November 5th, 2012
04:20 PM ET

A daughter faces demons of father's war

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Inside a trailer in Honaker, Virginia, is a 5-year-old girl who loves lemon-lime slush. She sleeps in a room with a quilted bedspread and matching purple curtains. She adores her cat Tiger, dogs Smoky and Rusty and a black, pop-eyed goldfish.

Her family is poor, and she is eating potted meat, blowing away cracker crumbs that fall into her lap.

"Daddy," she whispers when her father, a welder, comes home. He does not respond. His eyes are wild. He collapses into a rocking chair, his hands trembling, his breathing labored.

She doesn't understand her father's strange behavior. It's as though he's in the grip of the devil.

She hides behind the couch, her knees press against the shag carpeting.

Later, she will remember this moment as the first time she was afraid of her father.

A hole in her soul

Christal Presley, 34, held her breath for two seemingly endless days in mid-October. In Honaker, more than 300 miles away from her home in Atlanta, her father had just received a package in the mail. It contained an early copy of Christal's new book. On the cover: a sepia-tone snapshot of Delmer Presley holding his rifle in Vietnam.

Christal had staked her whole life on words crafted from love and pain. But what would they mean to her father?

Would they offer comfort like the conversations that resulted in the book? Or would they act as another trigger point for a man who never left war behind?

"Thirty Days With My Father" is a gritty memoir written by a woman haunted by what some psychologists describe as second-generation post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Filed under: Age • How we live • Veterans in Focus • Who we are
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  1. Jorge

    In Puerto Rico, I had a friend and fellow car buff who went to 'Nam on the draft in 1969. Anyone familiar with Vietnam will tell you that some types of folks (mostly minorities) did more than their share of point on patrols in the jungles of Vietnam. He said that many times, his M2 rifle (which he learned to love like a beautiful girl, in his own words) was the only thing standing between him and sheer terror, but that's all he would say. When he came back home, he bought a little Renault Dauphine, stopped cutting his hair and shaving and did nothing but drive from bar to club for 6 months. Then he met his current wife, got a job with the city water works and that was that. Oh well, for some people life goes on...

    November 6, 2012 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |