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markdohle

The meeting of a loving grandmother at the VA

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markdohle

The meeting of a loving grandmother at the Veterans Hospital

Last week, I took my brother to the VA for a procedure.  The first of six, once a week.  The trip to the hospital was a slow one.  We left at 7 AM, instead of 6:30, and what a difference it was.  It took us almost two hours to get to the hospital, which is usually a 45-minute trip.  When we arrived, I was surprised to see that there was no line for Valet Parking, so we took it.  Normally I park a few miles away at a church and we take a bus in, supplied by the VA. 

We went to the Surgical Clinic first and after my brother was checked in, we went upstairs to the waiting area.  It was crowded and seats were at a premium, so I told David that I was going to go to the canteen to get some coffee and read.  So I went downstairs and got me some coffee and a breakfast sandwich and looked for a place to sit.  As usual, it was crowded, a very lively place the VA canteen.  It was a nice day, so I went outside to sit and read and enjoy my coffee and sandwich.  It is a pleasant place, with tables with large umbrellas attached.  It is on the second floor of the VA.  As I entered the area, I thought it was empty, but I noticed a woman with what I wrongly assumed was her child at the further end.  They were looking down at the construction that was going on. 

So I found a place and sat down.  I did not expect her to talk to me, or even notice that I was there, but she came over and introduced herself as Sandy and her grandchild.  He was two years old and he came up and high fived me, which made me laugh. 

She was very pleasant and as we talked I found out that her son was there because he had cancer.  He was only 28 years old and was not handling it very well.  She explained that he was in Afghanistan, had PTSD and really did not need this added burden in his life.  He had a hard time being in a position of needing to be taken care of and also the possibility of even dying if the treatment did not take. 

I could see that he was 28, going on 50.  Having to deal with such a serious disease will transform one’s life and not always for the better.   She explained to me that he brought back some emotional issues from the war and that he also had trouble with a drinking problem.  So she had a lot to deal with as well.  She was very worried.  Her daughter-in-law came out about 30 minutes after I met the grandmother.  She was a very nice lady and I could see the strain on her face. 

I have this unconscious belief that young people don’t get sick, or should not.  I know this to be true because every time I meet a young person with a serious illness I will often get a jolt of surprise.  Of course, I know this to be untrue, yet it persists in my unconscious.  The younger years should be filled with hope, a career, a loving family etc., yet more often than not, this is not true.  We do live in a world where uncertainty is probably the most dependable aspect of our lives.  So I do not like to think about it.  Not to mention how brief our lives really are. 

Why me?  Is a refrain that is often stated by people who suddenly get sick, or have a loved one come down with a fatal illness, or some accident, or another.  It is easy to understand it happening to someone we don’t know, but it becomes very personal when it hits close to home, or right at our doorstep. 

In my conversation with the grandmother, the subject of faith came up.  She was a woman of deep faith, a Baptist she told me, and her grand-daughter was also a woman of faith.  Her son, not so much so.  His higher power was alcohol.  Which only fed his anger and kept him isolated from truly entering into a deeper relationship with his wife as well as with God. 

It was one of those human situations that more or less had to be lived with.  The young man will have to find a way to deal with his illness and hopefully, he will one day be cancer free.  Yet his anger, his drinking and perhaps his false idea of what it means to be a man will have to be dealt with.

Change is slow, so is a conversion in both directions.  We are all on the way, we are on the way to becoming more deeply human loving, or on the downward slope of becoming more angry, bitter and self-absorbed.  Not sure that is much else on that subject when you get down to the core reason for our lives. 

I do know that fear of suffering of any kind only leads to deeper pain and chaos in one’s life.  Drinking is one way to deal with life’s problems, as well as overwork, or the seeking after power over others, yet in the end, none of them help.  It is the turning away from one way of life to another that lead us in one direction or another. 

 

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