From my friend Torrey Shannon's facebook post yesterday, "Words of advice: If your loved one is a wounded warrior, or even someone who has been deployed multiple times and not severely injured, PLEASE be respectful of them when they politely decline your holiday invitations! They are not trying to ruin your holiday or hurt your feelings. You may have had a 'tradition' to have your son-in-law or daughter come to every holiday meal, but things have changed dramatically in their lives when it comes to being around crowds and noise. Don't berate them. Don't tease them. Don't get your panties in a wad. Just respect their answer and let them create their own holiday memories. It may not include you...so don't make it about you. Thank you!"
I just love Torrey. She and I have never met in person, but we are kindred spirits for sure. (And somewhere in the Army and VA someone just freaked out! Yes, we have found each other. You have been warned. Ha ha!! ) I shared her comment on my own facebook page because I know too many families, including my own who have dealt with this. I just wanted to expand on this a little and use our family as an example.
We turn down a lot of invites and let me tell you why. First, we are tired! You cannot imagine how exhausting it is to heal our wounded. Our family loves days of nothing. We do not get very many, Chaz's days are still filled appointments and recently he has added more because he has flipped to the VA side of this journey. We cherish our little family and as much as we want to share ourselves with so many, we also have to find time to do nothing.
You have to remember we are juggling appointments, meetings, homeschool, events and now I have a beyond full time job (that I love). And I am still running a tax company. We are busy, busy, busy. I miss the days where I could just sit on the phone and chat with my girlfriends. Please know I am not complaining, we love our life, it's just very well organized. ;)
Our girls need us more than you think you do and I have no problems letting people know that. Cutie number one and cutie number two are the top priority for Chaz and I. Everyone else just needs to get in line, sorry, but that is how we feel. Some people really don't like that I put the girls and Chaz first, but my give-a-damn broke almost two years ago. I have learned some really hard lessons about trying to please people. I learned a long time ago I cannot make everyone happy, so I'll just focus on the three that I know the best and whose smiles and laughs fill my heart.
Second there's the physical. In our situation, you can all see Chaz's legs are missing. What you can't see is that his arm is fused in a 93 degree angle. You cannot imagine what limitations that causes for him. When we have the adapted van, life is easier for us. When we are in TN with my vehicle or in a rental that day a new level of difficulty and that arm tends to get in our way. I had no idea how useful an elbow was until Chaz lost his. Try to lock your elbow and scratch your back, or adjust the collar on your shirt, or just drink or eat something. Now pretend you don't have legs and try to get around with a fused arm. It is really hard. Now here's a good dose of reality, Chaz is only ONE of hundreds of service members with these types of injuries.
One time the girls asked Chaz what is it like to walk with his prosthetic legs. He had them pull their feet up to their butts and walk on their knees. They both commented on how much it hurts. We have talked to many people who have assured us that it will get easier for him, but it's so easy to forget that we not even two years into this journey. Chaz is just not ready to be on his legs all the time and that means he needs to be in his wheelchair. The world is not very "cripple-friendly" as Chaz puts it. So you can invite us to whatever it is, but can Chaz get in? Does he have access to a bathroom? Can he easily get out in case of an emergency?
Nothing is worse than inviting us somewhere only to realize that you did not plan ahead. We had that happen recently. I hate seeing that people have the best of intentions, but then their feelings get hurt because they assumed rather than ask what Chaz's needs are. Our world is very unique and some people have a hard time understanding what Chaz needs.
That leads to my third point, the mental. Chaz has done remarkably well with his post-tramatic stress (PTS) from his injury. We began dealing with PTS after Iraq in 2005-06. We are not pros at dealing with PTS, but I know his triggers better than he does. His physical limitations add into his PTS, but he handles it all like a rockstar. So many are so angry, but Chaz would not change a thing. He gets around very well, but the world is not designed for wheelchairs and that limitation adds to his frustrations. I think having the unconditional love and acceptance from the girls and I has really helped Chaz heal.
When we go places and meet strangers you just never know what they'll say. I have had one person tell me, "I've seen his pictures on Facebook. He's getting fat and you need to get that under control." We have had people just come right out and ask if we can have kids, which is their politest way of asking if Chaz has a genital injury. You seriously wouldn't believe the things people have said to us and to other families. We have some great stories to tell. My favorite was the random guy who sat down and wanted to talk about Chaz's PTS. Hello random stranger, yes let me divulge all my intimate secrets to you.
What makes us laugh is people think kids asking us questions bothers us. We actually welcome the kids' questions. Kids are smarter than you think. We are pros at explaining all of this to kids. We've had a lot of practice. Chaz and I love kids and we love teaching them about adversity. I wish more adults handled out situation like the kids do.
So back to Torrey's statement. Please try to understand that healing a family is not simply and easy. These guys don't just come home. It is long, drawn out process and sometimes is beyond exhausting. We ask too much of our military families. We ask them to go to war and deal with it. Then we ask them to just do this and that and we don't think about their feelings. I am talking about my family before injury.
Now after injury, I'll just tell you flat out, it ain't about you, so stop trying to make it that way. Listen to the family and don't read into it. It's not that we don't want you in our lives. Some of us just want a little peace and quiet. Some of us are creating our own memories. Some of us haven't had Daddies at home for a long time or like in our case two years in a row. So please just listen and accept us and wish us a Merry Christmas.