Whatever happened to warnings that somebody was about to invade your personal space? Say, for example, you’re in a store, you’re pondering a selection, you’re lost in thought, and somebody says, “Excuse me!” You smile and move aside, they smile and grab their item, no harm, no foul.
Nowadays, though, all the warning you get is the flash of somebody’s elbow inches from your nose, followed by the happy laughter of the offender assuring you that you are okay, and the wide-eyed, slightly less happy astonishment of same offender, now searching for a joke to clear the air, that you are SO RUDE!
Oh, it doesn’t happen to you this way? You’re not a disabled veteran with PTSD who doesn’t wish to become housebound over your hypervigilance? And those of us who are should just suck it up, shake it off, and stop being such a big baby about it?
Well that’s what I was trying to do when some peppy little woman just would not go away and leave me alone to try to pull back the anxiety attack I really would have preferred not to have had in public. I was in a grocery store, I had a choice before me, and I made the fatal error of pulling back my constant patrolling of my personal borders to use all mental resources for the dilemma, which, in retrospect, now seems insignificant. However, it seemed like a problem worth investigating at the time.
So there I was, with my back to the public, not paying attention to possible threats, when a hand suddenly speared past me, elbow menacing, and as my inevitable gigantic startle response kicked in, a happy voice assured me, “you’re okay.” “I am not okay,” I stuttered. The happy voice continued to speak, and I continued to stutter and shake. I grabbed my cane from my shopping cart to steady myself, and the happy voice, now with a tinge of relief, exclaimed, “Oh! I thought you were going to hit me with that cane!” And that’s when I lost it, went full anxiety attack, and howled at her, “Are you STUPID?!!” It was a rhetorical question, of course, but it did the trick, and she beat a hasty retreat.
That last bit happened in front of the new department manager, who doesn’t know me well, but instead of stepping in to offer his help, he actually did the right thing. He stepped away. His assistant, who does know me, let me know by smiling and walking past me that she was giving me space and time to pull myself together, which I did.
I awoke this morning with this incident replaying itself in a dream as a slapstick comedy, which I wish I could have retained long enough to get on paper. I don’t remember the details, but I did take this from it: it wasn’t the emotional state of a stranger Elbow Woman was concerned about. She was just trying to reassure me that I wasn’t in her way! Personal space is meaningless, and I am a silly throwback who just hasn’t gotten the message yet! This would also account for the folks who glare at me in outraged astonishment when they round a corner by cutting it, only to impale their knees on my jutting rollator basket. And how about the folks who shout at someone 25 feet away through my ignorable, tender ear, mere inches from their lusty bellow?
If I lived in an Open Carry state, I’d be dead by now, wouldn’t I? “She told me not to shout in her ear, Officer. She disrespected me. She HAD TO DIE!”
I have just created the Emma Award, to be given as the mood takes me for whatever takes my fancy. I hereby bestow the first Emma on Carrie Vaughn for her new novella, Paranormal Bromance, for most creative use of Pizza and Pizza Delivery in any medium. Since I haven’t decided what the Emma Award looks like yet, actual bestowal is at this time virtual.
The autumnal equinox is almost here, so I took the camera out yesterday to capture the golden sidewalk effect. This happens before and after the equinox, when the sun rises between two houses facing the straight east/west portion of my street. My friend RJ Diogenes, writer, cartoonist, photographer and all around good guy, named it The Golden Sidewalk Of The Equinox. Good name for a beautiful natural effect.
Probably I should learn how to do this as a slideshow, but for now, please scroll down to see the sun pour golden light down my street as it rises.
They meant well, my parents. Mom and Dad were both youngest children of large families, and neither had the parenting skills they eventually developed when I came along.
It’s not as if I arrived express either! Though the firstborn, I was not “premature” nor was I a nine months from the day of the wedding baby. I showed up a good 16 months after they shared their vows.
By the time Mom ran into Dad after WWII and showed him her ringless finger, she had two nieces and a nephew, and I’m guessing she babysat them, but maybe not when they were tiny infants.
Dad would come home from working on the railroad to find me screaming, Mom crying, my diaper loaded, and Mom unable to do anything about it because she was so terrified she’d break one of my long but otherwise tiny legs.
So Dad would step up, announce Operation Mustard! and go to work completing his mission. I’d be clean, dry and happy, Mom would dry her tears, and Dad was our hero. Eventually Mom’s on the job training kicked in and she took over this duty.
Mercifully, I have no actual memories of this, but growing up I sure got to hear about it.
Mom was a terrible cook. I still gag at the memory of green beans. There wasn’t much Mom couldn’t ruin. As a toddler, I would drink milk and push the rest of the meal away. Milk didn’t need cooking. But cooking was woman’s work, so Mom did the best she could.
