Thank You For Not Leaving Me

I heard those two words a lot from my husband throughout our marriage. Thank you for getting me Taco Bell. Thank you for cooking (though that one was rare because I don’t cook). Thank you for getting me the new Stephen King novel. Really sweet nuggets of acknowledgement that he didn’t have to say but did anyway.

One thank you I didn’t expect, especially after the accident, was this: “Thank you for not leaving me.”

And he said it repeatedly.

To which I’d reply, “Why would I leave you?” Dumbfounded, of course.

Then he’d rattle off reasons why any woman would leave at this point in our relationship. “I’m broken. Look at me. I don’t even recognize myself.” Sure, he was banged up, physically and at times, emotionally. So?

“I’m useless. I can’t even help you with the kids.” My husband was bedridden for about two months and in a wheelchair for four. Um, you are supposed to heal right now and not worry about us. Besides, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve left any combination of the children in his care for short periods of time, even when he was at NNMC in Maryland. In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing to do but I wasn’t gone that long and I left the potty-trained ones.

This isn’t to say that we didn’t have some dark moments since the accident. We did. Oh, good Lord, nothing harmful. Just really deep and sad insights about where he’s been, where I’ve been, where we’ve been as a couple, and where we’ve been as a family.

There was one time (oh, he’ll be mad if he discovers this blog) when he was still over at the VA in Palo Alto that shook me to the core. He was still in a wheelchair, still learning how to transfer from bed to chair and back and that day he was transferring to the toilet when all of the emotions building up inside of him exploded. One of the kids didn’t put on the toilet seat properly which caused him to almost fall. The kids and I were watching TV in his room when I heard a crash and an F-bomb. Okay, he’s a sailor. It was a string of swear words and a nurse that was helping him left in a hurry. Other nurses came to assist.

I asked what happened in there and he was still angry, still swearing. And I know it wasn’t anyone’s fault. No one had done anything wrong.

But I started bawling and the kids were looking at us with big eyes. Even now I can’t type this without blowing my nose a gazillion times.

In this moment, everything became clear. He’s here but he’s not. He’s been through something so terrible and so awful and so nightmarish; I couldn’t deny it any longer.

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My husband is a Wounded Warrior. He’s not going to be the same.

Ever.

I believe because of his stubbornness, his determination not to let this rule his life, he will try his damndest to keep it together.

Now if you know me personally, you’d probably describe me to be positive, funny, and extraordinarily beautiful (had to throw that last one in there to see if you were paying attention). I don’t wear my dark emotions on my sleeve. I tend to glean over scary details. But who wouldn’t? Self-preservation? Maybe. Still in denial? Perhaps.

I am sort of embarassed to admit that we went to marriage counseling after this while he was in Palo Alto but it was the best thing for us. The psychologist was a very sweet woman who baffled my husband when she suggested she take the kids for a couple hours so we could spend some time together and they followed her like Pied Piper. It was essential that we had someone listen to us and help us sort out emotions that were starting to bubble over.

He shared with her that he thought all the women he saw at the VA, spouses of Wounded Warriors or of TBI patients, were amazing. Their husbands, he said, were really lucky their wives were still with them.

Later I asked him, “Why wouldn’t they be?”

He said, “Most women would probably leave.”

I shook my head. “I think those women would have left anyway, accident or not.” Like when we used to talk about how he knew so many people in the military who cheated on their spouses. But I believed they would have cheated anyway, even if they weren’t in the military.

I have seen many spouses spend almost every breathing moment with their loved ones. They’d stay until a nurse or doctor gently suggests they go to their hotel rooms to get some rest. I met an Army wife in Bethesda who’s husband was wounded by an IED a second time, the first being only three years earlier.

Are these spouses amazing? Absolutely. Show me one that would leave at the first sign of hard stuff and I would bet my favorite Coach platforms that she was planning on leaving regardless. Just needed an excuse, that’s all.

So in case you were wondering, he still thanks me for not leaving. And when he does, I take a deep breath and say, “I’m not going to leave you. I’m not going anywhere.”

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10 thoughts on “Thank You For Not Leaving Me

  1. OMG- I couldn’t even imagine a man feeling that way- except there are too many bad apples out there, who like you said would have left anyway, but were looking for their way out. For better or worse, right? In sickness and in health, right? These women who leave their husbands “because of that” are cowards in my mind.

    I don’t know what the stress would be like of bearing the burdens, but one day my husband will need me- maybe to help feed him, maybe to give him an enema, maybe to brush his hair… didn’t we sign up for this when we got married? We just always think it will be from old age, and not war.

    • Absolutely. We did sign up for this. We signed up for this knowing full well that we would be there no matter what be it old age, war, serious injuries, etc. Luckily in my own personal experience I’ve never seen these sort of spouses at the hospitals my husband has been in. In all cases, it seems that this intense experience brings couples together in the long run and deepens and redefines their love for each other.

