MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS: COMING HOME

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

COMING HOME

I intend not to go into too much detail about my relationship with my first wife. Connie is the mother of my only son, in whom, I’m very pleased (Matthew 3:17), and will always be so.

Since it is possible that she and her husband, as well as my son, read these posts, I will not embarrass them with much detail about the relationship that went asunder. We both were at fault, giving in to pride mostly, but we have long since put that behind us and have actually grown to be good friends, sharing the fence at little league games, seats at graduations, the funeral of her second husband, and now pictures of our grandchild.

Any mention of Corey’s mother will be done in the light of today’s relationship.

Suffice it to say, that if my parents had not brought her to the airport when they picked me up upon my returned from Vietnam, and had not insisted I take the keys to the '64 Pontiac and take her home afterwards, we may not have ever married.

There is no doubt that I was a different person after the experience of Vietnam. She too had changed a lot in the pictures and letters she sent me while I was away, and we really did not know each other at all. The relationship began as it did that first night in March of 1966, a slow growing fondness for being in each others company.

Coming home was wonderful. It was like being born again. There was a sense of freedom to it; liberation from the fear that stalked me for a year was over, at least between times of being surprised by loud noises and being reminded! I began to sleep soundly and rarely woke in a cold-sweat or in a startled jerk to sounds near me. Never again did I slug anyone who mistakenly touched me while I was asleep, although I have postured a time or two!

The first thing I really wanted was a glass of cold milk and a hot shower, both of which I had that first night at Connie’s parents.

My taste and appetite returned with a vengeance and soon I had packed back on the 30 plus pounds I had lost. I had a year and a half left to serve upon arriving back in the States, and I struggled, almost to the end of my enlistment to make my uniforms last. In the pictures of me I will post during that time, you will see tight shirts and pants whose seams were widened and darker in color from the rest of the material!

Everyone seemed proud to have me home, but no one ever sat down with me and asked me to “tell me all about it!” I was alone with my thoughts and memories, and the anxiousness I still held inside. There was no one who had a similar experience, not even at my new Air Force assignment.

My absence had a profound effect on my dad, who was moved to start attending church, and was subsequently “saved.” Mom said it was because he was so afraid of losing me. He put a “damn payment” on a new 1966 Falcon and proudly presented it to me just before I left for my new assignment. Although it was not the Mustang I had been dreaming about, I took it and drove it with pride for three years. I would not have hurt his feelings for anything.

My brother had also, at the tender age of nine, been hospitalized, for a time, with what the doctor described as a “nervous stomach.” Apparently, he understood more than my mother knew about what was going on in Southeast Asia and what could happen to his “Bubby!

My personal fears only surfaced at fireworks shows, thunder storms, and when someone surprised me by slamming a car trunk shut (If you want to know what a mortar sounds like, jump in the back seat and let someone close the trunk lid hard!). The sight of me picking myself up off the ground or out of the floorboard of a car was comical to others; embarrassing and infuriating to me.

My mother took it upon herself to “fatten” her baby back to health, and I enjoyed every one of my favorites for thirty days before moving on to my last assignment. She believed for a long time that I had actually been in a POW camp, and in some ways I had!

My luck seemed to change with the new base assignment when I left Da Nang. I could not believe I would be stationed just two hours from home – Sewart Air Force Base in Smyrna, Tennessee, which was decommissioned in 1970! It meant that I could come home every weekend, IF I wanted to. What a change!

I sort of made a promise to myself back then, to never leave home again. It was hard for me to be away from “home base” and my family and extended family in Alabama had a hard time understanding. However, over the years I have let myself be persuaded into venturing farther and farther away, for longer and longer periods of time, but there is still nothing like coming home again for a veteran of a war zone.

Truth be known, I am very insecure out of my little world. It is a cross I will always suffer for having been in Vietnam.

22 comments:

pat houseworth said...

Brother, another great look back...it is amazing how our summer trip to Vietnam affected us in a different way. It gave me a sense of maturity I never had, and also the chance to get our of a relationship that would have never survived the changes in me when I returned.

Having lost a cousin who saved my life from drowning, and my brother's best friend, who was like a brother to me, I can never say Vietnam was a good thing, but I can say it had positive changes for me.

Great Look Back! Keep it up!

Sarge Charlie said...

welcome home my friend, I do understand the feelings you have, you should put them in a book. That mortar sound will make your sit up fast, they were so damn random and you never knew when they were sending you yours.

Mimzie said...

Wow. That was powerful, to me anyway. I love that you and your ex-wife are friends. I love that your Dad bought you a car. I love that your brother was so sick without you there only because it shows the level of love he had for you and his fear of losing you. I love that you shared this with us.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Another great one dude. Love reading it. Understand the feeling of joy in coming home, reconnecting, and the need to stay close. Home is where the heart is.

San said...

Hi Mushy,

I enjoyed seeing the photos and reading your memories. I've always wondered if I'd be able to survive psychologically were I in combat, or even if the place I lived was a war zone. Really hard for me to imagine.

Kuanyin said...

Wonderful sharing! This is one of the reasons I love blogs--getting to know people's hearts and lives!

David Sullivan said...

"Damn Payment"

Classic!!!

Divalicious said...

Not that I can even compare my experiences traveling abroad to yours, but I can tell you I always love coming home to my family, my kitchen, my bed. There's no feeling that compares to it.

Cookie..... said...

Mushy...now THAT (and your other articles) is putting blogging into a great therapeutic use....

...and I really enjoy coming over here as it's been therapeutic fer the Cookie as well...

From an old Seabee....Thank's Mate...

BRUNO said...

Yeah, everybody would think it was such a BIG laugh, to see me "overreact" to certain common, everyday sounds, too.

Everybody, that is, except for those who had been, and were still trying to leave, "THERE".

I still get the shit scared outta me today, when a hunter fires an unexpected shot, or when the stone quarry about 10 miles away decides to "loosen-up" their inventories.

Except NOW, even I can laugh at myself---but only just a little. I still always try to keep that "third-eye" open, though it's not as obvious now, as it was then...

Robert said...

It's very hard to step out of your comfort zone especially after what you and others went through..but you have to some extent which is a good thing...I can just picture the rpoud look on your dad's face when he presented you with the keys..the Mustang would have been nice but wouldn't have the memories that car gave you...cheers nice post Mushy..

Mushy said...

Thanks everyone...I do hope, in some way, these things help us all.

I look forward to each comment...it's like your parents telling you how proud they are of you. I still need that!

*Goddess* said...

Milk??? Not ice cream or chocolate or a really good burger?!

I can't believe people would laugh at your being afraid of loud noises after all you went through. Then again, some people have a cruel streak. I personally would thank God I didn't have to go through that. I KNOW I'd come home with a stress disorder.

Les Becker said...

"Truth be known, I am very insecure out of my little world."

That's been me, although I don't have such horrendous experiences to blame... "Inside Wars", maybe?

Part of my learning to get out into the "rest of the world" again can be credited to you and your memories, Mushy. After all you've been through, you are not a bitter person. You share yourself, and in doing so, you better the rest of us.

Thank you for the sharing - for someone like me, it's made a very, very big difference.

DirtCrashr said...

That were good. I jump when fat people shake the cubicle walking by.

Buck Pennington said...

The relationship began as it did that first night in March of 1966...

Wow. Worlds collide. Or yet another bit of coincidence. The First Mrs. Pennington and I were married shortly after I turned 21 in March of '66. I wish I could say we've come to the same sort accommodation you and your ex- have reached. But that's not true. More's the pity.

But I digress. A great story about "burning in" on your return. Good stuff, as always.

Lin said...

Your mention of fire works got to me. I remember meeting nose-to-nose with a guy under a picnic table when someone let loose a bunch of heavy fireworks that starting hitting the balcony. We both felt pretty embarrassed and then he said "Uhm ... Viet Nam." I figured he wasn't the only one.

DrowseyMonkey said...

Wonderful post. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

Jose said...

Damn Mr. Mushy your posts have that ability to touch my heart time and time again. As I read it's like being there with you, you really know how to relay the message and make us the readers feel as if we are with ya. I kindda wish I had that little Falcon, they are quite the hot commodity now.

Jerry said...

Great post, Mushy!

phlegmfatale said...

You have riches beyond measure in the form of such a loving and supportive family.

Becky said...

I cannot even begin to imagine what that was like for you then and now. I think that as far as asking you about your service, I've kind of been indoctrinated that most men dont' like to talk about it, so I guess I'm one of those that never bothers to ask either. And I guess you're not old enough to be at the point where you just start talking about it, regardless of who's there (like WW2 vets I've know).