Mom was a quality control inspector at Fisher Body during WWII. She was working as a secretary, noticed all the more interesting jobs other women were doing, and asked her boss about it. It required certification, he told her, and she’d have to go to college to get it. If she got certified, could she have the job? she
asked. Sure, he told her, apparently not expecting her to follow through. She did, he kept his promise, and she got the job.
Though Mom had shown her stuff in the workplace during WWII, she and most of the women who had stepped up were laid off, and the crack in the division of labor was hastily repaired to divide women’s work from men’s work once again. Go home, get married, have babies, they were told.
The boys they knew before the war were coming home as men. My parents had met at Collinwood High when Dad was the new “dreamboat” after he was kicked out of Cathedral Latin. I think they dated, one of my sister’s isn’t so sure, but I do know that Mom had been engaged to somebody else for a while and Dad had known about it. When they ran into each other after the war, she held up her ringless left hand. They married soon after.
Mom was a world class tennis player. I realized recently what a bad move it was on my part when I refused to let her teach me how to play. Okay, so tennis was not my passion, but what insights into hers I could have had!
If Mom had had the tiniest chance, she could have gone pro. But even if she’d had the chance, would she have? Like many men of the 50s, Dad forbade Mom from taking a job outside the home.
Like some women of the 60s, Mom did anyway. We three oldest girls took turns babysitting our new baby brothers and sisters as Mom worked part time.
So I’m thinking, yes, if she’d had an opportunity to go pro, she could have, and I’d like to think she would have.
And she would have done very well. Tennis was her passion and tennis was what she was good at. Not cooking.
Growing up with a German last name in the 1950s had its moments. Kids would tell me that I was a Nazi, and I would nuh uh and they would yah huh, and eventually I’d point out that my Daddy took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. “Whose side was he on?” they used to taunt. All these years later, I finally thought of a better reply, “Well, whose side invaded?”
Dad seldom talked about his WWII service. He’d tell the same joke:
An American soldier goes into a pub.
“Well, Yank, what’ll ye have?”
“Gee, I haven’t had cocoa in a long time.”
“Cocoa?!” says the barman. “Even the bloody King don’t get cocoa!!”
We’d laugh, every time, but we’d forget to ask more questions.
He let us play with his peacoat, even let me have it when I was a teen. But he didn’t talk much about his actual experiences. I knew that he’d been on a ship for D-Day, but for years was confused about the date. D-Day is not June 7th, that’s D-Day Plus 1, and I think that’s the day his ship arrived to support the invasion.
Now that I’ve seen his Navy personal file, I know he was all over the world. Wales, coast of Normandy, North Africa, Pacific. He was a machinist’s mate with a diesel specialty. He stated an interest in continuing his education, so stated on his discharge papers, but as far as I know he never did. He married Mom, went to work as a locomotive engineer for the New York Central, a family tradition. Mom had me and six more. He hated smoking, couldn’t quit.
Some years after his death, Mom told me that he came home from the war changed, but she thought she could love him enough to make him better. From my own experience of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, I recognize that as a classic symptom and a classic response. Of course, they didn’t call it PTSD then. Among other things, it was put up, shut up, don’t talk about it. Combat Fatigue was a name that doesn’t do justice to the trauma suffered by combat support, medical support, and others on the battle sidelines. Soldier’s Heart, the Civil War name, feels right to me.
It’s probably easier to be Daddy’s Girl when Daddy isn’t suffering from something he can’t talk about, but such was my lot. Knowing what I know of PTSD now, what Mom told me about Dad over the years, and my own memories of him makes me wish that the therapy I receive now from my VA hospital could have been available to him then, and that the stigma that keeps suffering people from seeking help would just go away. Slink away into oblivion and free up men and women to ask for help when they need it.
It’s been 46 years since he shot himself. I miss him.
I joined the Joshua Tree National Park Association yesterday! I’ve been meaning to join JTNPA since the Joshua Tree National Park Arts Festival. I’ve also been meaning to visit the park more often since my first wildflower trip in a while a couple months ago. Yesterday I packed a lunch, tossed a couple liters of water and my camera in the car, and went.
I live fairly close to the south entrance of the park, so I stopped at the Cottonwood Visitor Center to show my Golden Access Pass, and was inspired to join JTNPA with no further delay. There’s a night photography class in my future, and what better class to take than the one offered by JTNPA’s Desert Institute?
As I drove through the park, I took a few photos, but learned the hard way to take the BEE ALERT seriously. I managed to persuade the last of my visitors to leave my Honda, and took more photos mostly from inside the car.
At the Oasis Visitor Center I found Ranger Lacy administering the Junior Ranger oath to a young visitor. The next young visitor to take the oath was shy. The young fellow with the owl was not at all shy, and neither were his shoes. I did a continuous shoot to make sure I got at least one photo with the lights on.
