A Veteran and Our Clocks

I forced myself to do something or not to do something today. I did not go see Al. You may banjo clockthink why would you force yourself that?

Well, I just needed the break. I had to take some time a way from the one thing that brings me down so quick. Not Al, of course, the facility itself.

Being in a facility can tend to take a way smiles and laughter. You walk in and immediately see elderly people sitting alone in wheelchairs. You may hear a few repeating the same sentence over and over. It seems they are talking to non-speaking walls.

Many sleep in their chairs or sit in their rooms waiting to eagerly go to bed or to a meal. So many sad faces. Lifeless bodies consuming a colorless chair with two big black ugly wheels.

Then I step into Al’s doorway. His roommate is quiet as usual, most likely sleeping with head tilted over in his wheelchair. Al is behind a divided curtain either picking his head, or crying or asleep in his bed.

I just couldn’t do it. I had to step back a way. I am struggling with the continuing of writing my two books. I wrote a new chapter to one of my books today, which by the way I have finally titled. I am on chapter 21, which I published today. It is now called A View Backwards.

It took me a large amount of time to write it. It isn’t that exciting of a chapter but my mind kept drifting elsewhere.When I completed the chapter, I made myself leave my four walls. I just got in my car and drove. I wound up going to some garage sales. I  found one thing in three sales. It was a bed tray or you may call it a food tray that will go over Al’s lap while he is in bed. He can use it to prop his Bible and read or eat snacks or a meal on it if he is not feeling well.

On my fourth and last trip to the sales I found two things for me. I found a Redwood chicken. I like to collect chickens and roosters. I don’t have many, but I don’t like the modern silly looking ones. I like the oldies. Then I also found a clock. This clock took me back to six years ago. I was caring for a man and wife. I took care of them for three years, or maybe it was five in total, I can’t remember.

Anyways, he had this clock that hung above his television. I always admired it and the Mr. and I used to talk about it quite often. I am sure his is much older than mine and I believe his is a little bigger. I assume one of his children have it now as both of these dear people passed a way.

I prayed like a silly school girl that it was in my price range and that it worked. I was like a kid in a candy store, slobbering all over myself. I walked up to it ever so slowly. Afraid that it was out of my reach.

I touched it. It was a nice heavy clock compared to today’s clocks. I picked it  up and ran my hands over the inlay and the mahogany. It felt so nice, like it belonged to me. He and I became friends instantly. I couldn’t put it down.

I asked the lady how much it was, and I thought my legs immediately turned to jelly. I could feel them wobbling as I knew I could afford it. I watched her gently take it in her arms and plug it in. Oh my, it worked also. I told her I would take it. I paid and smiled all the way to my car, like two old buddies had just reunited.

While I was sitting in the car admiring my prize I thought back to the man I had taken care of and how proud he was of this same clock. He had been in the war also. Each Memorial Day I took him to the cemetery to reunite with his friends.

He and I spent hours on those special weekends talking about his war days. I thought ahead to where Al is sitting right now and wondered  how many of those empty faces are also veterans.

The stories that are locked inside their head would give me goose bumps when I think of what they did to save us. Maybe if we just took the time and visited these lonely veterans, we could relive some of what they went through.

There are shelves of books and broken chapters hidden deep inside. Willing to come out if only given the chance. My first husband served in the last few years of the Vietnam War. It seemed to me that it was more like a party for him instead of a war. The bad days were over, and life settled down. He was a policeman over in Stuttgart Germany, where I had the opportunity to live many years ago.

My second husband had no heirs so he didn’t go. My father had us children so he was never called. Al had no heirs so he never received the letter either. But thanks to the elderly I cared for so many years, I had a front row seat and got to see the movie in full living color.

God bless our Veterans. They are our heroes. So why do so many people shove them to the back corners of life and watch while they slowly sit in their wheelchairs waiting to die. Waiting for someone to say hello. Waiting, just waiting.

In A Veteran’s Mind

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…

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In A Veteran’s Mind

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.