Monday, October 8, 2012

So Long, Soldier

I unwittingly boarded The Crazy Train in 2004 when I married my husband.  I had no idea I was marrying an addict.  HE had no idea he was an addict, for crying out loud.
I didn't get off that train for 6 years -SIX YEARS.  Do you know what can happen in six years?
A handful of celebrities will go through at least two marriages.
A gaggle of intellectuals will nearly graduate with doctorates.
A war will start and end (with time to spare).
Personally, I took those six years to birth two children.  It seemed easier than war at the time...

The Crazy Train had beautiful valleys and death-defying canyons, mild track and steep curves, sunny weather and icy tracks.

I wanted to get off so badly, but my husband was strangely attached to it.  I tried helping him off.
"Look at the schedule, darling," I would say, balancing a crying baby on my knee, "We're going to stop soon... let's get off this mutha."
"I promise we will," he would embrace me.
"I'll start packing," I would reply into his shoulder.
"Say... I've got to go and see a man about a dog..." and we'd pass the stop.
Time after time after time.

And then, one day, I saw that no matter how I tried to ease his attachment to The Crazy Train -no amount of pleading, bribing, bargaining made any difference... I realized something obvious: I had no bearing on his choices.  He would do what he would.
It was depressing.  I sobbed in my bunk for a few solid months.
"He will do what he will," I banged my fists into my thin, beaten mattress, "He will!  He will!"
Suddenly, I felt the warm glow of an electric light bulb gleaming over my head.  My fist banging ceased to be fitful and began to be resolute.
"He will do what he will... and SO WILL I."
At the next stop, I got off.
Oh, he looked so pitiful watching me pack.
"Where are you going?" He asked.
"I'm getting OFF," I replied.
"OFF?" The word was so foreign to him, it rolled awkwardly from his mouth.
"OFF," I barked back, "So long, Soldier."
"Wait, wait..." he sloppily threw a few things into a sloppy duffel and ran his fingers through his jet-black hair, "I'll, uh, go with you.  This train won't be the same without you."
"Do what you will," my eyes spit into his, "And SO WILL I."

With two kids and six years of baggage, I put my feet on Solid Ground.  I took deep breaths.
I was free.
I turned to my husband.
He nervously shifted from one foot to the other.  He bit his bottom lip.  He visibly trembled.  He glanced back once, twice, longing...
And when the conductor blew the whistle, my husband's eyes grew hungry -insatiable.
That's when I knew.
"So long, solider," I whispered to his back as he gravitated toward the train.
And then he was gone...

The worst part about The Crazy Train is that it goes in awful, predictable circles.  I've never moved too far from the station because my husband tends to pay sporadic visits, and I don't want to miss them.
The goodbyes are never easy, but they're getting easier as time goes by.   The longer my feet stay on Solid Ground, the easier it is to really SEE The Crazy Train for what it is.  When you're on it, it's hazy and blurred and numbingly rhythmic.  The fresh air cleanses your system -it's revealing.
I want to tell him.  I want to walk him the length of The Crazy Train and show him the leaks, the hazards, the filth... but it wouldn't matter.  He would be blind to it -absolutely blind.
Instead I opt to show him the blessings of Solid Ground -the birds, the sunlight, the freshly baked bread and clean clean interiors.
He likes it at first.  He always likes it at first.
But I'm never far from The Station.  He always hears the whistle.
Inevitably, it's So Long, Sailor.
If you're going to ride that train, go it alone.  I'll keep up Solid Ground while you're away.
It's an act of blind faith, saying goodbye.  Will he come back?  Ever?  I don't know.  Some days I long to go with him -just to BE with him.
It's those times that remind me exactly of these old photographs taken at a train station during WWII when men were shipping off to war.

I lean into him, inhale him, grasp his clothes, WILL him to stay with me on Solid Ground. Other days, I can tell he wants to ride The Train more than he wants me or the children. He fidgets and yells and fumes... and then I hand him his things and say, "So Long, Soldier."

And merrily he skips back to the platform, eager to board.

Maybe we'll be one of "those" couples -the kind that live separate lives but stay married forever.  Who knows?  I once read an article about a couple who lived happily married in separate homes.
Can I do that?  Live a life of sporadic conjugal visits?
No.  No, I can't.  Not forever.
But for today, I will live today.  And then I will wake up again and live today.  And Solid Ground will keep me, and I will learn more, gain more, gain strength, gain courage, inhale clarity...
Until one day when I'm ready to move away from The Station.
Will he be with me?  I haven't the faintest... much like the women in the photographs above who had no idea whether he was coming home or not.
The thing is: my husband can ride that train in circles or he can choose to get off at the War Office and enlist.
It's a scary thing to do: leave the familiarity of the train.
It's a scary thing to do: enlisting.
It's a scary thing to do: front line battle.

And so I feather the nest alone... and I entertain visits from my exceptional Mother-in-law who can't, for the LIFE of her, understand why I don't stand by my husband and make my home with him.
On The Crazy Train.
He obviously needs help.  Who am I -of all people -to deny it?

It's a sordid affair.
And if it weren't for Solid Ground, I'd probably feel badly about the whole thing.
As it is...
(pictures via)
**My mother-in-law, it shall be noted, is truly exceptional.  I wasn't being sarcastic.**


  1. I love this! I love the idea about solid ground and how from inside the "crazy train" it doesn't look so solid. I'm still trying to figure out where the crazy train is and where my husband is and if we are currently both at the station or not and when he'll get called back on the train. But I love this analogy, thanks for sharing!

    1. Everyone has a different version of the train. I think pregnancy is actually making me ride my own kind of crazy train... but it isn't long and black -it's a Crazy Hippie Train covered in peace signs and flowers and shaped like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
      It's flying down the track and I'm strapped down. I can't get off. Not for ten more weeks... haha.
      You'll find your version of it in good time, once you've had a chance to stand on solid ground and really breath in fresh air. And sometimes it will bring you peace. Sometimes it will piss you off. Sometimes you won't feel much at all... it's the nature of the beast. Through it all, The Savior is there to bring you that peace, to comfort the anger and to help you feel when you just feel like you can't anymore.
      You're so great.

  2. This is amazing:) Love the crazy train analogy! Wow...he is missing out big time. I hope he awakens to a sense of his duty and gets off the train.

    1. He definitely has Soldier potential... we all do. I fail to live up to my Soldier potential when it comes to my weaknesses, but when it comes to HIS I'm a Warrior Princess.
      It's so much easier to fight when you don't have to man up and say, "I need to change."
      I can totally say, "He needs to change."
      It's frustrating. I have compassion for him, but I can't for the LIFE of me ride that train anymore. I hope by the time I'm ready to move completely away from the station he is too. I DO hope.