Lonely, sitting alone in his three-room apartment. Ignoring the request being whispered in his ears to go to the home. Never leaving his familiar friend, his wheelchair, except to get on the pot or get into bed.
A non-speaking foreign lady comes in three times a day. She fixes his meal and sets his table. When all is complete he dines alone with one single artificial flower staring at him. It reminds him of years gone by when he attended his best friend‘s funeral. Same color, not much to it. Grab what you can from it and hide it deep within your memories.
After each meal he would wheel himself to the sink and trash can. He tossed many a meal in the plastic container. Who the hell enjoys eating alone? There was a time he took off his hat and walked into the mess hall and everyone flagged him to their table.
He was a friendly guy. He was never afraid to try the forbidden. His buddies respected him and he knew this. But now, he and his memories shared meals together, but no one answered his words.
The doctor was the most common place he visited. Doctors, the hell with them. Always trying to stick a pill down his throat. Didn’t they know he wished to die? What was the use of living, his life was over. He felt he had done his duty.
His wife was dead and his son lived miles a way in California. His son was some big shot for a big company out there. He usually could expect a phone call at Christmas, and if he had some free time he would fly home every few years.
Taffy, his cat jumped up on his lap. Taffy sensed his owner was lonely. The Veteran petted his friend. Taffy loved to be petted but the fluff ball had no idea how beneficial he was to the Veteran. Sometimes he would pick up his bottles of medications and look at them and ponder on things, but then end up spending time with the cat.
The veteran was reminded of the pain that he went through every time he looked down at his one leg. The other was an ugly stump, but looking back he wouldn’t have changed a thing. He was not in the war to only fight for his country. He was there to protect his unit and buddies too. He had tried to spare his buddy’s life by throwing himself over him. He lost his buddy and one limb.
Tears came to his eyes as he thought back to the purpose of his life. He had been raised to believe that hard work was the way to be a proud man. He worked in the fields for neighbors, he worked hard on his parents farm. When he was old enough he got the letter. He had to enter the war.
He remembered how damn scared he was when he read that his country needed him. It wasn’t that he was afraid for himself, he was more fearful of how his parents would make it without him.
He remembered his Mama’s wet cheeks as she waved to him through the bus window when he left. Oh he missed his Mama. She was a good woman and taught him things about life.
Now today he was in his eighties. Neighbors and friends kept telling him he should go live at the Veteran’s home. He would have an easier life they would say. But how could he? He had taken care of his own family without anyone’s help, and he sure didn’t need it now.
His pension allowed for the lady to come in to fix his meals. He got a reduced rate on his living quarters. He had food, a roof over his head and Taffy. He still had his right mind, so he wasn’t about to turn it all over to someone else who would make his decisions for him.
It was coming up on another Memorial Day. A parade was going to be strutting down the street. He had received an invitation to sit on the throne and ride in comfort in honor of all Veterans. Just thinking about this made him smile.
He may have lost his parents and a lot of his buddies, but he had his memories, and Taffy, and the chance to let others know what a role he played in the lives they lived today.
He wheeled himself into his bedroom and opened his closet doors. There at the back of the closet it hung with pride. Wrapped in plastic, the smells of loss and victories all over it. The shiny medals that had been pinned on the jacket.
He had no doubt that it would still fit. He never gained much weight from when he was a young whipper snapper. He touched the plastic lining and he could feel it speaking back at him. I am here good buddy. I have never deserted you nor forsaken you.
He closed the doors and knew that in two days he would put his best clothes back on. He would be representing everything war had to offer. He only had one more time that it would be in use and that was when he breathed his last breath.
- Vets: Remember reason behind holiday (triblive.com)
- Free meal for military, vets this week at The Hollow in Albany (timesunion.com)
- Northwest student vets reach out to support their battle buddies (dvidshub.net)