Tonight I Will Slumber
by Donald K. Sanders
“Those that are wise among men, and search for the reason of things, are those that bring the most sorrow upon themselves.” ~ Euripides
I love my wife. At the same time, it troubles me that she loves me. I never believed in love at first sight, but when first I laid eyes upon her I knew it was something real, substantial. I think she could see it in my eyes as well.
From the onset, I thought I should walk away and never look back. I had no significant cause to wish myself upon her. I knew that for her to be with me, my burdens and my pains would become hers.
As heavy as my heart was, I could not walk away. Through the years, either consciously or subconsciously, I have given her many reasons to walk away from me. This she could not do. It is to her credit that as a result she has suffered many trials and tribulations.
No person that I know would or could endure what has been required of her to love me. I’m sure that more than most would simply walk away. Again, to her credit she is a fighter with unbelievable endurance in both love and life.
I know that marriage with me has been hard. She sometimes has to reach far within me like a safety line and pull me back from the terrible places that I sometimes travel to, dark places of my past.
Oftimes, in my mind, I travel to places of death and destruction where suffering is not equal from one person to the next. One who has been witness to such dark places in life cannot easily forget them.
The darkest of memories come and go as they will. Despite desperate attempts, some memories will not go away and on they live, just below the surface of what your eyes can see.
My love has but to glance upon me to know where I have gone. Through the years, experience has taught her what must be done and she also knows that it will not be the last time she will have to save me from myself.
The dark place of which I speak is a place of war and soldiers, and killing and dying. There is only one kind of war, though many speak of others. There is no honor in war, only sacrifice and death. It is a plague upon this Earth. It is eternal and lives in the hearts and minds of men who are the haves, as well as men who are the have nots. One wishes to keep, and the other wishes to take.
Violence is a nature of man. Good men do good work to keep it at bay but like water that runs through your fingers, it will seek you out and pull you in.
Men become soldiers to keep violence far from those they love but in doing so, they themselves become the very essence of violence and must press their newfound personality upon others.
A soldier has but two tools: violence or the threat of violence. It is the duty of every soldier to use these tools when called upon. It is done by most, openly and freely, much like picking the best of two bad choices. They pick the choice that will hurt others more than themselves and then they do their duty.
Later in life, the violence and choices live on, closely behind them. They breathe upon their necks refusing to be ignored. Keeping it behind becomes a race that never ends. The former soldiers rush to keep it behind but eventually it catches them in their rest, in their slumber.
Today, I look out upon the peaceful city of Winters, my beloved home. I turn to look upon my wife and children. I have a nice home and nice vehicles in which to travel where I wish, when I wish. All is well on the outside.
On the inside, I wonder about those who were on the receiving end of my duty as a soldier. What has happened to those that were on the other side. I would like to think that those they loved so dearly are happy and doing as well as I.
On the inside I know this is not the case because I know what we did. I remember.
I know that in Laos, we dropped so many cluster bombs that today there are over 80 million tiny bombs still to be disarmed. I know that their children play in the fields and sometimes kick them like rocks. I know about the Agent Orange. These are some of many dark places in which I find myself. There still, would I be, were it not for my beloved’s hand reaching in for me, pulling me out and picking me up.
My wife makes me want to act like a man or what I think a man should act like. I would hope that I am a man who deserves such a wife and all of the other good things that I am blessed with, but does that make the other men, our enemies, any less deserving of such things?
It is this very act of pressing violence upon others to keep it from ourselves that I have a constant battle with. It will not leave me alone, for tonight I must slumber.