Modern Love. He didn’t want to admit he was hurt

I was born into a world filled with anger. As a child, one of the first things I learned was how to navigate the invisible minefield that was our home. My mother was often angry with my father. My brother, an only child for six years, was often angry with me—both about our parents’ divorce and my unwelcome arrival. And my father, a Vietnam War veteran, was regularly angry with all of us.

His wrath poured out in a torrent of screams and screams at the slightest misstep. It could be triggered by my brother refusing to drink his milk or by me being late when my father came to pick us up from our mother. One day, it was even my brother’s amused comment about my inability to pronounce the word “loudspeaker” that caused the storm.

Driving, however, was the surest trigger for this paternal rage. If a driver cut us off or forgot to turn, I would look out the window, bracing myself for what was to follow: a barrage of insults and invectives that I was too young to understand and that could only be the product of a mind that had been deeply tormented.

I can’t remember the first time I heard the term “post-traumatic stress disorder,” but I never connected it to the Vietnam War. In my childhood mind, Vietnam was a distant, exotic country where my father had spent time, learned a new language, and gotten his first taste of pho and to mi tom thithis favorite egg noodle soup.

How many times did we eat these dishes together, in our favorite restaurant, where my father would tell me these stories of the war. Funny and innocent anecdotes: the time he got tangled up in basic training; the time he played with phosphorus grenades; or the time he snuck out to see a Bob Hope show. He didn’t tell me what it was like to have a machine gun in your hands during the Tet Offensive or to be evacuated in a boat full of refugees under a hail of bullets and rockets.

It was only many years later that I understood – and he was able to admit – the source of this uncontrollable anger.

“I should not have”

I started to realize this in high school when we had to read At the lake of the woods, by Tim O’Brien (Plon editions, 1996, where an American politician is caught up in his conduct during the Vietnam War). When my teacher learned that my father had served in the Vietnam War, she asked him if he would come

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