Posts Tagged ‘vietnam veterans’

She’s Leaving Home

April 11, 2019

The two men sat in the dark room with symphonic music playing. Lying in the bed with the white noise of oxygen being pumped into their mother’s nose.

“I think they fucked this whole thing up… If she can’t swallow any longer than how the fuck did she eat yogurt and drink water?” Asked Wade.

“There’s no way of knowing if it’s going into her lungs or stomach…” said Jimmy.

Jimmy is Wade’s son but was adopted by Wade’s mother while he was in Vietnam and so Laurie was the mom of both men. Wade was adamant that his mother was Jimmy’s grandmother and referred to her as such. Jimmy, tired and stressed over standing watch over a dying woman snapped at his dad and brother.

“Look… When someone adopts you, that person becomes your parent. You and my real mom gave me to her and so that makes her my mother too… Why don’t we just call her Laurie? That way I don’t have to hear you call her grandma. She’s not your grandmother and she’s not mine either.”

Back in the old days when Jimmy was a boy, Laurie would make Jimmy spend time with Wade. Wade, a Vietnam Veteran affected by Agent Orange, had a short attention span, problems with anger and an inability to hold a job. Wade never had to ever take care of another human in his life until now with his mother doing hospice. Laurie was a tough woman who fought cancer several times and won. Wade was a man who was burned over 65% of his body in a house fire and lived. Jimmy had a high threshold for stress.

“Wade… Do you remember the guy you shot in the foot?”

“Oh yeah… That fucking guy…”

The man’s name was Gene and he was a drunk Marine who was sitting in the backyard of a drunk Army/infantry veteran. Gene called Wade a pussy and told him he was too much a pussy to shoot anyone. Wade took a sip of his beer, pulled out a handgun and put it to the foot of his drinking buddy and pulled the trigger.

“Whatever happened to that guy?”

“He was as nuts as Mr. Peanuts. They put his ass in a mental institution. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive.

Wade yelled to his hard of hearing mother who was lying in bed holding a stuffed animal, staring straight ahead. He took a sponge on a stick and tried to jam water into her mouth. Lodged in the corner was a ball of yogurt that was being stored not swallowed.

“Looks like Laurie is saving that yogurt for dessert later,” said Jimmy.

Both men quietly thought about the days when she was younger, pretty and vibrant. Laurie was a bundle of energy at all times and could never do enough for her boys. Wade looked at Jimmy in his tank top with his arms folded. Jimmy’s arms looked strong. Both men worked out, ate well and wanted to try to not suffer in old age as much as possible.

“How much can you bench now?”

“On good days when my joints don’t hurt… 235 maybe 240… I remember when them two Greeks kicked my ass and I had to get stitches on my eyelid. You were lifting out in the backyard with your shirt off. It was summer time and Laurie was hanging clothes out on the clothesline. I came to you and asked if you could get me started lifting. You looked at me and told me never to wear stupid clothes anymore and eat more meat… I gained 35 lbs. of muscle that year. Nobody wanted to fight me anymore after that…”

Laurie picked at the blanket that covered her with one hand and reached out to her mother and grandmother who were standing in a field with the wind in their hair. Both women waved to Laurie and she waved back.

“Well, I say we call 911, get her to a hospital and do another swallow test. This is horseshit. If she can swallow, she can swallow.”

“Wade… The car is running but it’s not going to drive anymore… You know what I mean? It is what it is. She’s doing better because she sees you and me now instead of the nurses at the nursing home twice a day. She has advanced Alzheimer’s. It’s a matter of time. I don’t want that but it’s coming. We’re watching the sun setting with clouds. When the clouds pass and the sky gets lighter, we think the sun is coming back. It’s not coming back. It’s setting here and rising somewhere we can’t see.”

“That’s some deep, poetic shit, Jimmy. Put that on a greeting card, make some money.”

