When I read over the story of the gnats in my mother’s journal, I’m not sure which of my parents I pity more. I can understand my father’s perspective. Here he is in pilot training, risking his life, torn between viewing it as the adventure of a lifetime and being terrified by the stories he hears about what it’s really going to be like. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for a young soldier, twenty years old, excited yet horrified, rising to the physical and mental challenges, yet recognizing that he will soon be expected to kill people. Having my mother follow him about the country from camp to camp must have generated mixed feelings for him. Most of his buddies were single and he loved the camaraderie of hanging out with them. Yet he loved my mother and wanted to spend time with her as well. When the two worlds came together, it must have been emotionally difficult for him.
I picture him being proud of his wife, eager to show her off, to have his friends recognize that he had a winner, a woman who was both beautiful and intelligent, with a dynamic spark that lit up a room. Yet when she shows up at camp, all she does is pout and complain about the conditions. Embarrassed by her behavior, he doesn’t take time to figure out the best way to respond, but goes with his first instinct, which is to get mad at her.
Was he really mad about her complaining or was something else going on? I don’t suppose I’ll ever really know. But while I view him as a jerk for lecturing her in front of his friends and treating her as if she were a child, I can kind of empathize.
I get more frustrated with her response. Instead of letting him know that he’d hurt her feelings, she buried them, denying him the opportunity to grow into a more supportive partner. It never occurred to her that she was dooming their relationship by her silence. And he couldn’t make the leap to understand what had happened.