Tag: friends

Tribute to a Veteran Counselor







My Vet met me in the driveway  to walk me over and make introductions.  I could see the members of his group gathered around the patio where their host was busy barbecuing.  Some were standing, others, those with the bad hips and knees, sat at the patio tables.  They were all talking quietly, more often than not raising their voices for those of the group who had hearing aids.   I knew  a few of them, but I was meeting the majority of them for the first time.  As I shook their hands and was introduced to their wives, each one of them teased or joked about me being married to “the Gunny”.   Even the wives recognized my Vet when I mentioned his name.  “The Gunny” was one of the “movers and shakers” of this particular band of brothers and one sister.

As I made my way around the patio, I realized that these veterans of a particular age, knew my husband far more profoundly and intimately than I.  One  man in particular I was there to meet.  He was the guest of honor.  He was the reason these veterans ventured out of their routine and comfort zone to gather on their usual group meeting day, outside the familiar confines of the clinic room where they met every week for the last twelve years.  They were gathered on that patio to do the unexpected, say farewell to their veteran counselor.

I didn’t know their stories.  The veterans don’t talk outside the group about each other.  But he knew not only each of their stories, but their fears and dreams, their pride and their sorrows.  He was not just their counselor, he was their friend, their consigliere,  one of them who slowly helped each of them learn not just to help themselves, but to help one another.

Over these years I had seen the transition in my Vet.  I watched him hurt when it was easier for him to be “blank”.  I watched him grieve for his mother who had been dead for forty-six years because it had never been “safe” to open the lid to that jar of pain.  I sat silently as tears streamed down both our faces as he let himself feel pain for the families of those he had taken.  I stood by one solitary dismal night  as he raged against the memory of his 19 year-old self, who killed with purpose and efficiency and finally could weep tears of forgiveness for that same country farm boy.  I lay next to him as he prayed in the early morning hours for wisdom and understanding of the incomprehensible.  I listened with trepidation as he spoke without filter to a young veteran close to our family, helping this young man off the edge and choose life over certain death as he wrestled with his decision to seek medical help but was stigmatized by his command because of it.

As these veterans gathered to say goodbye to a man who was so much more than their group counselor, our host remarked that without him and the group members he wouldn’t have “all this” spreading his arms out to encompass the pasture with the horse and donkey, the patio and home, the garage open to the expanse outside, and most important, the wife who stood by him.  We all nodded our heads in understanding.  “… But for the grace of God, go I…”

After I said my goodbyes and made ready to travel back to my office, I took a couple of pictures of the driveway past the pasture and clearing where the house was located.  The trees grew such that they created a canopy over the road and for a moment I remembered my Vet’s description of the jungles of Vietnam.  The lush green density that barely allowed sunlight to filter  through, and I realized this band of brothers and one sister had come a long, long way with the help of their families, each other and their counselor.  This had not just been “farewell”, this had been “thank-you”.


Grandmas’ Row

I had lunch with an old friend yesterday who I have known now for thirteen years. She and I worked together at my first firm when I moved here from California. She and I became grandmothers the same year and the partner she worked for affectionately coined our side of the office, “Grandmothers Row”. After a couple of years, I moved on to a new job, she and I kept in touch, meeting for lunch a couple of times a year.

Our lives have not intersected in the way that it does on a daily basis when you work with someone who you are close to; that you becomes friends with. We don’t share the day-to-day events of our lives, or the “what happened this weekend” accounts on Monday mornings when you are getting your coffee or having your leftovers from Sunday dinner in the lunch room. In this world, where nothing stays the same, jobs change, families evolve, sickness looms, “life happens!”, you manage your friendships as you can.

This last year has been particular hard on my friend, and I hugged her when we said our goodbyes, promising we would have an early New Years’ celebration, tossing out 2012 for her and bringing in 2013, in the hopes the new year will be better for her. The reality of friendship, as in most relationships, is you are stoutly reminded of your limitations to affect the circumstances of life…your own and those you are close to. I felt that reality yesterday when I listened to the emotion in my friend’s voice. It made my voice catch as I told her “I don’t even know what to say”.

Thinking of that moment, now, I am grateful I was there to listen, to share some space, without giving in the knee-jerk reaction of comforting platitudes. I listened, I comforted, and knowing, I was powerless in the face of what my friend had been through and was still going through, I was quiet, for a change.

Sixth Grade Camp

Today is the last day of camp for my granddaughter, Raina.  I have been reading the texts from my daughter, Alicia,  since our conversation on Monday about how she is dealing with her oldest girl being gone from the household.  Monday, she told me she was one of a couple of moms that stayed at the school, until the buses pulled out of the parking lot.  Then she told me she texted Raina’s grandfather, so he could wave at the bus as it passed his home on Highway 70 in route to the campground.  A passage in every sense of the word.  

My daughter’s emotions were strong and heavy with this new experience.  It took me back to Carlsbad, California,  when Raina’s mom went to sixth grade camp.  I don’t remember her leaving, as much as I remember her returning, waving at me as the bus pulled in the parking lot, yelling something I could not hear, and I remember a moment of panic, thinking, “What happened?  Is she crying?”.  When she ran to me, all smiles and open arms, I relieved to find she was full of joyful excitement, as only eleven year old’s can have, still with a child’s abandon, but with a preteen’s perspective.  She made new friends at camp, Elisa and the twins, friends she has to this day.  

She will find out if her girl made new friends, talked to a boy, had fun at the dance, even if she hurt her leg…yes, she had the dreaded call from the school nurse…but all is fine with Raina, the nurse said.  I picture my granddaughter, putting on a brave face in front of her school mates, forgetting she even was hurting, as she danced and socialized with her friends, and didn’t even remember she was hurt until she was in bed, the last night of camp, rubbing her injury tenderly, thinking that her mom would probably put Neosporin on it when she got home…and boy does she have a lot to tell her Mom about her week at sixth grade camp.