It’s taken me a while to be ready to share this story, but I am truly honored to share it was this amazing group of strong and understanding women.
I met him over the phone when he called to apologize for canceling a blind date his sister set up. She and I worked together. We talked for a month before we met, his sarcasm, wit, and intellect intrigued me so much, I liked him before I met him. He refused to call me Yesi, he would tell me I introduced myself as Yesenia (my full name) and he hated that I called him Rudy, he preferred Rudolfo. His full name is Rudolfo I. Bernal JR-RIB. The I stands for Inocente, which is innocent in Spanish. He was scruffy when we finally met, and wearing his manly odor (lol) but we kept on, he cleaned up good. Within 2mths we were in love and talking about kids. I was pregnant 4mths later. I knew he was the one. He treated me like a queen, listened and cared, he made me laugh. He made it easy to be me. I still remember when I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. We went to a club for my b-day, he wasn’t a dancer, he was very quiet and reserved—me…not so much. I ditched him with my sister and went off to dance with a guy friend the whole night—Rudy was there to take care of me at the end, holding my hair as I hugged the toilet. He never complained about me ditching him, he was glad I had fun. That’s what I loved so much about him, that he was so confident and didn’t worry about things that meant nothing, he trusted me just as much as I trusted him.
When our Leila was born I was scared of the idea of being responsible for her life, and he was there to support me and show me I wasn’t alone. He was such a great father; he wanted to have a big family. I hurt for her having lost on so much without him. We were ecstatic that we were a family, but I kept putting off marriage, first because we were pregnant and then because I wanted us to save for a wedding. Then, he joined the Army-he told me he always wanted to but didn’t because of his dad not wanting him to because his dad didn’t want to lose his only son, like he had his brother in Vietnam. Rudy wanted to give us a good life, and wanted to make a career in the military, and I was scared but supported his decision, I was proud of him (still am). Then, he got orders and told me to marry him or wait and see if he came back-I did it in a heartbeat. We were married Sept 29 2006. Literally ran into city hall because they were about to close, but the judge married us anyway. Leila who was 2½ kept tugging on his leg to carry her the whole time (big daddy’s girl)! We were blessed by the church the next day and spent Sunday afternoon by the lake together then he left, and I didn’t see him for 2mths.
I finally moved down to KY in Nov, he was stationed at Ft. Knox, and I loved it that we were together again, we had 2½ months before he deployed; we cherished our time together. We were so broke, we had no furniture, our car was totaled and money was short because I didn’t have a job and he was an E-1. It was the happiest time ever. We relished in our daughter, watching her figure things out and just enjoying each other and our space. We would spend time in the same room without talking, either reading or on the computer and it was our QT, we were so comfortable we didn’t have to talk to know we were together. When we argued he would walk away and then come back after a while and say “are you done” …took me a while to figure out that was his apology.
When he deployed and I cried, he told me not to, this was his job and it was what he signed up for. I could not be prouder. He would call me and mess with me at 3am; he’d say why are you asleep, it’s early. He was such a smart ass. I remember one phone call-after discussing finances I said I didn’t want to talk about it anymore and if he kept at it I would hang up on him, he threatened to not call till he came home, to which I said I wouldn’t answer, he kept talking about the subject and I hung up (who does that!) he called back and I answered, and he said “you answered” instead of staying mad I just laughed, he was already laughing, the argument was done. His friends tell me that when he would come back from talking to me he would have this big smile, he would tell them how he had gotten me mad and he’d be laughing. He thought it was hilarious that I’d get mad over his “silly comments.” I miss that sarcasm, that smart alec-ness of his.
He came home for leave and finally met my new friends at Knox. I had made new friends, good friends while he was away. I remember one of the girls telling me I was lucky, because he was so attentive, and he hung out with us. He was so giving, so thoughtful—well except for the fact that he flew into Chicago instead of Louisville and I had to drive 6hrs to see him. He thought it would be best that way he could see his family and friends all at once. I drove up to get him and bring him back to our new home, only to have to drive back to have him fly back to a war zone. Even now that he’s gone I miss his imperfections, they are what made him perfect for me. He tried to get me pregnant then, I wasn’t having it. He spoiled me during my pregnancy and I didn’t want to go through it alone, it would be at least 8 months before he came home. I still don’t know if that was a good decision, either way things worked out the way they were suppose to I guess.
