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By Gregory Ross
Recently, I went to a few Warrior Writers/Writing Through The Wounds workshops. The last one had two prompts: Home Coming and Lost or Stolen. This piece came out of that workshop:
I have come home from war many times. August, 5th, 1970 was the first. Then December, 1979 when I decided not to swim to the sunset in the Pacific Ocean. Again, in January 1980, when I graduated from a VA residential treatment program in Menlo Park CA. I got almost all the way home in 1982 when my wife and I got married and even closer when eleven months later our son was born.
This is my most recent trip home. I made a well thought out decision to titrate myself off two mood drugs the VA had strongly suggested, you might even say gently badgered me into taking. They helped, they helped a lot, but for a while now have made me feel more like I was asleep than calmed. So far I have been doing OK.
The other day, I went to a Dollar Tree Store because I could not spend a lot of money in a place where everything really is one dollar or less and most is of questionable quality. It was, for me a pleasant way to get out of the house and out of the much needed rain of late. It was early afternoon and the place was overrun with single digit aged children. We are about to become grandparents and I have always liked kids, so it was pleasant to see the parental and child interactions.
At the far end of the store was the toy aisle. A small, maybe five year old boy came around the shelving with a bright blue, red and yellow toy gun. He looked me in the eye, smiled a little, pointed it at me and began pulling the trigger. The toy gun made a small clicking sound. I maintained eye contact and gently said, "I do not like you doing that; please stop." His smile got slightly wider and he pulled the trigger faster. I repeated what I had said, but with just a slight bit more emphasis. He smiled a little broader and continued. I walk with a cane, which I gently raised and just as he gently moved the toy away from me. We never broke eye contact. I repeated my request but with some more force. You can guess what he did.
At that point, I raised my voice and with a reasonable amount of vocal force said, "I do not like you doing this, I have been shot at for real and it is not a game, it is not fun." Just then his mother, who I had not noticed for most of the interaction, said, "Don't yell at my son." In a firm but controlled voice I repeated my "It is not a game, it is not fun" statement, adding that I had been in a War. She might have guessed if she had noticed my Veterans For Peace button. She and I stared for a moment, then she reached down to her son, gently grabbed his arm and said, "How many times have I told you not to do that? It is impolite."
I turned and walked away. I waited until she had gathered her three other children, paid for her purchases and left. I made sure they were in their car and gone before I checked out and made my way to my car.
Before the War, I lived in a "Home" of a relatively normal level of anger. After the War and before the VA and "Mood Meds;" regardless of the child's age, I would have lost control, not to the point of physical harm, but I would have gotten very loud. My words would not have been threatening, but the intensity, the harshness, the bellicose energy emanating from my body, from my aura, would have overshadowed my words. This "Home" or reasonable anger was not lost by me, but stolen by greedmongers.
Dedicated to Aaron, Julie and Nancy.
Gregory Ross: Navy, Viet Nam; 7th fleet [1968-69]. Graduate, VA Detox and PTSD program ; Acupuncturist, Detox specialty till 2011. Published in "Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace". Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org.