It was brutally painful to be away from my son and then-wife when I deployed to Iraq and being apart from my son for another 15 months while I was in Afghanistan was another knife to the gut. I didn’t realize it then, but I must have found some comfort in the fact that if something terrible happened, the Army would send me home on emergency leave so I could take care of it. The USDB isn’t so lenient.
Deploying, sadly, got me pretty accustomed to being away from the people I care most about. So while it still hurts every second of every day to not see my son, it’s unfortunately something I’m used to coping with. What I’m not used to coping with is the shit my dad just told me.
I recently called home and got some wild news. I haven’t lived at home for some time now – probably about 17 years. My sister, on the other hand, has lived with my parents her entire life. She now has three children ranging from one to 13 years old. My dad is a 76-year old truck driver and is the sole breadwinner for the entire household. With his paltry income and social security – plus a regular stipend from me – they were making ends meet. I had an account where I used to stash a little money every few weeks so that one day I’d be able to buy my parents a modest home where they could live out their golden years. But when I was hauled off to prison, I stopped sending them cash and have had to use most of my savings on legal fees.
So when I heard that the bank foreclosed on my parents’ mobile home and they’re living out of their car … it hurt. My inability to do anything for them or anyone else just keeps slapping me in the face. My dad told me this news in the same matter-of-fact, nothing-can-be-done tone he used to deliver another blow: that he’d found my sister’s fiancé dead body in the backyard a few weeks before they’d moved out of the trailer. What?!? Her fiancé had trouble with drugs in the past and was in rehab last year. My dad found him dead the day after he overdosed. I still haven’t really wrapped my mind around all this news. I feel like the world is crumbling.
My parents have never been good at managing their money and my sister has never been good about choosing partners – so although it’s not a huge surprise, it’s still immeasurably difficult to imagine my parents’ destitution and my sister’s heartbreak. And while my family is out there suffering, I’m stuck here, unable to do anything. Unable to fulfill my promises of comfort in their retirement and unable to comfort my only sibling.