I remember the call that scared the crap out of me; it started with “Babe, I’m ok.” Nothing following that is ever good! I was half asleep, it was another 3am call. I heard schnook, debris, head and med-evac, and then he had to go. I couldn’t go back to sleep, and debated going to work, I decided it was best to do to keep busy till I heard from him again. I didn’t say anything to Leila of course. He called at noon and explained everything again; he had gotten hit by debris picked up by an unexpected schnook coming to deliver supplies. He was knocked unconscious hit on the head by something, and his shoulder was dislocated. He was med-evac’d to the main FOB and treated for his shoulder. He was not given an MRI even after repeatedly complaining of headaches after the incident, and before that he didn’t have headaches. When his shoulder healed, he was sent back to work to redeploy with his unit. We were so excited to have him home. I was lucky to welcome him home, I didn’t know we’d only have 2 more months with him. I witnessed the headaches he would tell me about. He never made it seem like a big deal over the phone, but I could see they were severe; he would cradle his head in agony. We were in the ER at least 3 times a week from the time he got home until his surgery. We had a hospital bag for Leila filled with a portable DVD player, movies of course, crayons, and coloring books. They could never do anything for him. He was given an MRI a month after he got home. We went to Disney world before that though, before our life got turned upside down. He had promised Leila he would take her as soon as he got home. Best week ever—just to think I wanted couches instead. The MRI showed he had a mass that was growing and needed to be removed. He had surgery scheduled the week after, but there were complications and it was rescheduled to May 20 2008. I remember we spent that weekend watching movies and just cuddling. Ironically one of the movies we watched was p.s. I love you. I remember every detail as if it just happened yesterday. He woke up from his surgery the next day, being a smart ass as usual. The nurses asked him what my name was and he said “Wife” then the doctor asked how his head felt and he said it was like he’d been hit with a bat. He was in and out of conscience that day. Unfortunately, his brain was bleeding and he went into a coma 24 hours later, that he never woke up from.
I can’t believe it will be two years come 8/1/11 since I got that phone call I knew would come and didn’t want. Rudy had been comatose for 14 months after surgery. I never gave up on him, my love for him is strong still, and I signed a DNR when I accepted it was God’s will. The pain I was putting him through, the countless surgeries, bed sores, infections, 2 heart attacks from which they brought him back from, seeing his body deteriorate was too selfish of me, it was and still is so hard to let go. I remember every detail of the time before his surgery. I remember what the doctors said, what the cnas did, and what nurses where good. I cannot remember though how I survived it. I miss him every day, I never thought it would be HE that would spend the rest of his life with me, I wanted it to be ME that spent the rest of my life with him. He was so strong and healthy, careful about what he ate and was always looking for ways to introduce me to a healthier living style—I eat junk food all the time and never work out—he brought new things to my life.
These past few years I’ve somehow found that I can laugh, and I can enjoy my daughter, the guilt of it was wrenching to me, and still is at times. He takes care of me still, in that I believe. God gave me only what I can handle. My heart goes out to those that get blind-sided with the news. I got a good-bye, I had that conversation-even though I didn’t want to hear it. I kept telling him he was going to be fine. I know I was blessed in so many ways, and I know I still am, but it doesn’t make the hurt less. He died three times, my heart broke each time and I don’t know how I got through it. I think the people around me, my family and friends had a lot to do with it, as did my faith and my love for him and our daughter.
I think of him every day, I’ve adjusted to this new routine of life without him, my fear of raising Leila alone is not so big anymore, I know we are going to be ok. I have family and friends that have been truly amazing. We were blessed have had such a beautiful man in our lives that left an imprint that will never be erased. We had more than a relationship, we had a life together, he was my best friend, my lover, my baby daddy, my confidant, my partner, my date, my husband, my hero, my RIB. He will always be in my heart, missed everyday and loved forever.
Yesenia Bernal <—-that name btw, was a deal breaker for marrying me, I had to take it or he wouldn’t marry me even though he asked me 3x’s! I had wanted to hyphenate and wasn’t having it.