Blasts From My Past – The Real Reason My Eyes Are Watering
It’s only May, but I’ve already had three contacts from people I’ve either known or have had professional contact with.
My wife and I don’t watch a lot of TV shows because we’re not particularly interested in seeing people getting shot or stabbed to death, so we pretty much stick to Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, and sports like baseball, football or college basketball. We're not big NBA or NHL fans, although I grew up in Detroit and went to a few Pistons and Red Wings games when I was a kid.
Recently, I recognized a contestant on Jeopardy as someone for whom I had done some voice work a few years back. It was for some Bluegrass festival in Wyoming, and Allison Krauss was the featured artist. Anyway, she turned out to be a one day champ.
About a month ago, I received an email with the subject line “Do I know you?” It was from a woman I worked with at my first job. She was the News Director there, saw the story I had written a few years ago marking my 40th year in radio, and recognized the call letters. I mentioned a couple of other people who were at the station at the time, and the fact that their goal was to make her crack up while reading the news. She remembered and remarked how interesting it was that we both started at a little station and ended up working for such big companies. She works in El Paso for one of the groups larger than Townsquare.
The big blast came last week. I was goofing off on Facebook after lunch, and was on the page of the Army hospital where I recovered from the injuries suffered in Vietnam. I discovered that actor and comedian Gene Wilder was stationed there from 1956-1958. No, that’s not the blast. As I was getting ready to leave the page, I saw a post from a young lady who was receiving a Soldier of The Year award for 1970. HOLY COW! I REMEMBER HER! I was on her ward for most of the year I was there. Right away, I wanted to contact her, but thought, well, maybe that’s not a good idea. What if she had nothing but bad memories of the place? What if she didn’t remember me? Would I be embarrassed?
The “should I or shouldn’t I” debate raged for a day or so, and I finally decided I would contact her. I re-introduced myself, mentioned a couple of things she might remember, and waited to see what happened. The beauty of social media is you can see when someone sees a message and she saw it late that afternoon.
Since I look at computer screens all day, the last thing I want to do when I go home is open up my laptop. But that weekend there was something I needed to do online, so I when I finished, you know, I had to look for a response. Yes, there was one. She remembered me very well, and the couple of things I had mentioned, and said she had a picture of us from the local paper when she had won the Soldier of the Year. She told me, “Take care and thanks for the message”. Figured that was it. But it wasn’t. Memories and emotions started creeping in, and they’re continuing. And my eyes started watering, too.
Mostly I’m remembering all the people, doctors, nurses, x-ray techs, the “vampires” as we called them, that came while I was still asleep to take blood, and especially the physical therapists who strengthened me enough to get walking again, with a whole lot of gratitude for what they did. I remember the faces, if not the names.
When I finished some things I had to do online before coming to work on Monday, I found a message from Saturday, including the picture that was mentioned. That began a back and forth conversation between us that triggered a whole bunch of stuff I was not expecting, and apparently triggered some memories for her, too.
Not everything I remembered was from my year long stay there, though. While I was hospitalized in Vietnam, there was an apparent mix of medications that had me realistically thinking I was in a movie. The director yelled “cut” and I pulled out all my tubes and decided to walk home. Next time I woke up, I dreamt that I was in a convertible with the top down, but couldn’t reach the door handle to get out. It was then that I realized my hands were secured to the side of the bed for my own protection.
There were times when I was at Clark AFB Hospital in the Philippines on my way back to the states that I would wake up surrounded by doctors and nurses. It was like “ok what happened now?” I had a hemorrhaging issue resulting from being dropped onto a bed there, which required many surgeries to stabilize my wound so I could continue traveling to the states. Once that was accomplished, my journey continued to Travis AFB in California, where I was visited by one of my mom’s cousins whose husband was stationed there. Then it was on to the east coast, where I would spend the next year of my life.
That’s pretty much the story. Not sure if I’ve gotten more emotional as I’ve gotten older, or if it’s the fact I’ve been in radio so long that song lyrics songs from that era run through my head. Like this line from Harry Chapin’s “Taxi”: “Through the too many miles and the too little smiles I still remember you”.
But she wasn’t gonna be an actress, and I wasn’t gonna learn to fly.
Sorry, my eyes are watering again.