A Waking Nightmare, Part 2
Posted on Sat May 30th, 2015 @ 5:29pm by Unawakened Devon Spencer
Location: Seaford, Virginia
Timeline: Monday, March 29, 2010
Tags: Devon, Dev, Deo, Andy, Spencer
Previous: Fathers and Sons of Anarchy
Andy listened, quietly accepting Devon’s words. “It might come to that, kiddo. In fact, it’ll take a miracle to keep Greg out of jail. I’m trying to get his sentence changed to mandatory treatment, but I’ll be honest, given his behavior I can’t see how any judge is gonna go for it.”
“Why should they?” Devon stressed. “He doesn’t want help.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, kid.” Andy heaved a sigh and ran his hand back over the top of his head. he fixed Devon with a look full of curious interest. “How much do you know about your dad’s PTSD?”
Devon took a step back at the mention, “I never knew he had it.”
“Amy….” Andy gestured as if to strangle his dear friend. “Your mama never told you. Now it all makes sense. Take a walk with me, kiddo.”
He led them out on a slow walk behind the house toward the pier. The fragrance of Peg’s flower garden filled the air along with fresh, upturned soil from the two golden retrievers, Abbott, and Costello. A cool spring breeze brushed through Devon’s hair from off the water as they walked.
“Me and your dad joined the army straight out of high school. We both qualified for the Ranger program and that landed us smack in the middle of the worst part of Vietnam.” He stopped and looked out at how the setting sun sparkled across the water. “A lot of people call it the Vietnam War, but it wasn’t. We were sent over to protect the south against incursion from the north. The Commies, the gooks, the chinks. Yeah, not politically correct language nowadays but fuck ‘em, we lived it.”
“We were forward recon. Our job was to scout enemy troop movements and call for airstrikes. There’s something you gotta know,” Andy turned to face Devon. “‘Nam wasn’t like Afghanistan or Iraq. Nobody prepared us for the kind of war we were fighting. We went in blind. We weren’t trained for jungle combat. Fuck, but nobody ever heard of terrorism back then. The VC was the worst. Those fuckers fought dirty. traps, poison, nothing was too low for those bastards. They bribed or coerced the civilians we were assigned to protect to attack us. We never knew from where we might get hit next. We had to treat everybody as a potential hostile. Once, I shot a little girl--she couldn’t have been older than five.” He dropped his gaze as he reflected. “She stormed our position. She was terrified, screaming, tears running down her face. Shit, but she was strapped with grenades. She would have blown the whole fucking unit. I still have nightmares about that kid. I still wonder if there was anything I could have done, you know? I still wake up in a cold sweat at night about that little girl and your father faced was worse. he never left that jungle. He’s still in there, fighting even now.”
Devon closed his eyes, his memories instantly turning back to those times when his father got hold of him as a child and beat him. He winced as the incident in the high school shower played back unbidden. He felt the sting of scalding hot shower spray. He reached reflexively for his throat, finding it difficult to breathe as the past bled into the present. Deo shook it off and focused his full attention on his immediate surroundings.
Stay here, stay in the present, his breathing grew steady once more.
“You want me to feel sorry for him?” Devon snapped angrily at Andy. “He beat us! He broke bones! He terrorized us!”
Andy stared at the ground, listening to the agony in Devon’s voice. “I don’t want you to feel sorry, kid. Feeling sorry won’t change shit. I want you to go into this with open eyes. Why do you think your mama put up with his shit all this time? You never knew him before the war, but she did. I did, we knew what was going on inside him. We kept trying to reach him. We kept trying to get help.” He looked up, “I bet you thought your mom was a classic battered wife.”
“The thought crossed my mind,” Devon confessed.
“There are similarities,” Andy explained. “Difference is that in most cases battered wives are living in a fantasy world. It’s different for wives of service personnel. You mom knows for a fact that there’s a good man under there. She knows he’s sick and he’s crying for help. Sometimes, when he runs himself down and he’s so drunk he can’t think straight, Greg--the real Greg--will talk to us.”
Devon immediately flashed back to the hospital. “That night,” the Greek boy thought back. “He said he was sorry. He knew he hurt me. He wanted to make it better. I thought he was lying.”
“I heard the recording, kiddo,” Andy looked tired and forlorn.
“So, why the drinking, why the beating and yelling?” Devon spat, his anger refusing to yield easily. “I have PTSD too and I get help. Why won’t he get help?”
“Combat PTSD is a whole different beast from what you’ve got, kid,” Andy explained. “That, and frankly, there wasn’t much help available back in the day. We’ve only made big strides in the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD over the past few years.”
“Why won’t he get help now? Devon challenged.
“Now,” Andy rubbed his brow with a sigh. “Kid, imagine having a nightmare so horrifying that just thinking about it drives you crazy. It’s on your mind day and night. You get high or drunk to forget and eventually you get lost. Greg is too far gone, kid. He can’t help himself anymore. The only time he’s clear is when he’s exhausted and then he’s so drunk he doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground.”
“So, what do we do about it?” Deo shrugged helplessly.
“Everybody, on both sides, needs to push for treatment over incarceration. It’s the only way.” Andy lit a cigarette and offered the pack to Devon.
“Thanks, but no,” the young artist declined. “I don’t smoke.”
Andry blew streamers of smoke through his nose and stared into the distance. “Just as well, this shit’ll kill ya.”
Deo tucked his hands in his pockets and stared at his feet, thinking. “Is it worth it?” He looked up at Uncle Andy. “Is he worth it?”
“Are you,” Andy arched an inquisitive eyebrow.
“Look,” he took a long drag on his cigarette and exhaled, “Entertain this for just a moment; what if I’m right? What if your mom is right and your father is a good man, a tortured man that needs serious medical and psychological help. What would you do? What would you want us to do if you were in his shoes?”
Devon looked up starkly but he said nothing. Uncle Andy gave him a lot to think about.
To be continued