Afghanistan made Christmas spirit a bit tougher this year

With Mark returning home, it has been the most wonderful Christmas present. But at the same time, it's created a tense atmosphere as he adjusts to being home and we adjust to accommodating each other once more.

I envy the excitement my sister Meghan builds around Christmas. Meghan, as seen in this photo sharing in a bite of turkey with me, is still like an eight-year -old on Christmas morning. She wakes up every hour on the hour, listens for stirring in the house, and then gives up at six a.m., wakes us all up, and is the first one gathering the stockings in the living room. She’s been that way for as long as I can remember. I should mention that she’s now 29 years old. Twenty-nine and still waiting for Santa. I love that about her, even though at six a.m., I find it extremely annoying.

This year was a bit different though. Mark came home sick with a cold, gave it to me, and so I was just getting over the sickness when I arrived at my parents. Meghan got the flu and has spent the holidays with a fever and a not-so-cooperative stomach. Now, Mom has fallen prey to the disease cesspool. To say the very least, it’s put a bit of a damper on the Christmas spirit.

But what’s also been difficult has been adjusting to the new version of my fiancé who has returned from Afghanistan. His patience is shorter. He’s a little more emotional. He’s tense. He’s maybe even a little bit angry at the world right now. He’s not quite the man I sent over there eight months ago.

The thing is, I prepared for this. Whether or not there are actual issues Mark needs to work out is not up to me to decide. It could just very well be the “post-Afghanistan” haze, in which soldiers just have to get used to not being in a war zone. Home in Canada, they don’t have to work all day. They can sleep without worry of bombs going off. They don’t have to constantly search for their weapon. This can all take some time to adjust to.

However, we’re very lucky in the military because without personal cost, we have access to social workers, psychologists, doctors, padre’s, and tons of other health professionals, all providing us with the assistance we need. Some are not lucky enough to be able to search out this support. Others find their way through that “post-Afghanistan” haze and figure out that they need some help. I don’t know if Mark fits into one of these categories, but I’ll be there the whole way, remembering that the man I knew pre-Afghanistan may reveal himself again and he’s still in there. I can wait patiently and even if I never see that man again, I will accept Mark for who he is now. All of life’s experiences make up who we are as human beings.

So yes, this Thompson Christmas was a bit stressful this year. But as you can see in this picture, we always find a way to laugh a little. Laughter won’t solve all your problems but for a moment, it can make you remember how lucky you really are to have love, family, and something worth laughing at.


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