had gain consciousness in a military hospital five months ago, since then the thoughts played in his mind like a movie on re-play.
Over and over again, the same scenes tormented him day into night, night into day, hour after hour, moment following moment. If these memories were so terrible, then why did he so want to go back, why did he feel so lost and alone?
Why did he feel neither alive nor dead, why did he no longer feel a thing?
Diane popped her head round the door and said goodbye to him, informing him that she was off to drop Timmy at school and would go via the shops to buy something for tea. She asked him was there anything he needed or wanted. He nodded, indicating that he did not want anything. She closed the door shut and left, chocking back the tears, a process she went through every time she saw her husband sat there so distant, so broken and so alone. Her husband the soldier, her husband the hero, her husband no more!