“I’ll put your picture on the front for people to laugh so that they won’t think it’s too heavy…”

“Fuck you…”

For as much as Jimmy disdained the man who was really his father, he was impressed with his ability to go on. His ability to persevere. His ability to conquer without fear. Jimmy understood that Wade was afraid to lose his mom. More so that Jimmy.

“Where are you going?” Asked Laurie, faintly.

Laurie’s mother and grandmother turned and held their hair in the breeze. They were young and vibrant like they were back in the 1930’s with crimped, short hair.

“We’re getting things ready for you… We’ll see you soon.”

Wade started to tear up as he looked at Laurie. With a crackling voice and sniffles, he explained harsh things that happened in his life that never left him.

“We captured a gook that got some of our guys killed. We tied him to the back of our truck and let him bounce around until his body was pulled apart and only his trunk was left. I watched a guy next to me die after a hole was put through his head. I watched people die in that burn unit from their injuries. I screamed myself when they scrapped my skin with a wire brush and had to cream my whole body and give me morphine… Those were hard things. Losing your mom is the hardest thing I have ever gone through and I’ll never forget her.”

Jimmy began to tear up. He was crying too. All he could do was shake his head in agreement. They would both miss her.


The Beatles

She (we never thought of ourselves)
Is leaving (never a thought for ourselves)
Home (we struggled hard all our lives to get by)
She’s leaving home, after living alone, for so many years.


Saying Goodbye to Father

July 7, 2014

Delice, named after the Freshman school teacher that helped her mother accept the fact that she was going to become a mother at the age of 15, arrived at the hospital to see her father who was dying. She arrived wearing dowdy Amish clothing with her eldest daughter who was cross eyed and full of acne. Denise, the daughter of Delice, strummed an autoharp while her mother alternated between receiting bible verses and singing hymnals in German and English.

Delice was raised in a broken home as they were called in the seventies. She smoked pot, had sex, wore Van Shoes, Ocean Pacific clothing and had a thing for surfer boys in Los Angeles where she was raised by her mother.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Delice moved from Los Angeles to the no-mans land in Michigan south of Detroit and north of the Ohio border. It was while working at an interstate 75 road stop that she met a young Amish man who was on his way from Michigan to Pennsylvania with family. The thought came to Delice that maybe a simple life without drugs and random sex, might be a good life. She told the young man who stopped to urinate at the rest stop and marveled at the gawdiness of the Sunoco gas station, that she had a dream about marrying an Amish man who looked exactly like him. The young man was visually taken in by the shapely and pretty young woman and so he took her with him. As time went on, Delice became more and more Amish. Maybe too Amish for most Amish.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Now Delice had a brother who was raised in southern California, became a Punk Rock kid who moved out of his mother’s home at age fifteen and joined his sister in nowhere Michigan with their dad. Mathew Luke or Luke Mathew as he was sometimes called, lived with his father, a former Vietnam Veteran for a lot of his life. Delice’s short time with her father prior to becoming Amish, left her with different memories of life with father.

Luke Mathew’s wife, a buxom black woman who owned several hair braiding salons in and around Detroit, sat next to her husband and texted a suitor who loved her pretty smile, large ass and breasts. Dominica loved the attention but had yet to act on her urges to be with other men who were less cavemanesque than her husband. Mathew Luke’s and Dominca’s twin sons played Mindcraft on hand held computers. They really didn’t know their grandfather nor did they like him. He was old and angry looking and really white. They were kind of white but not really.

Picture this: It is a hospital room with a patient and six other people. Two are Amish, one is a white man with no hair, tattoos, scars and a sleeveless shirt to show off his arms, his buxom wife who happens to be black and their twin boys who care most for their hand held electronics. And then the patient.

Mathew Luke waited for his sister to finish praying, singing and crying over a man she never really knew. After a thirty minute prayer that was more like a eulogy, Luke Matthew was given the chance to say a few words to his dad who was left unable to speak due to a stroke.

