I'm quiet on the long drive back to Atlanta, deep in self-reflection. I've reconnected with my community, and I'm happy about that. A story is nothing without an audience, and people showed up to hear mine. Mostly, though, I'm glad to be going back to Atlanta. It is a vibrant cultural epicenter, teaming with people from all backgrounds and walks of life, and I have flourished in this diversity. My mind is open now, and there's no closing it.
I may always call Honaker "home," but Atlanta has become my home, too. It's where my friends are, where I can build a quiet life in my own little house, and where I can wake up every morning to my chickens, my dogs and my garden. I have a piece of the country here with me, but I don't have to be constantly exposed to things that remind me of the war. It is such a peaceful feeling to know that in a few hours I'll be back in Georgia's capital city, a place where I have grown to feel completely safe.
As the miles tick by, I think about Grover Lambert and the many other people in Honaker who never had the opportunities I did. My parents had no money for college, but I was able to attend for free because of my father's PTSD disability. It was my ticket out of Honaker. I knew, even at a young age, that I had to leave behind the landscape and the people who triggered my PTSD. I had to start over on my own. I wanted to live.
As we leave the mountains behind and near Tennessee, I think about the old deer heads mounted on my parents' walls. They're the only décor left from when we lived in the trailer. Those deer heads have seen it all. And like my family, for years and years, they stood silent.
Writer Leroy Brownlow once said, "There are times when silence has the loudest voice." I believe that. For 30 years, silence was my default mechanism. It almost killed me. Talking to my father about the war broke a pattern my family probably would have held until the end. Publishing "Thirty Days with My Father" was a way to ensure I was never silent again, even long after I'm gone. Finally looking my community in the eyes and telling them the truth about my life was a way to make sure my family no longer has to carry our burden alone.
There are still times when I wish I had a different story to tell. There are still times when I dream of the childhood I wished I had, and times when I look at pictures of my father in Vietnam and want to warn him, "Go to Canada, Delmer. Don't go to Vietnam. You will never be the same. You'll hurt your wife and daughter. You won't mean to, but you will."
More and more these days, though, I accept the life I was given, and find solace in helping others tell their truths by sharing mine. It seems like the only thing to do -- the right thing to do -- and something that will continue to set me free. I will no longer be silent. This I know.
The healing goes on.