At Christmas, Delmer never watched Christal open presents. She could hear him playing music in his room.
She learned to resent the guitar her father loved so much. She wished he would spend time with her, speak to her, seek solace in her.
When a truck backfired or Christal dropped a plate by accident, her father leaped up and went into soldier-at-war mode. Christal hated going out to eat at noisy restaurants -- everyone just stared.
The worst moments came when he picked up his shotgun and left the house for Little River, announcing to Christal and her mother, Judy, that he was going to kill himself.
As time passed, Christal forgot the daddy she'd once known.
Judy, a Pentecostal Christian, believed you had to be perfect to reach heaven and kept the family's struggles secret.
Christal pretended to the outside world that their life was normal.
Once when she was 6, she stole a neighbor's photo of a family trip to the beach. She cut the family's smiling faces out and replaced them with pictures of herself and her mom and dad. She showed the doctored photo off in class, describing for her classmates what a great time they'd had.
Leaving a war zone
Ironically, it was Delmer's trauma that enabled Christal to escape her parents' home.
Until then, every birthday had not been a celebration as much as it was a countdown to the day she'd turn 18 and be able to leave.
The federal government paid for her schooling at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. That's because by then, the Army had declared her father 100% disabled.
When Delmer returned from Vietnam in 1970, psychiatrists were just starting to recognize PTSD as an impairment. The first diagnosis for Vietnam veterans did not occur until 1980 when Christal was 2.
Veterans weren't encouraged to seek help, like they are these days. "My dad just thought he was going crazy."
As frightening as it was for Christal to leave Honaker and be alone for the first time, she felt liberated.
"I was so tired of living in a war zone," she says. "I really thought my father ruined my life."
As a girl, she had taken a razor from her mother's sewing kit and sliced her skin open. She cut herself with an ink pen and stapled her hands.
Hurting herself was a way to be close to her dad. He was in such pain, she thought, that she would be, too.
In college, she mixed anti-depressants with rum and tequila and drank alone. She wanted to numb herself like PTSD sufferers do.
She had her father's eyes -- and his behavior. Severe mood swings. Anxiety. She was hypersensitive to sounds. She stood back and skimmed the crowd in a room, looking for the quickest exit. She was private, reserved. She didn't trust people.
She told Delmer she hated him.
She went through boyfriend after boyfriend, craving a man's touch, looking for the affection her father had never shown.
She dreaded driving back home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. As she approached winding John Douglas Wayside in Abingdon and began her climb up the Virginia mountains, she had flashbacks.
She saw herself as a child wrapped tightly around Delmer's legs, trying to prevent him from going down to the river to kill himself. Or lying on her bed, curled into a fetal ball.
In college, she saw a therapist regularly and didn't speak to her father, except peripherally, for 13 years. In that time, she came to understand that her troubles were related to his.