“Pop…you were a mean motherfucker. As a kid, my friends and all thought you looked like Charles Manson. You were a drunk, a mean drunk that shot at people who owed you money, made racist comments my whole life including calling my two boys, “the little brown ones”. Your fixation with young Asian girls is warped, your hygiene is poor as is your attitude. You should have died in that house fire ten years ago when you were burned over 65% of your body. I was told then that you would die and I knew you wouldn’t. I told them that any man who could drink and smoke for a week straight without eating and sleeping, could suddenly stop the self abuse, eat a yogurt and then jog ten miles, could not die so easily by a mere burn. Most people would have died from the pain but you lived off of the pain of life. It keeps you going. Sure you can hear me and you love the idea that your daughter who has joined a Germanic cult has come to sing songs and recite bible verses that need to go through a translator. It ain’t a bad thing. I look here today at my two boys who cannot hear me right now because they are engrossed in some mindless bullshit that I don’t understand on computers. They will stand over me one day hopefully and say something kind. So I will say something kind too. You are a strong man with a will to go on despite the fact that you have abused your liver for over forty years. On the other hand you are a racist and an angry loner. You were given the gift of a high metabolism and great stamina to have a physique of a thirty year old man while in your sixties. You helped me at times of self doubt to not be a pussy. You made me fight other boys that I was afraid to fight or face you. I was always willing to fight others than have to face you. When I thought I was impotent because I couldn’t maintain an errection due to nerves as a teen, you told me to relax and have the girl, “pop it in her mouth the way your mom once did for me”. So in closing, I don’t think you are on the way out. I think you’ll bounce back as you have so many other times before…”

Wade, their father motioned with a slightly operational right hand for a pad of paper and a pen. Wade scribbled something barely legible. It was short and to the point. It astounded Delice but not Mathew Luke. This is what it said:


Happy Veterans Day

November 12, 2013

Wade watched his son walk out alone through the tunnel. He saw a skinny kid with a lot of feathered hair. He thought his young son looked like Shawn Cassidy, an androgenous looking teen star. Luke held out his hand to the man who looked like Charles Manson in an olive green army coat. The man with intense eyes left his son’s hand to hang in the air until he dropped it.
“You came from Frisco?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Are there still a lot of queers in Frisco?”
“I don’t know. I live in Oakland. My mom works at Berkeley. She said it was cheaper to fly out of San Francisco than Oakland.”
“Berkeley huh? Lot of fucking hippies at that school. You’re not a Shawn Cassidy fan are you?”
“No sir. My sister is though.”
Wade was a Vietnam veteran who had come back from an eighteen month, two tours of duty to Detroit. He was an infantry sergeant whose job it was to walk from village to village through the jungle after Agent Orange, a defoliant, was used to cause the foliage to die instantly, making it possible to see the forest through the trees as the saying goes.
Luke looked at the beat up looking house in a beat up looking area of a town he was born in but had not visited since being an infant. In the front yard with knee high grass; behind a six-foot cinderblock wall with razor wire at the top and a sign that read, “Trespass if you want to go to heaven today”. In the yard were three Doberman Pinchers. The three dogs growled at Luke. Luke was frozen with fear.
“If you act like a scared little pussy, you’ll always get your ass kicked. Don’t think them dogs don’t know you’re frightened like a girl. Just be cool and they won’t fuck with you… Hey, you got my money, motherfucke!r?”
A chubby man with aviator sunglasses and a thick black moustache was loading his belongings into a car in the driveway at that same moment. He had been renting a bedroom from Wade and decided to vacate upon not having rent money two months in a row.
“Well, I have just recently become gainfully employed and will be able to send you money from Cleveland just as soon as I get my first check.”
Wade held up his index finger motioning his renter to wait a moment.
“Wait here. I got a little something to give you before you go. Don’t take off yet.”
Wade went into his bedroom, brought out a double barrel 12 gauge shot gun and pointed it at his renter. The truck lid was open. Wade shot a hole in the trunk as his former renter raced off in his car.
“Rule fucking one- be a man of your word and don’t bullshit people especially if they are not stupid enough to swallow bullcrap. He thinks I would kill and I would. He won’t ever send me a nickel. He deserved the scare for being a lying ass deadbeat. You hungry?”
Wade took Luke to a Coney Island and let him order a hot dog with fries and a soda. He thumbed through a book called Dianetics by a man named L. Ron Hubbard while smoking a cigarette. Luke, an eleven year old boy wondered why it was that the man who was his father, never asked him any questions. What’s your school like? How’s your mom? Does your sister ever ask about me? After about five minutes of silence, Wade started to speak.
“I had a friend named Lester. A bad ass Jew boy who lived in Southfield. He had a Dodge Charger and wouldn’t take no shit from nobody. He went to reform school and when he got out, his family wouldn’t let him back in the house. I had a job with your mom’s father working at a Plymouth plant and Lester was living with your mom and I. Well old Lester had no fucking job and he was at home all day with your mom while I was working. You were a baby and about a year later, your sister was born. When your sister came out, she was born with a hook fucking nose. I’m wondering where she got the hook. Maybe a Jew with a hook nose himself? I know your sister is Lester’s kid. She looks like Lester in all them pictures your mom sent me.”
Luke went on to hear the same story several more times before he returned home. Upon returning home, Luke confronted his mother with the question about Lester being the father of his sister. Luke’s mother slapped him and replied that Lester was a pig and the very idea of being accused of being with him, made her violent.
Two men came in to the restaurant and began quietly robbing everyone at the Coney Island. Wade took notice and put down the book on Dianetics. Eventually the men walked up towards Wade and Luke. One man plopped down across from Wade, next to Luke as he picked his teeth with a toothpick.
“Hey man, we collecting money foh little brothas of the poor. We poor brothas and we collecting. Take out all you got in your pockets and just be cool, dig?”
Wade took a drink of his coffee with his left hand and rammed the barrel of his gun into the crotch of the man sitting across from him calmly.
“I was in a village you ain’t never heard of or cared about some 10,000 miles from here. Some motherfucker strapped a bomb to a kid who came up and begged for candy and then died and took two friends of mine with him. I then rounded up ever man in the village, put a gun in their mouths like the one against your balls right now and sent them to see Buddha. I would have no fucking problem pulling the trigger right now and splattering your nutsack all over the wall behind you. I went to fight so that motherfuckers like you could coast, right? Great country. Now you two motherfuckers clean your pockets of the shit you just took and set it right here on the table. I might then let you walk the fuck out of here.”
Luke couldn’t eat anymore. His teeth chattered uncontrollably. His father asked if he was cold. It was eighty-five degrees out. Before Luke returned to Oakland, his father threatened people who looked at him, bumped into him, cut him off in traffic and even pulled out a sawed off shotgun to shoot at what he thought was pheasant in a field in inner city Detroit. Luke never came to visit his father again. Years later, a nurse from a hospital in a burn unit in Las Vegas was able to find Luke via Facebook to let him know that his father had been burned over 65% of his body in a house fire. Most people die from the intense pain, Wade was a strong man who could endure great pain. All his life he endured the pain of living a life that went wrong. Was it society and war or just an inability to adjust to speed of life in America? There’s no answer.
Luke read through magazines and sent text messages to his wife back in Northern California. Wade opened his eyes and saw a baby girl on the screen saver of his son’s laptop. Luke was unaware that his father was conscious.
“What’s your baby’s name?”
“We named her Joyeaux… It’s French. We call her Joy for short.”
“Everyone has fucked up names today, don’t they? Who does your baby look like, you or your wife?”
Luke smiled and looked at his dad before responding. He wondered how it was that the man looking at him was more of a stranger than a random person on the street. Luke asked himself often how it was that this man never contacted him and apologized for never being a part of my life. He reasoned that you cannot miss something that means nothing to you.
“Well dad… I have to be honest with you. Joyeaux looks like Lester… How bout that?”
Dedicated to my dad, a Vietnam Veteran. A man I’ve known since birth that I still really do not know.