When I go to Joshua Tree National Park I usually head to the Marine base, 29 Palms MCAGCC, to shop at the exchange and the commissary. I was telling someone that I am a veteran when a former Marine came out of the Exhibits room to ask if I was a Marine. Air Force, I told him, and–AMAZING!–no ribbing! We had an excellent conversation about helping fellow veterans deal with the VA.
On the way home I noticed a large round cloud in the sky, but didn’t get a good shot of it. Best I managed was a surprise when it showed up in my driver side mirror. Here’s the same cloud from a different perspective, my home.
I am a disabled American veteran, 100% service-connected p&t for PTSD. I have never for one moment been anything but proud of my service in the United States Air Force. However, when somebody thanks me for my service, I listen to tone of voice. Believe it or not, there are folks who fling the words in my face like an insult.
Often it’s somebody who has assumed that, because I am a veteran, I share their politics. Here’s a clue: veterans hold as broad a range of political belief as the general population. Many of us can’t help but notice that the problem with VA healthcare is that it’s underfunded and understaffed. A few years back a hiring freeze kept VAMCs understaffed even as newly disabled young veterans poured into the system. That and other problems couldn’t be fixed due to the underfunding.
Here’s another clue: if you send us to war, you must prepare to care for the wounded. You cannot cut taxes after you start wars. And if you cut taxes after you start wars, you cannot blame the wounded for the care we will need for the rest of our lives, and you may not tell us that we haven’t sacrificed enough.
Before I received my service-connection and my comp&pen, I used to say that America likes its veterans dead or healthy. Recently I took to saying it again. I disagree with the American Legion over why that is. It is not the fault of our Commander-in-Chief, nor is it the fault of the Secretary for Veterans Affairs. The problem with VA healthcare is the the fault of the political party that cynically and tragically puts the deep, deep pockets of our wealthiest citizens above and out of reach of the needs of the rest of us, most notably disabled veterans.
Richard Burr (R-NC), the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has never served in the military, but I bet he wears a big, shiny flag pin on his lapel. He seems like the kind of man who would call into question the patriotism of any man who does not. He recently condemned veterans’ groups that had not called for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. He wrote an open letter in which he argued that the VSO that attended every single one of my VA appeals hearings with me, helping me survive the years of that terrifying process, and the other VSOs unwilling to lay the blame carelessly are less interested in helping veterans!
I am proud to be a life member of Disabled American Veterans. If I had given in to the half dozen requests to join American Legion that I received earlier this year, I would be resigning that membership over their wrongful demand for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki.
Give Shinseki the resources he needs to fix our healthcare system, not just another load of hot air, and if you want to point fingers of blame, Mr Burr, point them at yourself. When you voted (or was it one of the many filibusters? Hard to keep track) against funding our healthcare at a healthy level, when you struck down a bill for jobs programs for us, you betrayed veterans and the service we have rendered to the country we love.
And if, Mr Burr, you really are the kind of politician who sports a big, shiny flag pin and thinks that it makes up for the rest of your anti-veteran agenda, then I can assure you that, no, Mr Burr, that flag pin does NOT make your patriotism look big.
This is something I wrote last year after heading to Orange County for the annual Highland Gathering for the first time in nearly two decades. Tomorrow I plan to go again.
1974, Air Force basic training, TI tells us not to expect VA healthcare. She does not use her TI voice. She uses her Not Happy Woman voice. 1992, Congress passes the public law that stops VA hospitals from turning us away. 1994, I find out. I also find out about WIMSA, Women In Military Service for America, and become a charter member.
That Memorial Day weekend, I head to the Orange County Fairgrounds for the Highland Gathering, as was my custom. At the drumhead service, the minister asks all veterans to rise to be honored, so I stand up, and some much older woman turns to me and rasps, “Siddown, honey, this is for the REAL veterans.”
I did not sit down so much as fall back onto my seat in shock, but resolved that day that I would never let any other person tell me that I was anything less than a REAL veteran. And that prepared me for the next ten years, once I enrolled in the VA healthcare system that summer.
Yeah, it took a good ten years to get the less friendly to women patients portion of the VAMC staff to get used to us (or retire), and there remain a few holdouts, but most of the care I receive now I would rate pretty darn good to excellent. The pt that strengthened my ankles and the ptsd care that strengthened my willingness to be around a lot of people all at once has made me stronger, so last week I decided it was time to try the Highland Gathering, now called ScotsFest, again.
This time, women were well represented among the veterans, and we were honored, brothers and sisters alike, in a ceremony that brought happy tears to my eyes, and a whole lot of smiles and handshakes from my fellow veterans.