      I can’t remember if I read this somewhere or overheard it but there is a quote that I believe speaks the truth about marriage in general:

      “The military [OR INSERT ANYTHING THAT WILL TEST A MARRIAGE; JOB, LOCATION, ETC] will make a weak marriage weaker and a strong marriage stronger.”

      Thank you for reading!

  2. My first wife passed away at the age of 34, and I and her mom took care of her while she was in and out of hospitals the last 4 years of her life. Believe me, been there done that. And yes, she thanked me many times for not leaving her. I was also told many times by many people what a great husband I was for staying with her and taking care of her. Do you think I was encouraged or felt good when people said those things, or when my wife thanked me? Absolutely not. It made me angry, angry that they would think that me staying around was even something special, something to be even mentioned. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, I wanted to draw attention to the courage and bravery of my wife, to keep moving forward through her pain and suffering.

    True love is defined by our Savior.

    “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
    –John 15:13

    Both your husband and you are showing this love. You husband on the battle field, and you in your selfless love for him.

    God Bless…

    http://ginzotalk.wordpress.com

    • Thank for sharing! I agree with you on deflecting compliments because your wife deserved them, deserved their attention and support for her bravery and strength. And why wouldn’t you stay? Makes me wonder: are they encouraging you because they wouldn’t do the same if they were in your situation? You have been through a lot and a lot of power and positive energy resonates from the few sentences you wrote so lovingly about your wife. Thanks again for sharing and look forward to reading more of your blog! God Bless you!

      • >>Makes me wonder: are they encouraging you because they wouldn’t do the same if they were in your situation?

        Yes I thought this many times when I heard their comments. Believe me, during these trying times, there were several times I thought about taking off, giving up, moving away, hiding. Those were the times that I cried out to God, to give me the strength to continue. And you know what – He showed up. He gave me the strength, just enough strength, to get me through the next day.

        Then, once I had grieved, and once I sought Him out, and vowed to walk by faith in Him, He provided a new wife for me, and I re-married. And today, my wife and I walk with Christ together, and I can look back on my past and realize how much wiser and stronger I am because of it.

        I will never forget, after my wife passed, that my mom told me about a conversation she had with my wife’s aunt. She told my mom that if I had had an affair during that time, that everyone would have to forgive me. Of course, my mom immediately told her that I never would do that. But it angered me so much. On the one hand it seemed like she was trying to pump my mom for information, and on the other hand, it seemed like she couldn’t believe that a man could stand by his wife faithfully. It still angers me that people can be so insensitive.

        God Bless and hang it there.

      • God bless you for your patience. I have to admit that people who have little faith in the power of love and loyalty probably have little faith in anything at all. So sad that your wife’s aunt would be so cynical. You hang it there as well and don’t let people bring you down.

  3. Pingback: Military Monday Linky – July 11 – Americana Edition | Army Wives' Lives

  4. Amazing blog – My words are for everyone who comments about how odd it is to be acknowledged for “not leaving”

    A reframe to consider —
    There’s a good chance that it’s NOT that many are thinking that *they* would leave, or that you wonder if you’d have been better off leaving (and aren’t you unusual for staying), but that, when push came to shove, they understand about themselves that they couldn’t imagine leaving either — but can well imagine how difficult staying the course would be, and how alone and exhausted and unacknowledged they would feel some days.

    They may well be attempting to give you encouragement and empathy – to be supportive and kind, human to human (frailties and all).

    Could they do it / say it better? Sure. But nobody’s really great with those who are grieving – and everyone realizes somewhere deep inside that you ARE grieving for the loss of the life that once was while you fashion a brand new future you could never have imagined back when you “signed on.”

    Most people struggle with what to say – yet the brave ones say *something* anyway (even as they cringe inwardly at their own inadequacy of expression, as I do here).

    Similar to the great post on this blog about running (essentially, don’t brush off the compliments as your body gets into better shape) – let the support and kindness IN. Lower the guard of stoicism you must keep raised most of the time to be able to DO what you do minute-by-minute, and let yourselves welcome the pats on the back whenever they come. Sure, Beloved has it harder than you do, but you have it hard enough (and harder than many).

    You know that over half of all marriages end in divorce, right? Which means that at least 50% of the married folks out there will eventually be looking for a reason to leave, right? Congrats to you ALL for looking for reasons to stay.

    I’m sure I don’t have to tell you guys that all the real relationship goodies are reserved for those who are “selfish” enough to do the work to EARN them.
    ~~~~~
    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CMC, SCAC, MCC
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    (blogs: ADDandSoMuchMore, ADDerWorld & ethosconsultancynz – dot com)
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

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