A Brothers Honor, A Fathers Heartbreak, A Sons Regret

imagesCAW3EQLOI was the youngest and the smallest and the quietest. My father was the life of any room he walked into, loud, funny, friendly. My brothers were just like him, they had his broad shoulders and quick temper. They all played football and boxed, stayed outside until our mom had to drag them in. I don’t think there was a day that went by that they didn’t stuff me in a closet or a trunk or spray me with a water hose.

No matter how much they roughed me up, it was always only them. Whenever someone tried to pick a fight with me because I was smaller, I had their height but not their size, they were in for a surprise. Years of getting tossed around by my siblings gave me the quickest hands in our house since that was the only way I could ever win a fight or finish my meals.

Thinking about it made me smile. The nights we worked on old cars since we couldn’t afford new ones. The boxing sessions in the garage where we were all trying to impress dad. Three years apart, always a grade behind each other in school.

John waited until Albert graduated so they could enlist in the Army together. My mom always joked that we were all brothers but I must have come from a stork because John and Albert were joined at the hip.

On May 12th 2012 Albert was taken out by a sniper in Afghanistan. We all took it hard, my mom didn’t get out of bed for a month, my dad was calm about it. “He died a good death, he died a soldiers death.” No one took it harder than John though. He was in Iraq when he got the news. A week after the funeral he went right back.

On July 12th 2012 John died in a fire fight outside of Baghdad. The commander gave the order to maintain cover until the F-16’s arrived but John went in head first. Taking out four extremist before he was gunned down. They said he could have survived all the shots but that day he didn’t wear his body armor.

Within a month both my brothers were dead, fighting for their country. My father never said anything to me but I knew he looked at them differently than he looked at me. He was a soldier, a fighter, a man’s man. All my brothers ever wanted to be was like him.
Everywhere we went people stepped aside. My father pulled two men out a burning tank, won a Purple Heart in Desert Storm.

He never said it but my decision to go to college and not serve our country hurt him. “It’s a man’s duty to serve his country, what good is an education if you don’t know what it means to fight for it.” Those words never made sense to me but they did to my brothers.

The house I grew up in wasn’t a home anymore. My mom spent most of her time putting together care packages and volunteering at the hospital for wounded Veterans. My father spent most of his time in the garage talking to neighbors or the different friends that came by to chat with him or have him look at their car.

I knew I shouldn’t feel this way but I hated him. My brothers were dead because they wanted to be like him. “The army made me a man!” “Women love a man in uniform!” Day after day, story after story he filled their heads up with this bullshit about honor and loyalty and truth! Bullshit that got them killed! Wars that weren’t being fought because we were enslaved or attacked but wars that were being fought for nothing. He didn’t talk to me much because he thought I was a coward, I didn’t talk to him because I thought he was a fool.

Swinging as hard as I could at the punching bag in our garage I could feel my hands burning, the sweat dripping into my eyes but I didn’t stop punching, I couldn’t stop swinging. With every clank of the dog tags around my neck the more anger that surged threw me! They were my brothers tags and I wore them because they were apart of me now.

“You always could throw a punch but you never wanted to come to the gym with us. John thought it was because you had a glass chin. Albert thought it was because you wanted to chase girls. I knew it was because you didn’t want to be like me.”

I didn’t hear him come in. Those were the first real words outside of hello and goodbye he’d spoken to me in a year. He was right, I didn’t want to be another clone of my fathers. Football, boxing, the military. I wanted more for my life, I wanted to be something other than a name scribbled on some stone. What does dying in a foreign place fighting people that never did anything to me even mean?

After Albert died… I almost beat a kid to death because he called my brother stupid for not having on his body armor. The newspaper made it some black hawk down, saving Private Ryan moment but the army saw it as negligence. Since I wasn’t 18 yet and I’d experienced the death of two brothers they dropped the charges. When my dad picked me up he almost looked proud. I’d been valedictorian, I’d gotten into the most expensive school in the State with a full scholarship and the one time he patted me on my back was when I beat the shit out of some kid. That was my father, always the soldier, always about honor and family reputation.

“I’m not them.” I said the words softly, maybe I didn’t want him to hear me but I know he did.

“I didn’t raise you to be a coward!” His voice rose and he slapped his hand on the hood of his car!

Now his real feelings were coming out.

To Be Continued…

Don’t Fear Death; Fear Not Living

379994_610579043725_118401058_31642843_1262844695_n My back has been killing me the past few days so I went to the doctor today. I thought maybe I pulled something at work or slept wrong on the couch. She told me I had some fluid in my lungs, that my left lung was working twice as hard because my right lung was struggling.

It wasn’t back pain, it was my lung. “I think it’s a blood clot and if it is you need to go get a ct scan so we can get in and get it ASAP. In that moment my life flashed before my eyes. The seriousness in her eyes, the realization that I wasn’t overreacting when I felt like something just wasn’t right with my body. In that moment I thought I would die.

I’ve said so many times I’m not afraid of death, that I’m only afraid of dying unaccomplished. That’s bullshit, I don’t want to die at all, I don’t want to leave my family, I don’t want to not have a wife and a son and a daughter. I want to see my novels turned into movies and on library shelves. The fear was real and in those couple of hours waiting on those test results all I saw was all I didn’t accomplish. Sitting in the parking lot of the Kelsey Seybold clinic crying and praying and begging I knew that whatever happened, whatever the results my life would never be the same.

The test results came back negative in reference to the blood clot but the fluid is still here, the pain is still here, it’s still a struggle to breathe too heavily or talk too much. I still live with the fear that I’m going to lie down and not wake up. That I’m going to take a deep breath and not be able to exhale.

Most men love to say they have no regrets, I’m not one of them. There are so many things I regret, so many things I have to make right. So many kisses I need to give, so many trips I have to take, so many hugs I blew off.

If I’m being honest, I’ve seen my death so many times in my head. I’ve seen my family standing over me in the hospital room, I’ve seen their tears and I’ve felt their heartbreak. I’ve seen my last moments and as brave as I’d like to be that scares me because a part of me feels like it’s all coming true.

My body just doesn’t feel right and the more I pretend like everything is going to be alright to be strong for those around me, the more I’m coming to accept that I can’t live afraid to die. I have to live like I could die at anytime.

Don’t take life for granted because God says, “No man knows the hour or the time.”